The Flame and the Flood by Shona Kinsella
Fox Spirit, pb, £5.99
Reviewed by Heidi Ranger
Talis and Almoris run an organisation to smuggle wielders out of Slyvo and a life of slavery, to another country where their affinity, their magical connection to an element, will be appreciated. Wielders themselves, they risk their own lives and freedom every day to help strangers who never get to thank them. One day, Talis finds a young wielder, Juki, whose escape is interrupted by slavers. Unable to leave Juki, Talis and Almoris search for the location wielders are kept before being sent to factories as slaves. They risk everything they have built up for another’s freedom.
The Flame and the Flood is a novella, ten chapters and less than 70 pages, which means every word has to count. The characters are non-gender specific insectoids using the term hir and ze for personal references. Taking gender away frees up the characters from stereotypes which could deflect from the message of the story. She creates a familiar fantastical world without needed to waste space on unnecessary description. When Talis helps Juki control her power, Kinsella shows us succinctly, unlocking for the reader how wielding works. Kinsella’s writing is tight and smart.
And for a short book, it contains a lot. When Juki’s removal from Slyvo goes wrong, Talis and Almoris suspect everyone they know, giving us mystery as well as action and romance. It isn’t easy to write a satisfying story with all those elements, but Kinsella manages it perfectly.
The Flame and the Flood is an intelligent, charming story about sacrifice, hope and love. I would recommend it to anyone fantasy lovers looking for positivity.