Tell the Wind & Fire is about a young girl called Lucie who lives in a New York very different from the New York we know: the city is torn between two very different kinds of magic, and Lucie’s own family was torn apart years ago by that conflict. Lucie wears magic rings and carries a burden of guilt she can’t share with anyone.
The light in her life is her sweetheart boyfriend Ethan, but it turns out Ethan has a secret too: a soulless doppelganger created by dark magic, who has to conceal the face identical to Ethan’s with a hood fastened by a collar nobody but a Light magician with magical rings can take off… and who introduces himself to both of them by, for reasons nobody can understand, saving Ethan’s life…
In freshman year Modern World, I was assigned a book called A Tale of Two Cities, and it ruined my life. (No, seriously. I remember sitting in the bathtub crying about Sydney Carton.)
Five years later, I picked up a book called Unspoken at the library, mostly because it had a cool cover, and it ruined my life. (I’ve already talked about this multiple times. I love Sarah Rees Brennan, but she makes no secret of how much she enjoys our pain).
Soon after finishing the Lynburn Legacy, I went through Sarah Rees Brennan’s tumblr and found, to my delight, that she was writing a retelling of A Tale of Two Cities, with magic rings and doppelgangers and a heroine with a dark secret. For obvious reasons, I immediately began counting down the days until the book’s release. As it turned out, I didn’t have to count as long as I expected, because I got approved for an ARC on Edelweiss.
Predictably, I loved Tell the Wind and Fire. It didn’t attach itself to my heart quite as much as her other series, which I’m chalking it up to being a standalone, but it still made me laugh and cry so much. The combination of the original story and Sarah Rees Brennan’s characters and world was just perfect–there was enough of the original to make me feel like I was revisiting the story that I love, and enough new stuff for it to feel like its own thing. As always, Sarah Rees Brennan’s greatest strengths are her characters and dialogue–Lucie is up there with Kami Glass and Sin Davies for me, and Carwyn’s snarky comments are just a delight–and then the end of the book happens and he hits me in the feelings.
Which reminds me–I cried harder over the end of this book than I have over almost any other book this year, which is particularly impressive since I pretty much already knew how it was going to end.
Excessive infodumping! The first section of the book had Lucie pausing the action to give readers her backstory. I didn’t exactly mind, because I found the backstory interesting, but it did alter the book’s pacing for the worse, and I wish Sarah Rees Brennan had found some other way to reveal the information. It didn’t help that the middle of the book was rather slowly paced and had a couple of scenes that could have been cut.
Ethan’s character wasn’t as compelling as Lucie’s and Carwyn’s were, and I wish he had more depth, though I did find him more interesting towards the end.
Lucie is an amazing character. I knew from the moment I met her that she was exactly the kind of flawed, difficult protagonist that I would adore. She’s simultaneously selfless and selfish in a completely fascinating way, and she grew and changed her misconceptions and recognized her own power and I loved her so so much. Shout-out to Sarah Rees Brennan for creating yet another amazing lady lead.
Carwyn was a delight as well–actually, he was a delight for the first half of the book, and then he proceeded to make me very very sad. The way Sarah Rees Brennan adapted certain parts of Sydney Carton to fit him was just perfect, and brought back thirteen-year-old Polina’s Sydney Carton feelings full-force. He also had some of the best lines in the series.
I loved Lucie’s relationships with both Carwyn and Ethan are more complicated than they initially seem–that in both cases, they need to reevaluate how they view each other and the relationship becomes stronger for it. And I loved that Lucie had strength and a story arc beyond her romantic relationships, but at the same time her relationships influence who she is and are an important part of her story.
People talk a lot about the witty banter in Sarah Rees Brennan’s books, and I agree that it is spectacular, but her regular writing is lovely too! Just reading the ARC for the first time, I took a lot of screencaps on my phone because certain sentences and ideas were so beautiful, and it was really hard to resist the urge to share random quotes on Twitter and Goodreads.
I feel like Tell the Wind and Fire was what a good adaptation should be–it captured the spirit of the original and mostly followed the story, but also changed it to connect to readers today–for example, by giving Lucie a bigger role and allowing her to be an active rather than passive character–and by using it to address certain relevant themes. In this book, I loved the discussion of how society views women, and the ways the women in the story work with or against that. And of course there’s the unique compelling world, which, as stated above, makes for some beautiful imagery.
But really, what hit me HARD about the book was the ending. I remember reading the last page with tears pouring out of my eyes. I can’t go into detail, but Sarah Rees Brennan has not stopped causing her readers pain, and probably never will.
Pick this up! (You’ll suffer, but you’ll be happy about it).