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Title: With Fire in Their Blood (#1 Skeleton Keepers)
Author: Kat Delacorte
Published: 1st of September 2022 – Penguin
Format: Digital (eARC) – 416 pages
Hello Hello! How are you today?
I’m back for the first time in a long, long time with a review for an #UltimateBlogTour organised by Dave and the team over at @The_WriteReads. I wasn’t really ready to come back to blogging quite yet but when I saw the email and the blurb for With Fire in Their Blood by Kat Delacorte, I knew I needed to squeeze it into my life, and I’m so glad I did because it’s up there with some of my favourite reads of 2022 so far!
Thank you so much to Dave for letting me take part in this tour and thank you to the author and to Penguin for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
With Fire In Their Blood is a simmering supernatural romance set in the crumbling Italian city of Castello, where mafia clans make the rules, dark magic pulses the streets and the sins of the past threaten to consume the present. Perfect for fans of These Violent Delights, The Darkest Minds and V.E. Schwab.
When sixteen-year-old Lilly Deluca arrives in Castello, she isn’t impressed. A secluded town in the Italian mountains is not where she saw her last years of high school playing out.
Divided for generations by a brutal clan-family war, the two halves of Castello are kept from destroying each other by the mysterious General, a leader determined to maintain order and ‘purity’. . . whatever the cost.
Lilly falls in with the rebellious Liza, brooding Nico and sensitive Christian, and sparks begin to fly. But in a city where love can lead to ruin, Lilly isn’t sure she can trust anyone – not even herself.
And then she accidentally breaks Castello’s most important rule: when the General’s men come to test your blood, you’d better not be anything more than human . . .
Trigger warnings: Violence, cult-like society, murder, suicide (mentioned and sort of depicted on page), abandonment, blood, injury, war, abuse/child abuse, fire/burning, death, imprisonment, lying/betrayal, immolation.
With Fire in Their Blood by Kat Delacorte is a brand-new YA fantasy debut that captured me within the first page and didn’t let me go until the very last one. If you know anything about me, you’ll know that blurb was enough for me to sign up in a flash to this tour and I’m glad I did. I’ll have a “life update” kind of post up in a few days to tell you a bit about what’s been going on in the last year, but this book was exactly what I needed to get back into reading for myself and it rekindled my love of blogging, which I had dearly missed.
This is such a “typically Ellie” kind of book, and I knew that I was really going to enjoy it, especially when I read the first chapter and realised that my instinct had been right. Now please buckle in for a long-winded review of why I loved this book so much!
This book is set in the small Italian town of Castello. This is an intriguing town because it is split in two: on one side the Paradisos and on the other the Marconis, which is very similar to Romeo and Juliet with the Montagues and the Capulets. This town is also enclosed by a wall and it is basically a prison for all its inhabitants. There is also a strict ruling of this town by a man named “the General” who through a cult of fear and power has reduced the citizens to a truce in which there is no longer any rivalry between the two sides as they are forbidden to cross the boundary line. Or so there shouldn’t be…
This semblance of peace is really just smoke and mirrors and the whole feeling of the town is so oppressive and dark. Kat Delacorte did an incredible job with this town, I could almost feel it jumping off the page and it felt like an actual character in the story, and it kind of was! Castello was such an omnipresent force and the world-building was done exceptionally well, I could picture it all vividly!
MY FAVOURITE CHARACTERS
Lily: Lilliana Deluca (a.k.a Lily) is the main character of this book and she is such an intriguing one. I didn’t exactly like her much from the start because she felt a bit tantrum-y towards her father, but she quickly grew on me. Her mother died 6 years previously and she didn’t even have a very good relationship with her to start with, on top of that, her father kind of forgot about her when his wife died. So she is fairly abandoned by her family, chucked into this foreign town (thank goodness she spoke Italian fairly well already), and she is just expected to get on with life in this very, very bizarre place with these very, very bizarre people. I feel like Lily adapted really quickly to life in Castello but she also didn’t have a choice. This is a very politically-charged and scary town in which the General holds everyone down through a cultish system of fear of the divine, namely the “Saints” and Lily is literally propelled into this world at a speed of knots. I quickly really liked her as a character, she became a lot more three-dimensional and interesting as the book went along and by the end, I was totally rooting for her and the other characters. Her life is ruled by darkness though, and from the last page of this book, I’m pretty sure the second instalment will be even darker … BRING IT ON!
