The Firestone Key was a fun story, and I enjoyed reading it. There was time-traveling, a dystopian world, magic, many interesting characters & some romance. It also has some pretty great twists and the plot was generally engaging and made me want to read more.
The Firestone key is the debut novel of Caroline Noe, a sci-fi fantasy, where we follow Elaine. She’s a woman who suffered an abusive childhood, which left her with a scarred face. Yet she has an exceptional mind and has to save humanity from a terrible fate with The Project, trying to manipulate time. When somehow she and her friends succeed, Elaine travels into a medieval society, where magic exists. The people live in fear of the infamous Firestone and the hideous Queen that wields its power. Every action bears a consequence. Every evil has an origin.
So, there were a couple of things I loved about this book and a couple that I didn’t love. I loved the story itself; it’s very imaginative and the plot-twists are great, whether you see them coming or not, and it all ties together in the end in a satisfying way. I loved the slow-developing romance between Elaine and Harlin (sometimes to the point of frustration – I wanted to scream at them to just kiss already). I wasn’t a fan of the written rural accent or the viewpoint where we knew the feelings and thoughts of many characters in a short span of time.
Elaine is the main protagonist of Firestone Key, and we learn in the very beginning she was raised with abuse. Luckily, she is very smart and goes to a school where she meets her new friends: Leila and Neil (twins). The first chapter is basically her backstory, until the point where humanity is in trouble and they need to figure out how to manipulate time. That is the point where the story actually begins. So as far as first chapters go, I don’t think it was the best choice, as it was quite passive to read. We do learn even more about Elaine throughout the story, in a much more active way, and that works really well.
“Whatever dreams the trio may have harboured lay crushed beneath the weight of expectation and concrete.”
Moving on: I wasn’t sure about the character of Elaine. We get to know her as a quiet person, used to have Leila make the decisions and much of the talking. Yet quite early on, she does sometimes bursts out and speaks up. I got a better feel for her throughout the story, but it took longer than with the other characters.
The villagers are great; I loved Myrrdinus and Gwyneth, and also Melith and Asher. And Bert, of course. They are all quirky and kind, and you can’t help but like them, and they made for a lot of funny moments in the book. My favorite character though was Harlin. Scarred like Elaine and carrying massive amounts of guilt with him. I think if Elaine would have been introduced in a similar manner, it would’ve been that more powerful. In any case, you just long for Elaine and Harlin to be together. You want them to have happiness after all they’ve suffered through.
“Had his voice been in any way melodious, the scheme would probably not have worked. Luckily, the song was so completely off-key that the pain of it focussed Elaine’s thoughts like a lens.”
There was some great world-building going on. Castles, temples, villages, monsters, and a sort of dragon; it’s all there. There’s also the high-techy stuff from The Project and modern days, which is a mixture that is tough to pull off I think. But Caroline did it well. There was never too much or too little description, just enough for me to see it in my mind.
As I said, what put me off a bit was the written out rural accent. It could be because I’m not a native English speaking, but I found it difficult to follow at the beginning. I had to stop multiple times to re-read sentences because I wasn’t sure what they were saying. It got better once I got used to it, but it pulled me out of the story at first. The other thing I wasn’t a fan of was the ‘God-like’ viewpoint because I felt there was too much switching going on in too close succession. It’s common in many fantasy works (Lord of the Rings, for example), but even in those books, it doesn’t necessarily work. There needs to be a clear protagonist, even if we sometimes get to know the feelings and thoughts of others. That was a bit lacking here, in my opinion.
“She landed in a bruising heap and, unfortunately, swallowed the Key whole. Pilt.”
All in all, it was a great read. Firestone Key is well put-together, and Caroline sure knows how to keep you reading more. When I finished Firestone Key, I stayed in my mind for a day or two; that tells me that the story was good, compelling and engaging.