Fire in the Mist by Holly Lisle isn’t a particularly original story. In fact, it starts with a theme that is extremely common in fantasy books. A young person, in this case a 19-year-old female shepherd named Faia, experiences a tragedy which triggers a powerful display of magic, at which point mages seek her out to teach her how to handle her magic safely. There was more to the story, of course – that was only the beginning. There’s something evil lurking around the mage school that Faia is taken to and most of the plot revolves around the discovery of that evil, learning what exactly it is and how it came to be, and dealing with the situation.
Even though the story wasn’t terribly unique, it held my interest. There were a couple of things that kept me guessing so that I had trouble putting the book down. I also really liked the characters. Although Faia was the main character and most of the book took place from her perspective, we jumped around quite a bit to other characters for short periods. One of the instructors at the school was particularly interesting and I wanted to learn more about her.
However, there were some threads that never really played out in any way. For example, there’s quite a bit going on with wolves in the beginning of the story and their inexplicable behavior is never explained. I can’t explain why without spoiling the story, but there’s no way their behavior had anything to do with what was going on at the school. Also, even though Faia was brought to the mage school to learn how to use her magic safely, we never really saw her actually being taught how to do that nor was there ever any clear sign that she had been taught how “off-page”. Since this is the first book in a trilogy, perhaps some of that will be dealt with in the later books.
So this book had its flaws, and it wasn’t very original, but my ratings are primarily based on how much I enjoy a book. I definitely got four stars’ worth of enjoyment out of this book and I plan to read the next book in the trilogy. Maybe part of the reason I enjoyed it so much was because it was a huge change of pace from the longer and heavier things I’ve read recently. At just under 300 pages, it was a light, quick read. Although I should caution that, by "light", I just mean that there was no mental effort required to read the book. There were some dark and slightly gory descriptions in the book of things done to both animals and humans. I didn't think they were described in excessive detail, but people who are more sensitive to gore might not like it. I found the events themselves more disturbing than the actual descriptions of them, and there was more than one scene that made me go hug the closest animal I could find -- my cat. Since this usually led to belly rubs and neck scratches, my cat gives this book 5 stars.