PHOENIX FLAME, by Sara Holland, Bloomsbury YA, March 2, 2021, Hardcover, $18.99 (young adult, ages 14 and up)
Sara Holland returns to Havenfall, a safe haven between four magical realms, in her new young adult fantasy novel, Phoenix Flame.
Maddie Morrow thought her problems were over. She saved the Inn at Havenfall — a sanctuary between magical worlds hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado — from the evil Silver Prince. Her uncle the Innkeeper is slowly recovering from a mysterious spell that has left him not quite human. And there are still a few weeks of summer left to spend with her handsome, more-than-just-a-friend Brekken, even though she can’t stop thinking about Taya.
But Maddie soon realizes there’s more work to be done to protect the place her family has run for centuries. She must embark on a dangerous mission to put an end to the black-market trading of magical objects and open the Inn’s doors to Solaria, the once feared land of shapeshifters.
As she tries to accomplish both seemingly impossible tasks, Maddie uncovers family secrets that could change everything. What if saving everyone means destroying the only home she’s known? —Synopsis provided by Bloomsbury YA
It’s been a year since I read Havenfall, and I have to admit, I didn’t remember much about it except its fantastic cover. Looking back at my review, I found that I thought it didn’t quite live up to its potential. Phoenix Flame is its follow up and seems to have cast off some of its predecessor’s insular feel.
Holland builds upon her already sound promise, but kicks it up a notch, moving some of the action to a different realm. That’s where her world-building abilities really shine.
The emphasis continues to be on Maddie, who has grown a little but is still impulsive. She seems to cause as many problems as she creates. She has a good heart, though, and is compelling.
What’s frustrating is the lack of development when it comes to secondary characters. They sometimes feel more like props, helping the story move forward rather than actually moving the story forward.
I enjoyed Phoenix Flame more than Havenfall. Its pacing is tighter and there’s room to breathe. Given the number of issues left unresolved, I’m assuming another book is in the works. So far, it’s not my favorite series, but there’s enough meat to it that I’d like to reread the books when the next one comes out.
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