Firestarter

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments in this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:

Timekeeper | Chainbreaker

Firestarter was written by Tara Sim and first published in 2019. It tells the continuing story of the forbidden relationship between Danny and Colton – a human and a clock spirit – in a world where clock towers control the flow of time. The novel forms the final part of the Timekeeper trilogy and follows on directly where Timekeeper (2016) and Chainbreaker (2018) left off. Because of this, I would recommend reading the novels in sequence to fully appreciate what is going on.

The crew of the Prometheus are dedicated to their mission to destroy the clock towers and restore the natural flow of time and leave their new captives no choice but to help them. Yet Danny in particular is reluctant. Even though the leader of the rebels – Zavier – has Colton, Danny finds it hard to believe that these acts of terrorism are the only answer. Destroying the clock towers also destroys the spirits that protect them. What will happen to his love if Zavier’s plan comes to fruition?

Yet the rebels are not unopposed. A new faction known as the Builders have emerged and they are intent on restoring the destroyed towers. When it becomes clear that these new towers are not failing as the one in Maldon did, Danny and Colton know that one thing is true. Whoever leads the Builders has also learned the grisly secret on which each clock tower is built.

As Zavier reveals the true depth of his plans, and the motivation behind them, Danny begins to realise that perhaps even villains can have noble reasons. Things do not seem to be as clear cut as he first thought and he is made to question if the world would be better without the clock towers. Yet, as he begins to understand his captor better, he is also forced to question his relationship with Colton. Is there a way to save the clock spirit or will he be forced to make the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good of the world?

When I tell people about the Timekeeper series, I often refer to it as being by guilty pleasure. While I am not generally one for romance stories – and can freely admit that these books are far from perfect – I just thoroughly enjoyed reading all of them.

For me, I think that their strongest aspect is the world-building. The concept of a world where clock towers control time is incredibly simple and yet it’s still like nothing that I’ve ever seen before. Yet, over the course of the three novels, the world has grown to be so much more than this. We’ve seen its ancient legends, its tense politics and the conflicting feelings that groups of individuals have towards the towers. All of this combines to create a series that feels very grand and complex in scope, and this utterly drew me in.

While we have been previously introduced to the guild of mechanics who maintain the towers and to Zavier’s band of rebels who want them destroyed, this book adds a far more frightening group to the mix. The Builders form a horrifying counterpart to the crew of the Prometheus, willing to do terrible things to maintain the status quo. Their emergence adds a lot of tension to the story, especially as it becomes clear how much of a danger they pose for Danny and his friends.

Yet, in terms of pacing, the novel had a few problems. While I never felt that Firestarter became boring, there were parts of the story when little seemed to happen to progress the plot. While the beginning and end of the story were certainly action-packed, it felt as though it had been padded a little around the middle. I think that this is possibly because Sim took this opportunity to focus more on the romance between Danny and Colton (and, to a lesser extent, Daphne and Akash).

While Chainbreaker focused on the protagonists as individuals, now they seem to be making up for lost time. The result of this is a series of displays of public affection and some very soft-core sex scenes. While I do like both of these pairings, it did derail the story a bit. While Zavier begins with a strong goal in mind, he does not truly pursue it until the final act.

This brings me neatly to the largest issue that I had with Firestarter. A lot of stuff just happens within this story that does not have much of an explanation. We never really find why Zavier’s magic water holds time stopping properties beyond the fact it was gathered close to Aetas’s prison. We never learn how Zavier came to discover these properties, or why they remain after the water has dried. We also don’t find out how Zavier came to the conclusion of how the prison could be opened.

These aren’t even the worst of these that I found in the stories, but many of my largest problems are spoilers and so I won’t mention them here. The climax of this novel in particular contains a deus ex machina that is both literal and figurative. Yet, I did really like the way that Sim decided to end this series. While some characters do die (some in rather sudden and violent ways), I was pleased that the story did not end on a wholly negative note. Sim did a great job of keeping me on my toes and, for the longest time, I really wasn’t sure how this story would end. Yet, I think that some readers may find the conclusion to be a bit disappointing. It does play a few conveniences and some may find the way that it ties up all loose ends to be just a little too neat.

Yet, for all my gripes, the thing that I truly love about the Timekeeper series in general is its core cast. Firestarter is a novel filled with shades of grey, where good characters are forced to make questionable decisions and bad ones have understandable motivation. Danny and Colton’s relationship is incredibly complicated and not always made of sunbeams and roses. Due to the way that both have changed in their time apart, they now frequently challenge each other’s beliefs and grow stronger because of this.

Both Daphne and Zavier also get a lot of growth over the course of the story and I found it a lot easier to empathise with them both because of it. Zavier starts out as an outright villain, proving that he will stoop to imprisonment and emotional manipulation to get his own way. However, he becomes a lot more relatable when you understand what drives him and start to see the clear similarity with how Danny was at the start of Timekeeper. Daphne, conversely, grows through her gradual forgiveness of Akash and finds new strength in embracing her roots.

However, the rest of the crew of the Prometheus kind of blurred into one. A lot of characters are introduced in Firestarter and I found it really hard to remember who was who, especially as I was given such little to time to get to know them. When a handful are killed off towards the end of the story, I found it difficult to care just because I hadn’t been given a chance to form a connection with them.

Anyhow, I’ve probably rambled for long enough. All in all, I can’t tell you that the Timekeeper series is perfect but I can honestly say that it has a place in my heart. I have really enjoyed reading about Danny and Colton’s adventures over the past few years and I am very sad to finally wave good bye to them. It is definitely a series that I would recommend, particularly if you’re a fan of fantasy romances and looking for something a bit different. I really can’t wait to see what Sim will write next.

Firestarter can be purchased as a Hardback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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