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Other Books: This Golden Flame
Published by Inkyard Press on February 2, 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: ARC, eBook
An Ember in the Ashes meets Mask of Shadows in Emily Victoria's #ownvoices debut YA fantasy, This Golden Flame, in which asexual Karis, a servant to the mysterious Scriptorium, accidentally awakens long-dormant automaton Alix, initiating 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.
A copy of the book was provided for review purposes - thank you! Receiving a copy does not guarantee a positive review and therefore does not affect the opinion or content of the review.
This Golden Flame is a very solid debut novel from Emily Victoria, featuring asexual representation, automatons, magic and corrupt governments.
But as much as I enjoyed this overall, I think I’m on the more disappointed spectrum because I ultimately wanted more in what doesn’t feel to be a complete story.
Set in a world of automatons and magic, Karis has been living her life at the Scriptorium for years after being separated from her brother, where scribes seek to awaken the now dormant automaton army their country was once known for. All she wants is to find a way out of the place and be reunited with her brother, and she jumps at the opportunity when she accidentally wakes up an automaton named Alix, who was created by someone she’s been taught to be a traitor, and finds herself on the run from the Scriptorium with Alix and her best friend, Dane.
The Asexual Representation
Karis’ asexuality is briefly touched upon in This Golden Flame, and as someone who is on the spectrum, I felt myself understanding her a lot. She doesn’t have any feelings for her best friend, Dane, nor does she ever feel she will; while others find themselves attracted to him, she thinks of him as, “I think you’re attractive and nice to look at it.”
This extends to her relationship with Alix and the other characters as well, where she develops a platonic love for them, but in the more, “I will fight whoever hurts you” way. I personally felt the rep was well-written and flowed naturally with the story, but for others with different experiences, they might feel differently. I feel I should also mention there’s not much asexual representation in fantasy (or in general) where there’s platonic love among the characters that would normally be depicted in a love triangle. We love to see it.
I especially loved Karis’s character development throughout This Golden Flame. When we first meet her, she sort of comes off as a moody jerk who pushes people away because she doesn’t want to develop relationships with the other acolytes since her goal is to leave and find her brother. This actually changes further on in the story once she, Dane and Alix start working with Zara and her crew as they continue to run from the Scriptorium.
I adored Alix the moment Karis stumbles upon and awakens him by accident, finding out that he’s very much not like the other automatons, and I loved how well Emily Victoria depicted his human-like feelings and thoughts on the page. He just has this huge golden heart and I honestly want to hug him. Also, it might not be for others, but I did enjoy reading from his POV.
On the other hand, I do feel some of the side characters could do with more depth (although not going to lie, Karis and Alix could’ve gotten more depth as well). We get surface level with Zara, her crew, Dane and there are obvious signs they’re more than what meets the eye on the page, but that unfortunately, doesn’t show. The same goes with Master Theodis and the Magistrate, who are even more surface level and at the very least, we could have gotten more action from the Magistrate rather than being told what he’s like and then like ten pages worth of book time.
The pacing for This Golden Flame was decent, but it also wasn’t the best. I personally think there’s quite a bit of time where everything is running smoothly for Karis, Dane and Alix when they’re being chased from the Scriptorium. It’s almost like the Scriptorium kind of just lurked behind them for a hot minute before they’re just there. But again, I think this is more a personal preference where I feel if you’re getting hunted, it’s not exactly going to be smooth sailing.
The Plot and World
There some issues with the logistics, some of which I’m not going to mention since it’s a spoiler for the end. The one I particularly had an issue with was just how easily Dane changed his mind and accepted Alix easily, especially since unlike Karis, he actually made a life with the Scriptorium and just seemed really in tune with their thoughts and ways of life. I could be completely wrong about this and maybe that’s his character personality, which kind of circles back to how I feel this would have been made even better as a series than a stand-alone. But I do feel that based on the information Emily Victoria gives to us, it was just easy acceptance and not exactly personality.
I enjoyed the world-building, but I feel like while there is enough information to move the story along and make sure readers aren’t confused, there just isn’t enough information. For me, character development is a must-have in a novel, so I’m normally not entirely concerned about the world-building as long as I’m on the same page as everything going on. And this is definitely the case with This Golden Flame – at no point did I find myself confused with what was going on.
But I feel like this was written like it’s the start of a series rather than a stand-alone, and honestly would not have minded an entire series because I really like the concept of this! I also feel that with multiple books, the story would’ve been even more fleshed out because there would be more room and opportunity to really develop the characters and provide more world-building than what’s on the page. But for a stand-alone, This Golden Flame has all the right elements and setup.