Christian: From the minute this character was introduced, I knew he would be the main love interest and possibly a second MC – I mean, it was super predictable but I instantly loved the bad-boy vibes he was giving off, so all for it, hahaha! He was the kind of character you just want to wrap up in your arms. He has basically only known violence and fear throughout his life but he and Lily were drawn to each other at first sight, which terrified both of them. I really liked getting to know Christian and I could palpably feel his pain and suffering like it was radiating off the page. I really really need more from him in the second book of this series.
Nico & Alex: These two characters didn’t get that much page-time to be honest, but I was instantly fascinated by them and wanted to learn more about them. They also both let off all the great bad-boy vibes you get in YA. Had I been Lily, I would have definitely fallen for Nico, he is totally my type!
All of the characters in this book, or a majority of them, seem intrinsically wounded by life and the society in which they live, even Lily who doesn’t even come from Castello. I really liked this about them because it made the whole atmosphere and setting even more palpable and I like seeing flawed protagonists with real emotions, even if a bit dramatic at times. That sounds like I enjoy reading about characters suffering, but what I mean to say is that I prefer this darker side to some cutesy Care Bear vibes that we all know are totally untrue and unrealistic. Give me the raw, dark and scary any day over Insta Love! The characters, the city, the world-building with the political intrigue and the cult system imposed by the General all just gelled into this really oppressive and dark atmosphere with so much at stake and I just loved how the characters evolved throughout the book, even though a few profoundly shocked me and just turned out so different to what I had expected. Cue the very loud gasp that woke my two puppies up, lol!
A few other memorable characters I didn’t like so much… I also have to quickly mention Liza, Veronica, the General and Lily’s dad as memorable characters even though I didn’t particularly like some, or I did like a few but they surprised me a lot. But I don’t want to spoil you, so I’ll leave it at that!
MY FAVOURITE THEMES/ELEMENTS
Castello: As I mentioned previously, this is a really intriguing element in the book because the city of Castello is literally a living thing and that makes it so amazing but also spooky! It reminded me of The Carnival of Ash by Tom Beckerlegge that I read a few months ago and also really loved (review here!). As soon as Lily and her dad rolled up to the gate at Castello and drove through the streets and then visited their apartment, I knew it was going to be a really great setting. It gives off very dystopian, dynastic, dark academia-ish vibes along with how outdated and stuck in the past Castello is. It felt like Lily was now living in a whole other dimension to what she had known before which made it seem kind of distant. However, with the way the world is currently, it also makes you think this could be happening somewhere that we don’t even know about, which makes it fairly terrifying.
The magic system: You all know I’m a big fan of unique magic systems and this one was just mind-blowing. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with magic quite like this, it was so elemental and personal but also such a massive presence in the town and in the minds of people because of how forbidden and terrifying it was made out to be. You know what I mean if you’ve read this book, if not pick it up because that last sentence was confusing, lol! Kind of a tiny spoiler: magic is bad, magic means you’re something more than human, at least, that’s what the General is telling everyone. I loved how forbidden it was because the people who possessed it were truly scared of the outcome, the presence of magic, and their future and because of what they had always been told about “power”. I hope that we will get a bigger look at how this magic system works in the second book, but I’m already a massive fan of it and just need to know more!!
The atmosphere (*chef’s kiss*): Atmosphere is most definitely my number one criterion when reading a book, especially in fantasy and the author went all out in this section. I honestly couldn’t have asked for more or better. I just loved, loved, loved the dark, gloomy, oppressive, dangerous vibes and atmosphere I was getting from this book. For the first time, I’ve included a sort of aesthetics collage right below this section so you can see exactly what kind of vibes WFITB gave off, granted it’s not the best mood board ever, but I’m sure you’ll get the idea! I’m in love with the atmosphere of this book and I hope that the second instalment will be just as perfect.
