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Playing with Fire (Criminal Elements Book 1) Kindle Edition
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"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Learn more
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I enjoyed Playing With Fire. I was impressed with the seamless consistency, despite being written by two authors. Cris and Clare’s writing blended perfectly to showcase this underground urban world of thieves, hackers, grifters, shapeshifters and magic wielders. The supporting cast of Grace, Carlos, and Rook, were my favorites. They were all highly entertaining and endearing each in their own way. Renee and Stone have a lot of backstory and potential. Yet, even though they are the main focus of the story, neither felt completely fleshed out to me. As much as I wanted to, I had trouble feeling the chemistry between them. Renee was so cool, calm, and collected. Her constant stoicism lent her a sense of woodenness that carried over into their romantic moments. The tidbits dropped in about Renee’s past and her family were interesting, but were just shy of rounding her out. I did find it easier to feel Stone’s protectiveness and love for her, and found him to be the more compelling character of the two. He showed growth and dimensions that Renee did not. Though her unflappable demeanor does go well with her character, her lack of passion (not just for Stone) made her feel a bit flat to me. Some of this could also be my own preference. I’m usually drawn to more character-driven novels rather than plot-driven, and the risky theft of a magical gem, that Stone and Renee are hired for, is definitely the driving force of this story. I’m hoping we learn more about this gem and the ‘rituals’. I found them both intriguing.
The magical talents of the characters were believable and well fit into story world the authors created. I love how the series name (Criminal Elements) matches so perfectly. I wouldn’t have minded a little more explanation on the magic, but not having it didn’t deter from the story as the magic itself wasn’t the main focus. It was just one of the many tools used by our gifted thieves to get the job done. The dialogue was spot-on for each character and any interaction with Rook was always amusing. The only real negative that stood out to me was the amount of time spent in planning the job. There is a lot of back and forth between the characters in this regard. It was interesting at first, and those who enjoy strategy will probably find it more so. For me, though, I found myself itching for action and ready for them to move on from planning to doing. Perhaps this made the actions scenes even more rewarding, as they were definitely my favorite parts and hard to put down. They were all suspenseful and well done.
Overall, Playing with Fire was an impressive and entertaining debut novel. The ending was satisfying but left just enough open to bring you back to find out where the story is going next. Book 2 is coming out soon, so we don’t have long to wait!
Playing With Fire introduces us to Renee and Stone, a pair of 'independent contractors' in a shady world of thieves, grifters and hackers. But they're not typical thieves. In this world, though, the best contractors have Talent; the ability to control elements such as fire, water, or the ether. Some have the ability to shape shift. Yes! Please sir, may I have some more?
At the start of the story, Renee and Stone are strangers, hired to join a crew for a single job then fly their separate ways. Over the next few years, Renee and Stone find their orbits intersecting again and again. I really liked this build up in their relationship. They pass like ships in the night, drawing a little closer to one another each time until they, eventually, realize they make a perfect team. I applaud Cris and Clare for their approach to Renee and Stone's relationship. It would've been easy to simply slam the characters together in a flashy way, but their gradual build up of trust, respect, and need for the other made their relationship much more believable. It wouldn't be in the nature of a professional thief to trust too quickly!
After our wonder-duo realize their happy place is at the other's side, the rest of the story centers on a heist meant to liberate a certain magical artifact from an old nemesis. The opportunity for revenge it too good to pass up, even if it means working for a woman they know they cannot trust. The rest of their crew on this job is a motley collection of shape shifters: a coyote, a cat, and a crow. I positively loved these supporting characters! Carlos, the young rookie, was my favorite. But Grace (the grifter) was awesome too! Even Rook (the hacker), despite his annoying bravado, grew on me.
The writing was well-paced with a tight plot. I have to add that I appreciated the fact that although magic could've been used to get our characters out of any number of tight spots, it was moderated nicely.
Playing With Fire is the first book in a series, however it ends on a nice point. Not exactly a cliffhanger, but just enough to leave you hungry for the next book. And trust me, I'm hungry!
Most recent customer reviews
Magic, shapeshifting and crime all blend together to make this enjoyable read by husband and wife team, Cris and Clare...Read more
This is a very cohesive writing team. You cannot tell where one begins and another stops.Read more
When I first saw the cover, I wondered what I'd gotten myself into.Read more