In this debut YA fantasy novel, several teenagers develop special abilities that may connect them to an ancient race of dragon-riders.
On the world of Garthania, Tomma and Estar are married members of a community that travels the countryside selling crafted goods. One night, they find three babies abandoned beneath their wagon. The couple decides to watch the children, hoping that whoever left them will return. Almost 15 years later, the three foundlings are still with the travelers: Alaya, Kayla, and Lakhale. Alaya considers Lakhale to be her best friend and betrothed, while Kayla is like a younger sister to both. They all possess the ability to share words and pictures through a telepathic mind-link, but they keep it their secret because magic is considered evil by the surrounding villages. One day, Alaya goes exploring in the forbidden Tamlayan Forest and finds a giant toadstool among huge trees, as well as an enticing cavern. Later, she brings Lakhale back to the “green wonderland,” and they enter the cave. Within, Lakhale is gravely injured—but once they’re back among the travelers, his body miraculously heals. Eventually, the teens learn that their adoptive community is comprised of Walewai—people who emerged from the Bluefire during the world’s creation, riding magical dragons. In her lavishly realized debut, Winters opens the Bluefire series by focusing on the heady emotions of young love. Bold strokes of fairy-tale imagery paint most scenes, as when “The wind rushed through [Alaya’s] hair, lifting it up to flow behind her like a ribbon of golden honey.” As the narrative proceeds dreamily apace, other special talents (such as “shifting” over great distances) emerge in Kayla and in a community outsider named Samuel. Although the teens prove pivotal to the travelers’ survival after word of the magic spreads, much of the novel deals with romantic interludes between Lakhale and Alaya (“Lakhale pressed his lips against her right shoulder, meeting her smooth, exposed skin”). The rousing penultimate chapter, though, brings a transformation that will leave readers pining for more Bluefire.
A bold stroll through a fantasy kingdom, featuring a story of young love.