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Imagine the Fire -
S.C. Gowland

Read May 2022




Imagine the Fire is a stand-alone novel set in the world of the Souls’ Abyss, Gowland's debut trilogy. It’s set many decades (centuries?) before the events of The Dark Crown, Coven of Shadows and Darkness Falls, though if you’ve read these three books you’ll recognise a number of names and places. Imagine the Fire focuses on the origin of the Souls’ Abyss itself, which is one of the many unique and interesting things the trilogy introduces us to. With all that said, it’s not imperative to have read the Souls’ Abyss trilogy before delving into Imagine the Fire. The story is self contained and requires no previous knowledge, nor will it spoil the trilogy should you read it first. My short summary is thus. Imagine the Fire takes us on an adventure of a story which treads the line between good and evil, though we’re not always sure which side of the line we’re on, and explores the corrupting influence of revenge.


The Story


(Warning: minor spoilers for Imagine the Fire)


The world changes for Edris Fane when strange visitors arrive on Hvergi, a remote island far from the mainland. These visitors come seeking knowledge of a magic that only Edris and his people possess. A magic too powerful to be taught to just any visitor, even if that visitor is Reng, King of Essealar. The council of Hvergi refuse to part with their knowledge and send Reng on his way, but Reng and his retinue are not the only newcomers on the island. An attack by the forces of Ul’Thadra leave a town in flames and Edris’ son dead in his arms. With this, a thirst for vengeance is kindled in Edris’ heart. This attack is not the first that Ul’Thadra has carried out in Essealar territory, and Reng pledges to help Edris take the fight to the mysterious Ul’Thadra. With that, Edris leaves his remaining family and sets off for revenge. Edris and Reng are quick to share knowledge between themselves and he soon cements himself as Reng’s new favourite which only serves to rile up Daria, the previous holder of that particular tag. On the journey back to Zuviosal, one of Edris’ companions catches up to them with grave news. Further attacks have destroyed the rest of their island and killed everyone on it, including Edris’ wife and daughter. With this news, Reng agrees to take the attack into Ul’Thadra territory and wipe the scourge from the world. A task Edris is more than up for. However, as the offensive progresses, more and more evidence is unearthed that sheds new light on what he thought he knew. The question is, how far is Edris willing to go for vengeance? To destroy Ul’Thadra, Reng needs the power of the Guldur, the knowledge Edris has so far kept fully from him, but it’s a power which will make Reng almost unstoppable. Where does Edris draw the line, and is he willing to cross it?


My Thoughts


In a few words, I thought this was a compelling read. The world-building is on point, as is usual for Gowland’s work, and the ‘rule of cool’ plays a big part in the story. I mean, who doesn’t like glowing weapons and giant animals? There are also plenty of things not seen in Gowland’s other books to keep us entertained, including dragons. If you want a fast-paced plot and gritty characters who blur the line of good and bad, then this is the book for you. I’d also recommend the Souls’ Abyss trilogy which is even better.


For those of you with a longer attention span, I found the pacing to be strong most of the way through. Gowland does well to leave most of his chapters with a hook that forces you to read juuust a little bit more. There are periods where the pacing slows but these are few and far between. The multiple POVs means we’re not with the same character for too long and the characters we do follow allow us to see all sides of the story. On the whole this is a pacy book that’s hard to put down.


The plot really revolves around the question of ‘how far is too far when it comes to revenge’? Characters’ actions and decisions have potentially far-reaching consequences and this gives a scale to the story. Despite this, at its core is a father who’s lost his family and needs to ease his pain and someone willing to take advantage of that grief. Whether or not Edris makes the right decisions on his journey to self-healing, I’ll leave up to you to decide.


Gowland’s real strength is his characters. Each one has a distinct goal and often these contradict the others’ leading to natural conflict. There are several points of introspection from each POV character which allows us to really understand their motives and feelings. The way the characters get under each other’s skin is brilliant and at points I’m pretty sure no one likes anyone else. I hope that facet of character-building isn’t based off anyone Steve works with, because if it is I’m mightily impressed he’s not in jail for murder.


If I could ‘level up’ a single aspect of this book it would be the dialogue. Not that it’s a weakness, per se, but it does fall a little behind the rest of the craft. The vast majority is perfectly serviceable and some is indeed very good, but there are parts which come across as stilted or unnatural. Given that Gowland is really only at the start of his career (and is already a two-time semi-finalist), I have no doubt that his skill with dialogue will grow to match the rest of his impressive talent.


Overall, Imagine the Fire drags you through a world where trust is at a premium and everybody has an agenda. Characters must rely on their wits as much as their strength or magic to survive. Just consider, would you pass on knowledge that would make someone unstoppable in order to avenge your family, and what would you do if you discovered it was all a lie? Imagine the Fire was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I eagerly await the next installment of the Souls’ Abyss universe.


Inkborn Rating: 7/10

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