A Hidden Fire: Elemental Mysteries Book 1
My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
I don’t know what to say about this book, except that it wins my award for the most wonderful surprise of the past year, perhaps. I really don’t know if I can do A Hidden Fire justice in a review. It’s that good.
I grabbed this book as a Kindle freebie last week, and started reading it when I needed a quick break from the newest Kim Harrison book, Ever After. I was looking for something to distract me from the tension Harrison had created in some of the more drama-packed portions of her book. A Hidden Fire distracted me, all right. So much so that I still haven’t gotten back to Ever After. I don’t know when I’ve read an Urban Fantasy book that moved me any more than this one did. The writing is very, very good–strong, descriptive, evocative, and in places, very powerful. The characters are beautifully drawn, carefully developed, and intensely attractive. And the centuries-old mystery that is the moving force throughout the tale is elegantly conceived and extremely compelling.
What I loved most? The pacing. I love a story that takes its time to let you discover just who the main characters really are. One that doesn’t give away everything in the opening paragraphs, but rather lets you see layer after layer of each person’s personality and background. You may think you know where the author is going, and sometimes you will be right. Other times, you may find you have a surprise waiting for you. The plot is quite complicated and deals with a mystery that goes back to the Italian Renaissance, and even before. I’ve never been particularly interested in that, but by golly, I am now, thanks to the wonderful storytelling of Elizabeth Hunter.
And did I mention there are vampires involved? No? Well, there’s a reason I didn’t mention that right away, and that is because this is light years removed from your typical vampire story. Hunter didn’t take an ordinary love story and decide to make the sexy man a vampire because that’s hot right now. Rather, there is really no other way to tell this story than via an Immortal who lived during the time when it all began. It’s critical on many levels, and not just in a “Let me suck your lovely white neck” kind of way. Oh, no. This is so much more than that. And the vampire at the center of it all is so complex and compelling that you can’t help but fall in love with him, yourself. At least I couldn’t. Yeah, he’s impossibly sexy and handsome, but that really isn’t the draw here. It’s what he’s been through and where he is going that pulls you in. And, of course, his slowly growing feelings for the young girl who becomes his research assistant, and eventually much, much more.
The story unfolds slowly and carefully, in a manner similar to, yet totally different from, A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. It’s at least that good, and personally, I may have enjoyed it even more, simply because these characters seemed so real to me. If you are looking for non-stop, kick-butt action and wild, hot sex scenes, forget it. (Not that I don’t love those books now and then, myself, mind you.) A Hidden Fire is less about sex, and more about passion. Less about action, and more about mystery. And it’s filled with libraries and books. That’s always a plus for me, a dedicated fan of huge, vast libraries.
My only negative is that I’m not crazy about the cover, even though it does depict a library, and the “hidden” fire aspect. But I’m afraid it’s a bit misleading. This is NOT your typical Paranormal Romance, by any means, which is what the cover screams to me. Also, the sexy Dr. Giovanni Vecchio appears to be in his early 30’s, thought he is really much, much older–by at least 470 years or so. This guy on the cover looks way too young to me, and lacks the gravitas that I feel Giovanni has.
I stayed up until 2:15 last night, finishing A Hidden Fire, and then promptly downloaded and started on the second book in the series, The Same Earth. Wow. Book 2 has one of the most interesting opening sequences I’ve ever read. There are four books in the Elemental Mysteries series, dealing with fire, earth, air, and water. I can’t wait to read every one of them, and I highly recommend A Hidden Fire to anyone who likes love stories, mysteries, and okay, vampires–but vampires of a more intellectual bent than you are likely to find elsewhere. What are you waiting for? Go see if A Hidden Fire is still available for free, and fall in love with Hunter’s writing and memorable characters, yourself! You’ll find out what all the 5-star reviews are about, I promise.
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