A Hidden Fire is an interesting novel with some excellent characters and some pretty thorough world building. If you enjoy a bit of romance, a bit of vampire, and a bit of librarian, this is a book for you.
A Hidden Fire takes several elements of classic vampire literature and expands upon them in interesting ways. Vampires are still immortal, they are still able to compel people, and, for whatever reason, they just can’t handle the modern world’s electronics. Anything more sophisticated than a telephone begins to short out in their presence. This is a fact which our main vampire, Giovanni , recognizes and is working around.
The plot revolves around Giovanni and Beatrice. Beatrice is your typical self-described librarian in a romance novel. She’s fairly quiet and unassuming, and simply trying to get by while she works on her academic career as a part of the library staff. Until she comes in to contact with an interesting series of documents that have been donated to the library by a previously unknown benefactor there was little to be noticed about her life. Her contact with those documents leads her to meeting with Giovanni who has a peculiar habit of having a regular schedule and a need for extreme privacy in the documents room.
The book switches between the perspective of Giovanni and Beatrice. Giovanni finds it odd that Beatrice can resist his compulsions. He also finds it odd that he is being pulled into being attracted to her – a first in several centuries.
This goes back and forth throughout the novel, the romance aspects being mixed together with the mystery of the documents and the exposure to the vampire world.
The vampires, for the most part, follow the classic depiction. Sunlight is bad for them – though no where is it explicitly stated that it will result in their demise. They sleep during the day and come out when it is dark to avoid these problems. They feed on human blood; the vampire community is large enough and organized enough to have clubs where they can bring victims to without risk of exposure. Vampires are maintaining these clubs in order to have a source of food as well as pleasure. Territorial claims are also played out – though the only territory we see claimed is Giovanni over Beatrice. Some vampires choose not to feed on humans and find substitutes from other animals. They also have a caste system of Sires – essentially, your Sire is always more powerful than you are and, at least initially, can exercise tremendous control over your actions as a vampire. Sire-ing works pretty much the way you would expect it to in terms of application and progress moving forward.
Vampires are also attuned to a particular element – Fire, Earth, Air, or Water. These attunements are played out as a part of the vampire’s personality as well as their unique powers. Giovanni, for instance, can cause sparks and small flames and control fire. His offspring is elementally attuned to water and can control it much the same as in Avatar: The Last Airbender but not nearly as flashy or spectacular as displayed in the show.
The central conflict of the story arises from this system of Sires and children – though it takes us a while to find that out. According to my kindle, I was 75% of the way done with the book when I finally clicked through into the exposure of the villain and the mystery. Until that point, the chapters pretty much swapped around between Beatrice and Giovanni and the events in their lives. Giovanni doesn’t want to make Beatrice a vampire because he knows it is not always a good thing to turn someone. Beatrice wants to know more about Giovanni and what it is like to be a vampire/be with a vampire. To be honest, I got a little sick of the back and forth regarding vampires and vampirism. Then again, I am probably NOT the target audience for this book.
NOTE: One interesting part of the descriptions, however, was worth. The times that the author gives Giovanni an opportunity to discuss what Beatrice smells like to him are interesting. I was not aware of all of the different ways one could say that “she smells sweet’ until I read this book. There must be a good hundred variations before there is any kind of repetition. That is dedication to a metaphor/simile (depending on the situation).
However, that last 25% of the book made up for it in the extreme. Things finally jump in to action when the library is infiltrated and the characters are given something to react to that isn’t Giovanni lusting after Beatrice or vice versa. Villains come out of the woodwork and events start to roll. We are shown why Giovanni is so important, a significant weakness to being a vampire (that is outside of the traditional weaknesses) and quite a bit of Gio’s past and why he is as angst ridden as he is. We’re also shown a bit ore of vampire society and how it appears that most are surviving. This part is almost as interesting as the taunting and baited exchanges between our hero and our villain and it makes for a solid wrap-up to the novel.
The epilogue, to put it bluntly, is a disappointment. That’s all I will say on it, because all it does, in my opinion, is advertise for the next book. This is a personal preference, but I’d rather the epilogue offer SOME closure to a scene or a motif and not just advertise that there is more to the story.
Overall, this is a solid buy at its price point. It is enjoyable, flavorful, and has some driving characters. The middle does get slowed down with the romance-the-vampire issue taking up a lot of space, but, in all honesty, if I was the target audience of the novel, it was probably spot on. It was well written – I just happened to not like it.
Overall, this is a good, cheap read and something that should go in to your paranormal romance section of your kindle.