Pros: Delightful characters; panoramic backdrop; immersion in the setting and culture; thoughtful depiction of relationships
Cons: Not a thrill-a-minute book, so if you’re looking for that sort of suspense, you’ll be disappointed
Rating: 5 out of 5
Review book (uncorrected proof) courtesy of Penguin Group
Expected publication: April 2011
Rowan Tripp is a second-generation smoke jumper—a firefighter who parachutes into forest fires, risking life and limb for the thrill and the satisfaction of a tough job well done. Her father, a legend in the field, has retired to give parachuting lessons and take tourists for tandem jumps. Last season, Rowan’s jump partner died in a terrible accident while jumping into a fire zone. Now the new season is starting up. It’s time for her to deal with the past, in the form of the dead man’s brother and girlfriend, both of whom are on base. It’s also time for her to face the future, as she finds herself unexpectedly falling for one of the new rookies, and watching her father fall into his own new relationship.
Much like Black Hills and The Search, Chasing Fire immerses the reader in a particular career’s subculture, the panoramic vista of a given area, a burgeoning romantic relationship (or two), and a web of family relationships—always with a thread of suspense, danger, and mystery woven throughout. Note that I’m not calling it “a suspense novel” or “a romance.” Those are elements of the plot and setting, but they aren’t the meat of it. The true focus of these books are the characters and the world they live in. If you’re looking for something that’s a total pulse-pounding read on every page, this isn’t the right place to find it.
Nora creates some of the most lively characters to grace a page in Chasing Fire. Just from their lines of dialogue I could hear their accents and tones of voice, see the expressions on their faces. It’s rare to find an author who can make characters so vivid and fun. Also, while I don’t have the background to judge the accuracy of the material on the smoke jumpers, I will say that she works so much casual, easy detail into the story (just the right balance of not too much explanation, but enough to get the gist) that it feels utterly real and immersive. I couldn’t get enough of this look into a fascinating new world.
The suspense and mystery angles weren’t explosive (well, not figuratively, anyway!). The mystery lies mostly in the details of who did exactly what, and how events will play out. It was enough to keep me interested, although as I said, if you’re reading this book strictly for the suspense you’ll be disappointed. The true treasure of Chasing Fire lies within the setting, relationships and characters, all of which were well worth delving into. This makes it a very taste-dependent read, but if it sounds intriguing then I highly recommend it!