Enemies to lovers/love triangle: Another element I adore in fantasy is the enemies to lovers and love triangle tropes that I’m a total sucker for. This book did these two really well without it being too much or yucky. It was just the right amount of tension, of slow-burn, of desire, of “will they, won’t they?” and I was living for it! By the end of it, I couldn’t actually tell you which love interest I preferred, so I’ll just have to wait patiently (read IMpatiently to find out which camp I’ll be rooting for).
A terrible cult/political system to overrule: A final element which made this book so unique and so captivating was the terrible cult put in place by the General revolving around power and a certain kind of person now forbidden and seen as the devil. This is a cult based on lies, fear, and the all-consuming and all-encompassing power this man has and uses on the citizens of Castello. They literally bow down to him for doing something atrocious and it’s terrifying to see but it makes the book unputdownable with all the other elements. I thought that even though this book had so much going on, with loads of characters, such massive rivalry, such hatred, such darkness and such oppression, it actually turned out to be such a balanced book with all the themes and elements. Lily evidently realises that something is massively wrong with this town from the minute she arrives, and even though she gets dragged into this mentality quickly, there is still the underlying feeling of wrongness throughout which pushes her to want to change things and make things right again. I loved how this all happened even though there were so many plot twists and a few betrayals that I was not expecting along the way. The idea is, however, that this is wrong and that it can’t stay this way, which was a really good and important message.
The only thing I will say is that there is a lack of diverse representation (be it LGBTQIA+, disability, race/ethnicity, etc). There is a possible queer relationship or even two but it kind of went down the “let’s bury all this” route which is a shame but I suppose the overall aim of the book was to ground it in a really old-fashioned and repressive time and system, which was definitely managed. Apart from that, I didn’t personally notice anything problematic, but please do let me know if you noticed anything so I can add it to my review.
And here is said aesthetic/vibe/atmosphere mood board!
FINAL THOUGHTS AND RATING
So, as you can tell from my previous rambling, I really loved this book and was captivated by it from the first page. I quickly fell in love with the characters and was rooting for them the whole way. It’s also been a long time since I read a YA fantasy that was both predictable on some fronts and utterly hooking and plot-twisty on others. I did guess a big part of the massive reveal but I have read like 200 different YA fantasies where there is always some kind of big secret revealed in the middle. I kind of knew where it was going about who the “princelings” really were, but the rest of the book completely surprised me and I have to say the last 3 or 4 chapters were plot twist upon plot twist and I didn’t see much of it coming, so it was refreshing. I really liked how it ended even though it chilled me to the bone and it just made me want the second book so badly.
The setting, the atmosphere, the characters with their raw and flawed personalities and the overall plot of this book were just so GOOD and it all came together really well. The author has a real talent for writing, she drew me in and didn’t let me go and I honestly can’t believe this is a debut!!
I gave With Fire in Their Blood by Kat Delacorte 4.5 stars, and I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it! I’m so glad I got to read this book and I think I’ll be raving about it for a while, it’s definitely up there in my favourite books of the year! Check out some themes below to see if this is a book you’d fancy picking up!
YOU SHOULD READ IT IF YOU LOVE…
- Romeo and Juliet-type retellings
- Love triangles & enemies to lovers trope
- Strong and captivating world-building
- A dark, gloomy, nearly oppressive atmosphere
- Interesting characters
- Unique magic system
- Gasp-worthy plot twists
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – KAT DELACORTE
Kat Delacorte was eleven years old when her family moved from the United States to a small town in central Italy. She soon began writing stories about her new friends developing superpowers, and she hasn’t looked back since. She graduated with a BA in History from Columbia University, and lives in Venice, Italy.
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed reading this post.
See you soon, stay safe,