Author: Emily Victoria
Publication date: February 2, 2021
Genre: young adult fantasy
My rating: 4/5 stars
Self-aware magic-AI-robot-person! A world inspired by ancient Greece! Pirates! Aro-ace protagonist! And so much more! This Golden Flame is a solid debut with adventure, diverse representation, and lots of wholesome character friendships. I’m so happy to be able to bring you this review as part of TBR and Beyond Tours’ blog tour for this book! Read on for my review, some more info about the book, and a chance to win a copy for yourself!
Orphaned and forced to serve her country’s ruling group of scribes, Karis wants nothing more than to find her brother, long ago shipped away. But family bonds don’t matter to the Scriptorium, whose sole focus is unlocking the magic of an ancient automaton army.
In her search for her brother, Karis does the seemingly impossible—she awakens a hidden automaton. Intelligent, with a conscience of his own, Alix has no idea why he was made. Or why his father—their nation’s greatest traitor—once tried to destroy the automatons.
Suddenly, the Scriptorium isn’t just trying to control Karis; it’s hunting her. Together with Alix, Karis must find her brother…and the secret that’s held her country in its power for centuries.
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As many of you may know, I’m a big fan of books with ace rep, and even more so when those books are OwnVoices (as this one is). I’ve also made it a personal goal this year to read at least 5 more books with ace rep, and this one was a great way to check the first box on that self-imposed challenge. I’m going to try and keep this review brief, but we’ll see how that goes?
This Golden Flame is a fun fantasy adventure with running themes touching on the concept of personhood, the meaning of freedom, the corruption of power, and the power of friendship (that sounded cheesy, but hear me out: it’s good, okay?).
From a character standpoint, this one was pretty good. The story is told in two points of view: the feisty, aro-ace escaped acolyte Karis, and the anxious, newly-awakened ancient automaton Alix. Their narrative voices, while similar in some ways, convey two very different perspectives on the story–the two come from very different backgrounds, and while their goals are largely the same, they still bring different approaches to the problems they face. Karis is always ready to fight, even when she knows she’ll lose, and Alix is always desperate to avoid fighting wherever possible, even though he would almost always win. The side characters varied in their degree of likability. I was a huge fan of the badass pirate captain Zara. Karis’s best friend, Dane, came across as a little flat, but his loyalty was still nice to see. As a quick diversity note, there is also a nonbinary side character (uses they/them pronouns), a gay couple in the side characters, and Karis’s brother–who she spends a lot of the book searching for–is visually impaired.
The world of this book was pretty standard fantasy–Greek-like nation of islands, relatively tiny, surrounded by much larger countries who really, really don’t like them, and ruled by a corrupt magistrate. The concept of Scriptwork is what really makes this world unique. All the islands are dotted by the bodies of ancient automatons, no longer animate, looming like menacing statues as a reminder of a more violent time. Daily activities–from simple locks to ship-sailing mechanisms and beyond–are powered by the magic of runes carved into elaborate scripts. Where Karis comes from, Scriptwork is monopolized only by the wealthy and educated, meaning it furthers a power-based class hierarchy system.
As to the plot, the story absolutely flies past. Not in a “there’s so much action I can’t stop turning the page” kind of way, but in an “every scene just flows naturally into the next” sort of way. Across multiple settings and missions, it managed to pack a surprising amount of complexity into the (relatively) low number of hours it took to finish.
The ace rep in the story was handled well. I was a little uneasy when the ace character is told by someone else that she is “afraid of caring about people,” thinking this would somehow end up being tied into her asexuality as well (let’s be real, a lot of people have this misguided belief that asexual people are just traumatized or emotionally closed-off), but thankfully, that theme didn’t end up coming out at all.
As a whole, this was a great read! Perhaps not flawless, but for a debut, it was very well done, and I look forward to seeing more from this author in the future.
The other hosts on this tour have been working really hard to bring you more great content for this book, including interviews, quotes, reviews, and pretty pictures on Instagram! You can find links to all of their posts HERE.
About the Author
Emily Victoria is a Canadian prairie girl who writes young adult science fiction and fantasy. When not word-smithing, she likes walking her over-excitable dog, drinking far too much tea, and crocheting things she no longer has the space to store.
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Yep, that’s right–you can win a signed finished copy of This Golden Flame for your own library by entering this giveaway! This raffle is open to US only (sorry, international pals) and runs from February 15th-22nd. Enter in the widget below or by clicking HERE. Best of luck!a Rafflecopter giveaway https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js
Thank you to the publisher and TBR and Beyond Tours for providing me with an eARC of this book via NetGalley as part of my participation in this tour!