When Kevin Johnson, 22, goes to Wallace, Idaho, days after his college graduation, he expects to find rest and relaxation as his family prepares his deceased grandfather’s house for sale. Then he discovers a hidden diary and a time portal that can take him to 1910, the year of Halley’s comet and the largest wildfire in U.S. history. Within hours, Kevin finds himself in the era of horse-drawn wagons, straw hats, and ankle-length dresses. Returning to the same time and place, he decides to travel again and again and make the portal his gateway to summer fun. The adventure takes a more serious turn, however, when the luckless-in-love science major falls for pretty English teacher Sarah Thompson and integrates himself in a community headed for tragedy. Filled with humor, romance, and heartbreak, THE FIRE, the sequel to THE JOURNEY, follows a conflicted soul through a life-changing journey as he makes his mark on a world he was never meant to see.
[Full disclosure: John Heldt gave me an ARC of his latest novel in exchange for an honest review.]
John Heldt is probably the only man that can make me consistently cry. And that’s a good thing!
Kevin Johnston is the son of Shelly Preston, our protagonist from The Journey. As you may recall, an older Michelle had time travelled back to see her younger self and her story did not end well. So you could say time travelling is in the family and that Kevin can’t get away from it, especially when you learn a certain character from The Mine is his university professor.
Once again I thought I had Kevin’s journey pretty well predicted. Yet he surprised me at every turn. He knew it was a bad idea to go back to 1910 and that it was a bad idea to get so involved in people’s lives in Wallace and yet I understand his motives for wanting to go back there. Yet whatever mysteriously causes time travel is not going to forgive Kevin for messing with history and the conclusion of the novel is absolutely heart-breaking and at the same time, joy-inducing. The Fire is such an emotional roller coaster that I’m having a hard time putting my thoughts down to write this review.
I was so connected to the characters, perhaps more so than I have been in John Heldt’s previous three novels. Kevin really did speak to me. He was a good person if a little flawed because of that chip on his shoulder when it came to women. Still, he got over that eventually and at the end of the novel you can really tell he’s a better person. His relationship with Sarah, his confused feelings for Sadie and his friendship with Andy all made him more realistic and much easier to sympathize with. Yet these characters weren’t put there for the sole purpose of providing opportunities to show what a nice guy Kevin is! No, they’re excellent, well-developed characters in their own right.
I liked how the pacing was generally consistent throughout The Fire and that although it definitely sped up at the end, it wasn’t as rushed as the ending of The Show. John Heldt definitely took more time to build up the historical town of Wallace in order to build up the tension for the coming fire that would level most of the town. His descriptions were much more vivid in this installment of the Northwest Passage series and I think The Fire was a better book for it.
John Heldt’s writing just keeps getting better and better with each book. Although the theme of time travel features in all four, he has created very different characters to tell the story of America and each achieves happiness in their own, unique way. Even if you haven’t read the first three books of the series, The Fire can certainly stand on its own, which is why I recommend you pick it up right this instant. Yes, it’s that good.
I give this book 5/5 stars.
(Cover picture courtesy of Rainbow Resource Center.)
Sarah knelt and cleaned her blade on the grass, then sheathed it. Her stomach was tight and she was slightly nauseated, but she felt no emotion.
Ever since her mother and guardian were killed, thirteen-year-old Sarah has been living on her own, searching for the murderer. Her quest for revenge leads to greater adventure when she witnesses Queen Guinevere being kidnapped. Soon Sarah is accompanying Sir Gawain and Squire Terence on a remarkable journey to rescue the queen. But as the plot thickens, Sarah begins to learn the true consequences of vengeance and what it really means to be a princess.
Well, this was Book 6 of The Squire’s Tales series and I can confidently say that so far I love the whole series. There is no ‘bad’ book in Gerald Morris’ retellings of the Arthurian legends; they’re all great.
Although from the summary I expected Sarah to be a typical girl empowerment character, that was far from the truth. Her actions make sense and her character arc is gradual, but very powerful. Just as a warning to younger readers, let me say that this book is more graphic than the others and may offend sensitive readers. After all, the reason Sarah is looking for revenge is based on real, very tragic historical events. And the road to revenge is not without its victims, so just keep that in mind.
Once again Gawain and Terence show up near the end of the book, but it is Sarah and her Dung-Cart Knight that play a much more important part in the story. Gerald Morris certainly has an interesting take on Lancelot, who shows up later on. Lancelot has changed immensely from the first few books when he was a caricature of a proper knight: foppish, immersed in courtly love, etc. He has actually acquired some depth in this book and I look forward to seeing him in the next few books, if only to see how these changes affect his new life at court.
With a fast plot, amazing characters both old and new and hints at the tragic ending of the Arthurian legends, you won’t want to put down The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung-Cart Knight. Even though it’s aimed at younger readers I loved it, which is why I recommend it to readers of all ages.
I give this book 4.5/5 stars.