Desert Fire – H. M. Prévost

The first chapter or two took as little getting into. At times the structure is a bit choppy, but by chapter 5 I was hooked.

Nick is a Canadian teenager suddenly living in the UAE with his mom and older sister. I would like to know a bit more about how exactly everything went down that led to this situation (several unresolved questions about his father and such) but am hoping that will all be forthcoming in a future installment.

And I will be reading any future installments if they continue to be as compelling as this book.

This is a nice mix of a teenage James Bond and 90210 type character. Prévost does an admirable job of keeping this YA without sanitizing it. There is a nice mix of naiveté and knowledge that fits well.

Nick is believable as a character. I was a little worried that Faris and Mohammed would not be during my first few encounters with them, but that fear is put to rest by the middle of the book. I found myself liking them much more – almost like an annoying kid brother.

I thought it quite wise that while Prévost draws the readers attention to what are very different social customs, ideals and norms in the Arabic world in which this is set, she does not lecture or moralize. It would be very easy to present stereotypes and not delve any deeper into them. Instead we get a better picture of the complicated social strictures and reasons why some young people retain aspects of them.

In this fast paced, yet still fleshed out, story there are a lot of things which could be hard to accept and go with. Teenager turned amateur spy, falling transport planes that no one seems to notice even the idea that a fellow teenager could be a terrorist operative. But the only thing I truly had trouble wrapping my head around was the CIF – Canadian Intelligence Force. Supposedly super-secret with better operatives than the CIA, MI-6 or the Navy seals. In Nick’s own words “We had a top notch covert spy agency? Get outta here.”

There is some room for improvement in the descriptions of people, specifically female characters. Their descriptions were a little awkward at times.

Cover Art – this is one of my most frequent complaints, especially with ebooks. Make your cover art compelling. This is an action adventure story it should have a cover that reaches out and grabs you. The current choice of an angsty looking androgynous teen boys face hovering over a desert with some smoke does not do it. The cover looks like an already old book, something from 1982, not a fresh new story full of excitement.

This is a book that 12-14 year old boys would love but they aren’t going to be reaching for that cover. I wouldn’t look twice at a book with that cover. I am glad I was passed along a free copy to read, because I enjoyed – a lot.

All in all a very good book with a lot to offer and the beginning of what appears to be a thrilling new series.

Keep it up.

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