Adraa is the royal heir of Belwar, a talented witch on the cusp of taking her royal ceremony test, and a girl who just wants to prove her worth to her people.
Jatin is the royal heir to Naupure, a competitive wizard who’s mastered all nine colors of magic, and a boy anxious to return home for the first time since he was a child.
Together, their arranged marriage will unite two of Wickery’s most powerful kingdoms. But after years of rivalry from afar, Adraa and Jatin only agree on one thing: their reunion will be anything but sweet.
Only, destiny has other plans and with the criminal underbelly of Belwar suddenly making a move for control, their paths cross…and neither realizes who the other is, adopting separate secret identities instead.
Between dodging deathly spells and keeping their true selves hidden, the pair must learn to put their trust in the other if either is to uncover the real threat. Now Wickery’s fate is in the hands of rivals..? Fiancées..? Partners..? Whatever they are, it’s complicated and bound for greatness or destruction.
I have a confession to make: as much as I claim to love enemies-to-lovers and slow burn, I cannot possibly have more than a 40-60 success rate with actually enjoying books that utilize those tropes. I KNOW. What could be better than the heated romantic tension of two mortal enemies whose hearts betray them at the worst possible time by causing them to fall for one another? What could be more satisfying than the culmination of 300 pages of will-they, won’t-they?
But I’m IMPATIENT. About half of the time I just want them to kiss already by page 200. But…this book? A book so slow-burn that they don’t even admit that they’re in love until, I’m pretty sure, the 85% mark?
OH MY GOODNESS GUYS, SO GOOD.
“Cast in Firelight,” though it is a slow-burn enemies-to-lovers romance, pulled off those tropes remarkably well because it isn’t just a romance. The mystery, politics, and adventure – and just enough hints of attraction early on to keep the romance gremlin in my brain satiated – were compelling enough that I didn’t even think about the fact that they hadn’t kissed until about 70% of the way through. What? I know! And a lot of that owed to the worldbuilding, especially in relation to the magic system that is used.
It’s a little complicated to explain in a concise fashion, but essentially, “Cast in Firelight” takes place in a pre-technological world that seems to be inspired by India where many people are gifted by the gods with the ability to perform one or more of nine types of magic. I have a thing about magic in YA because it’s so freaking common and so freaking easy to mess up, but the system Swift came up with for the world of “Cast in Firelight”…actually makes sense. Magic use has a cost, it’s governed by consistent rules, and it has real-world impacts in other spheres – politics, medicine, commerce, crime, you name it. If magic existed in the real world, it would obviously have far-reaching affects on nearly every part of life, so that makes sense and comes off as very real and I’m a sucker for well-thought-out magic in YA fantasy so good on ya, Dana Swift. Plus, the system that’s set up has a ton of potential to create tension, drama, and bad*** action scenes since it’s so versatile, and a lot of those fun possibilities are paid off. That part of the story was really well done and the mystery (I won’t get into it but it involves organized crime, drug dealing, and the wrongful exploitation of technology) kept me on my toes – you never knew who you could trust. Loved that.
And the characters! Ugh, I adored both Aadra and Jatin. They didn’t even know each other’s real identities until about 65% of the way through, but if anything, that actually made things more fun because they got a sort of do-over. This was, of course, delightful on my end because I knew who they were, and I was just waiting for them to figure it out. Every time they had to concoct some increasingly less-plausible lie to explain away something that could blow their cover, I was grinning like an idiot at my Kindle screen like yes, maintain the farce. You will be unmasked, you’ll see.
[And then you’re totally gonna make out when you do.]
*clears throat* aaaaanyway. The mistaken-identity thing added a lot of interest to the classic enemies-to-lovers storyline, which is pretty common in YA fantasy but rarely done like this. In addition, both protagonists were very likable but obviously flawed, easy to root for both as individuals and together. And THE CHEMISTRY, AHHHHH. Their chemistry was better than the chemistry in my completely BS’d answers on the AP Chemistry exam this year. They had this crackling tension between them from the start, but they also made a great team (bc nothing is sexier than teamwork, y’all!) and watching them play off each other both in mystery-solving and in their banter was so much fun. I was reminded of Esha and Kunal from “The Tiger at Midnight” trilogy in that they shared the reluctant-allies-with-insane-chemistry energy, even though the tone of this novel was totally different. And omg. The twists. There were so many, and they kept getting undone and redone and no one ever knew what was going on and none of them were huge, so they totally snuck up on me and I didn’t feel like I was being smacked in the face but I STILL got chills a few pages later when it hit me what that meant and why is this such an egregious run-on sentence? IDK, it’s 1 A.M. and I might never actually be able to answer that.
But basically? This one was a gem. Great worldbuilding, lovable characters, a romance you won’t even care takes forever to get going – please pick this one up.
Rating: 5/5 worth the midnight rant.