Your favorite new YA fantasy book is here and it is Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows.
I bought this book while at NYCC (New York Comic Con) in early October strictly because I saw that the cover had a black girl on it. As a fan of YA fantasy, I rarely if ever see a black girl on the cover of a book about mythical lands with dragons and princesses. But something about this book made me stop and buy it.
This book revolves around a girl named Mira Minkoba, for whom a treaty that was essentially meant to guarantee her world’s peace is named after. Mira, who suffers from anxiety, is under the constant pressure to be perfect and to endorse the tenets of the treaty meant to bring together The Fallen Isles, seven islands named after gods. After discovering a secret that undermines everything she knew and represented in the treaty, Mira is sent to the notorious prison known as The Pit. It is here in The Pit that she learns that the treaty and her world is not what it appears to be.
First, I want to get into the world that Jodi Meadows created with Before She Ignites. It is so wonderfully expansive. There are the seven islands that make up the Fallen Isles: Bopha, Idris, Harta, Anahera, Damyan, Darina, and Khulan. The inhabitants of these islands, all named after gods, are given gifts associated with the god for which the island is named. Without going into specifics, this creates an interesting dynamic between some of the characters as many of the islands have certain stereotypes and prejudices associated with them.
The characters in this book are incredibly intriguing, each having their own motivations. What I loved the most is that this world is not lily white. Most, if not all, the characters Meadows introduced are persons of color and explicitly described as so. Another thing I loved is that Meadows does not use food to describe the skin tone of darker people in this work. She is creative in the ways that she provides elaborate and specific depictions of these characters. There were many times that I found myself repeatedly checking the back of the cover to make sure that a white woman had actually written this story. This was a book that I could see myself in and that I felt represented in.
The plot itself utilizes flashbacks to piece together the story of how Mira ended up in the prison. At the beginning of the story, this is a bit of a confusing method but as you learn more in each flashback it is easy to navigate. The pacing is good for the most part, though it can drag at some points due to a majority of the story taking place in a prison. The worldbuilding Meadows does is done primarily through dialogue which is good as there is not an overwhelming description of details. The story ended perfectly, with more than enough to sustain the next two books Meadows will release to complete this trilogy. Personally, I believe there is a lot of room in this universe to create other stories that are independent of each other or overlap. She has not written herself into a corner with this book.
I need an adaptation of this book yesterday. Due to how much story is given, this book would be better suited as a tv show, preferably on Netflix which would provide the budget needed to make a world like this truly shine and come to life.
Overall, if you were looking for a new YA fantasy book to read with incredibly diverse characters, fantastical world-building, and a riveting plot, then Before She Ignites is the book for you. This book is what the future of the YA genre should be and I hope to see many more books like it.