Synopsis: In 1812, Elinor Pembroke wakes to find her bedchamber in flames—and extinguishes them with a thought. At 21, she is old to manifest magical talent, but the evidence is unmistakable: she not only has the ability to start fires, but the far more powerful ability to control and extinguish them. She is an Extraordinary, and the only one in England capable of wielding fire in over one hundred years.
As an Extraordinary, she is respected and feared, but to her father, she represents power and prestige for himself. Mr. Pembroke, having spent his life studying magic, is determined to control Elinor and her talent by forcing her to marry where he chooses, a marriage that will produce even more powerful offspring. Trapped between the choices of a loveless marriage or living penniless and dependent on her parents, Elinor takes a third path: she defies tradition and society to join the Royal Navy.
Assigned to serve under Captain Miles Ramsay aboard the frigate Athena, she turns her fiery talent on England’s enemies, French privateers and vicious pirates preying on English ships in the Caribbean. At first feared by her shipmates, a growing number of victories make her truly part of Athena’s crew and bring her joy in her fire. But as her power grows and changes in unexpected ways, Elinor’s ability to control it is challenged. She may have the power to destroy her enemies utterly—but could it be at the cost of her own life?
“It is amazing how many ways one can be forced to a decision without having a knife to one’s throat.”
This book has literally everything I could want. Pirates, regency romance setting and fantasy powers. How could I not love it!? Well, if the author had written it poorly, of course. But I assure you that was not a problem for this gem at all. I am promptly adding Melissa McShane to a disastrously growing list of authors that have an amazing ability to weave plots and conflicting story elements together that should not go together.
Being an overt Pirates of Caribbean fan, and even though I read the synopsis before requesting this book, I really had no idea just how much this book would be entrenched in fighting pirates and naval warfare. My little seafaring heart really loved getting to feel like I was out on the seas with the characters and experiencing everything just as Elinor was and learning things as she did, because I too am just as ignorant as she started out when it comes to ships and their inner workings.
The complexity with which McShane writes is very refreshing in that, while I feel I’m learning something, the book still feels like an adventure and an exciting one at that. The pacing is not fast or slow, but just perfectly in the middle ground where you feel like you’re on a journey with Elinor as she learns to navigate sea life and her growing talent.
Speaking of talent…the fantasy elements in this book were so wonderful my only complaint is I wish there was almost a prequel to this book so we got to understand more about them. The way that Elinor and Miles describe their abilities (and each others) is enchanting and then of course the last couple of chapters are simply stunning in their brilliance with the climax of how Elinor discovers the limits and tolls her talent can take. The talents are so easy to picture and imagine in your mind that I had no problem seeing what was happening in each moment of the book, which of course makes everything much more readable.
The love story in this book was so wonderful as well and I am such a sucker for understated and slow-building romance. Of course, Miles and Elinor’s banter was so adorable and funny I just loved their moments together and my favorite parts were when they shared dialogue. I always appreciate when an author creates two love interests who can be friends and confidants with one another that develops into affection and love, that is a great romantic story.
Overall this was such a magical and intelligent book that I am glad I had the opportunity to read. With smart language, complex and well-rounded characters and a plot that will keep you flipping pages until the very end, this book is definitely an adventure worth your time!
*I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley from Curiosity Quills Press in exchange for an honest review*