Review – It Ends in Fire by Andrew Shvarts

A grim and atmospheric story with a spectacular magic system that could have been darker to make more of an emotional impact. The writing choices pulled me out of it from time to time, but I overall had a fun time with this book. 3 stars from me.

This reminded me a lot of a certain story about an orphan boy going to a magic school. But replace the main character with a queer wizard girl who lost both her parents to a powerful wizard and then goes to infiltrate this privileged magical school, all in the name of revenge. But at this magic school, she has to compete in the great trials to win the honor for her order. Sounds familiar?

I found that the magic system was the shining star in this book. It works by slipping into a place where time stands still to then carve glyphs with their loci. There are different glyphs for different basic elements, but then there are also secondary forms that imbue it with the action it is supposed to take, and I found all of that really interesting. It almost has a scientific feel to it.

The main character Alka, is a girl with a brain, but sometimes she lost her brain a bit in my opinion when she made very rash decisions or actions. Like in the beginning of the academic year, she discovers something, and she immediately reacts to it even though there is no immediate threat, and she exposes herself completely. That felt completely out of character to me. The incredible tactics she comes up with and the loopholes she discovers are amazing to watch. I loved how she made her way through the trials.

From the cover I expected it to be more of a darker and grim themed fantasy. I have to admit that there is lots of violence and people getting killed in unique ways (so check out the content warnings), but the author didn’t linger on it, so it didn’t create that grimdark atmosphere for me. That also felt a bit jarring to me as students dying should leave more of an impact on their surroundings in my opinion. There could have been a bigger emotional impact and that would have made the story more realistic and would make me care even more about the characters.

I enjoyed the attention that is given to details when it comes to describing the surroundings and the appearance of the characters. It was really easy to immerse myself in the story because of it. This is narrated as first person and present tense, which is always a bit jarring for me to read, as I personally vibe the most with past tense, third person narration. It always takes a while for me to actually be engulfed into the story. I also would have liked it if the scenes from the past would have been written in past tense. Now it is written as “I am 7 when I find my new home”, which I can deal with, but then there are also things written like “I see person X and I will cry when he dies”. Those kinds of things just pull me out of the story completely. It would be logical to me if this was written in past tense as the character is actually telling the story of what happened in the past.

Even though there were quite a few things that bothered me about this book, I had a great time with it, and I thought that the ingenuity for the plot and the magic system was incredible. It outweighs the not-so-great elements a bit, so I’m giving it 3 stars. I would recommend this is you would like to read about an innovative magic system and enjoy great atmospheric descriptions.



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