This Golden Flame by Emily Victoria
416 Pages, Expected Publication February 2nd 2021
An orphan, a pirate and an automaton on an epic adventure full of magic, rebellion, and finding where you truly belong.
Orphaned and forced to serve her country’s ruling group of scribes, Karis wants nothing more than to find her brother, long ago shipped away. But family bonds don’t matter to the Scriptorium, whose sole focus is unlocking the magic of an ancient automaton army.
In her search for her brother, Karis does the seemingly impossible—she awakens a hidden automaton. Intelligent, with a conscience of his own, Alix has no idea why he was made. Or why his father—their nation’s greatest traitor—once tried to destroy the automatons.
Suddenly, the Scriptorium isn’t just trying to control Karis; it’s hunting her. Together with Alix, Karis must find her brother…and the secret that’s held her country in its power for centuries.
Thank you to Netgalley for providing this free ARC in exchange for my honest review.
I am in awe, honestly. I was absolutely blown away by this book.
For a debut novel, it is so well-written, the story is incredibly unique, the pacing feels perfect and the characters are all well-developed and just wonderful.
This story is told from the POV of two different characters.
First up you have Karis, she is an orphan who was kidnapped from the streets of her home island along with her brother and forced to work for the Scriptorium.
After acting out on the journey it was deemed that her brother would be too much trouble to be bothered with and was sent away, separating the two of them for the next 7 years.
From the moment Karis arrives at the Scriptorium, all she wants is to be reunited with her brother. She does not make friends (except for Dane, but I’ll get to him), she does not lay down any roots, she steals books and teaches herself the script and tries in any way that she can to escape from the island so that she can find him again.
Then we have Alix, lovely, sweet Alix.
He is an automaton but a unique one in that he can think and move independently without a “master” writing down commands in his tome.
Alix is my favourite character in this story. He is so well developed and his background is incredible. He thinks that because he is an automaton that the world around him and everyone in it just sees him as some tool to be used to accomplish a task, that they don’t see him as him, as someone with a life to live or choices to make.
He really struggles with this because he was made to feel. He was made to complete a task, yes. He was also made to think, to want, to like and to dislike. He wants more than anything to be accepted and to find his place in the world.
Your secondary characters are all really interesting too and all have their own stories to tell.
I particularly loved the “pirate queen” Zara. When you initially meet her you really don’t know what kind of person she is. Her background is explored slowly as it that of her crew and as you learn her secrets and history she just becomes more and more lovable! She is fiery, sassy, strong-willed and dangerous and I just love everything about her. I really would have loved to see more of her in the book and she was my favourite female character.
Dane is Karis’s best friend and actually, the only friend she made when she was taken prisoner at the scriptorium. His feelings change drastically from the beginning of the book to the end as he struggles to find his purpose.
Another thing I feel needs to be mentioned before moving on is the amazing representation and also the lack of a main “romance” plot. There was no need for romance as a focal point and so not to have that forced, as is the case in a lot of these types of books was definitely a good thing.
Now, moving onto the world and the magic…
The magic system in this book is really unique and interesting.
The “magic” all comes from something called “the script” which is basically writing down runes to accomplish certain things, to “lock” something for example.
The automatons are also a huge part of the story, they were created and used by powerful scholars as a weapon until 200 years ago when they were all put to sleep and frozen in time by someone who wanted to take that power away from the scriptorium.
Ever since then they have been hard at work trying to find a way to reawaken them.
Finally, you have your big baddie. He is sufficiently evil with his own agenda and his own terrible forces all working to take control of the script and the sleeping automatons. He does terrible experiments to fulfil his purpose and causes a whole rebellion to rise up against him. It’s all fun.
In order to get 5 stars I think the book really needed to expand a bit on the script and the rune system as there were quite a lot of unanswered questions and you are left wondering a bit as to how it all works by the end. I also didn’t really like Karis as a main character, she felt quite weak and her chapters didn’t add a huge amount to the story. I would have loved for some chapters to be told from Zara’s POV because she was far more fun and interesting. I also found some of the decisions that characters made to be a little bit strange and left me wondering why they did certain things.
Overall though a very solid book and one that I really enjoyed reading.