Review: Alaskan Fire (Guardians of the First Realm #1) by Sara King
Blaze, a 6’4″ flame-haired woman with a mysterious past and a passion for reclaiming our food supply from the clutches of big corporations who care more bout how long a food will last in transit than how healthy it is, buys a lodge in the Alaskan bush hoping to start her own business. With very few choices in knowledgeable, skilled natives to hire, Blaze’s pretty much stuck with Jack, whether she likes him or not, even after he reveals his beastly nature. But neither Jack nor Blaze is what they seem, and a whole host of otherworldly problems are about to snow them under. When every choice you make affects whether you live or die, who do you trust? Alaskan Fire is a must-read!
- Title: Alaskan Fire
- Series: Guardians of the First Realm #1
- Author: Sara King
- Prominent Characters: Blaze, Jack
- Recommended Reader Age: 16+ (contains moderately graphic violence)
- Genre(s): fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal romance
- Sexual Content Level: low-to-medium
*** This review is SPOILER-FREE! Read on with confidence! ***
Wereverines aren’t exactly your average romantic hero shifters… well, Jack isn’t, anyway. This guy, extremely hairy and only around 5’7″ in human form, takes one whiff of Blaze and knows she’s more than the simple, freakishly tall human she believes she is. He also knows that while he has no plans to hurt Blaze, none of his otherworldly neighbors would feel the same and, like it or not, she’s safest… and stuck… with him.
It took me a while to get into this book. Stories set in the bush, even some by my very favorite authors (and by “bush” I’m not limiting that to just Alaska), are just not my thing. On top of that, neither Jack nor Blaze are even remotely your typical romantic hero/heroine pair, and while I appreciate good, creative writing, I generally prefer the more standard characterization. So the first 7% of Alaskan Fire didn’t really grab me. It wasn’t until Blaze really got into her groove talking about GMOs (Genetically Modified Organism) that I started getting chills. My first thought was “oh my god, is that for real?!” followed immediately by “must keep reading!” The intensity went from I-can-read-this passively to I-cant-wait-to-see-what-happens-next.
In a story where the physical attributes of the characters are important to the plot arc, it would be easy for the author to drop the ball and let the reader forget how uncomfortably different they are from typical romantic heroes and heroines. Ms. King does a great job of integrating that physicality into the story without over- or under-playing it. In fact, Ms. King never allowed her manuscript to fall victim to any of the pitfalls that commonly plague self-published authors… no head hopping, no tense switching, no repetitive adjective usage or flawed grammar and spelling.
The lore is also unique and we’ll developed. Don’t let the cover of this book put you off! This is not some half-brained, convenient, created-for-the-story world… it is easily a story in itself, with so many intricacies and diversity, yet without confusing the reader with lack of information or by, conversely, giving too many details. I’ve never seen an explanation of weres and vampires quite like this and I love it. It makes so much sense! And where else would a bunch of supernaturals who don’t want to be discovered live than in the Alaskan wilderness?
The sexual tension between Jack and Blaze is complicated, and I should probably point out (for my fellow PNR smut fans) that this book is predominantly urban fantasy… although, in this case, perhaps we should term it rural fantasy? *grin* The progression of their relationship both made me smile (and laugh, a lot) and irritated me. It seemed to take forever for them to finally get together, but the journey is so worth the wait.
Blaze, on today’s modern produce and livestock production…
“It just seems so wrong, what they’re doing. People are eating crap. Stuff that isn’t even real food. I mean, think about this.” She lifted a hand and started counting off fingers with the other. “They’re turning animals into machines. They’re breeding them stupider and lazier and screwing with their genetics. They’re giving us hybrid fruits and vegetables that are bred for their abilities to withstand travel, not for their taste. They’re bleeding all the nutrients out of the soil, so much so that people now have the crazy idea that homegrown chicken tastes funny.”
Running a farm isn’t as easy as it looks, Miss Blaze…
“Do you have any idea how much work you’re talking here, sister? That’s like full-time jobs for ten people. Just the fishing lodge itself… Hell, that’s gonna take you, me, and a couple more guys as it is.”
Blaze deflated even as her pride prickled. “Then I’ll hire people.”
Jack snorted. “You and what inheritance?”
Oh, the bastard. Another check mark went up beside Return to Anchorage. Shields down, Captain. Engines at twelve percent… Wasn’t looking good, Jim.
No no no, void-titan is at LEAST plus-10…
“Nice sword,” she muttered, coming outside. “Where’d you get it? Ebay?”
“Made it,” Jack said. “Forged void-titan bone.”
That definitely sounded like something one of her nerdy dorm-mates would have spouted during one of their all-day Dungeons and Dragons sessions on the middle of the common room floor. “So is that a plus-one or a plus-two sword?” she asked, squinting at it. “Actually, no, it kinda looks like a plus-three. It’s black.”
It’s not nice to take advantage of the tourists…
“Dude, that is some freakin’ awesome chainmail!” one of the kids cried. “Are those real swords?” Blaze actually watched the kid give Jack a plus three against werewolves in his little mental stat-sheet.
We’re going to Hell for this, she thought, fighting down a pang of guilt as all the geeks crowded around Jack, taking pictures, cooing about his ‘cool gear’.
If you liked Alaskan Fire…
Fans of the Mercy Thompson series will appreciate the gritty reality of Alaskan Fire, while enjoying a little more on-screen relations (although not by too much). If you enjoy Julie Kagawa’s style of narration, rich both environmentally and in character voices, you’ll really appreciate the vast range of skills Ms. King brings to the table. You can read our review for Moon Called, the first book in Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series, here. Check out our reviews of Ms. Kagawa’s series starters here: The Iron King (Iron Fey #1) and The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden #1).
You’ll also want to dive right into Alaskan Fury, the second book in Sara King’s Guardians of the First Realm series. The story of two secondary characters in Alaskan Fire continues, and is picked up almost immediately where the first book left off. Alaskan Fury is every bit as engrossing and compelling as its predecessor!
Imaginative, snarky, action-packed, visceral… in a word, Alaskan Fire is entertaining, and more than worth your while to read. This book is so unconventionally compelling you won’t be able to keep your eyes off it. Ms. King delivers just about everything you could want out of a good book, with nearly nothing you don’t. The writing is sophisticated, the characters are wonderfully complex, and the world takes on a life of its own. I have read books published by the big name houses that have less polish and sophistication than this self-pub. Ms. King takes us on an adventure of hope, dreams, life, love, and the struggle that comes with fighting for what you believe in, and I cannot wait to start the next book in the series!
Rating: Alaskan Fire