A Consuming Fire

S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry. Nov. 2022. 352p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781665902700.
Gr 9 Up–Weatherell girls are trained from birth to be dutiful and righteous, willing to offer themselves as living sacrifices to the terrible god on the mountain. Every 18 years, a girl leaves the secluded town and travels across Albion to give a piece of her body or mind to the god, lulling him to sleep and returning home a hero. When Anya’s twin, Ilva, travels north, the god takes her life and marks her as unworthy. Anya’s grief fuels rage and a thirst for vengeance. She volunteers as a replacement sacrifice, but her true purpose is to kill the god. Lyrical prose and gruesome circumstances create the hypnotic atmosphere of a fairy tale. Gradual revelations create an engaging air of mystery, as do the discoveries of how this world intersects with history. Five centuries prior, Albion was the Roman province of Britain. When the god on the mountain arose, the Romans left, taking their religion with them. Characters do not seem to know about Christianity; pieces of that religion left behind by the Romans play integral roles in the plot. While it is never made explicit within the novel, passages from the holy book used to justify the sacrificial system are actually quotes from the Bible. Rich in themes of gender, religion, and the politics of power, this novel is ultimately the story of a girl who refuses to accept the role thrust upon her and fights to improve her world for the vulnerable.
VERDICT A heady and evocative tale that will appeal to readers of Leigh Bardugo and Holly Black, recommended for general purchase.

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