Review: Fire Baptized, by Kenya Wright

Title: Fire Baptized
Author: Kenya Wright
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Reviewed by Pavarti K. Tyler

Since the 1970s humans have forced supernaturals to live in caged cities. Silver brands embedded in their foreheads identify them by species: a full moon for Vampires, a crescent moon for Shifters, a pair of wings for Fairies, and the list goes on, for each supernatural species has been tagged and categorized by humans.

Lanore Vesta is marked with a silver X, the brand of Mixbreeds, second-class citizens shunned by society. She stays to herself, revealing her ability to create fire only during emergencies. All she wants to do is graduate college and stop having to steal to survive. But when she stumbles upon a murder in progress, she catches the attention of a supernatural killer. Now all she wants is to stop finding dead bodies in her apartment.

Enlisting help from her Were-cheetah ex-boyfriend MeShack and a new mysterious friend named Zulu, she is steered through the habitat’s raunchy nightlife. But their presence sometimes proves to be more burden than help, as they fight for her attention.

While the corpses pile up, and the scent of blood fills the air, Lanore is left wondering: will she find the psycho or die trying?

Disclaimer: This book magically appeared in my PO Box.  I have no idea where it came from.  I didn’t buy it and the author didn’t send it to me.  It seems I was meant to read this book and I’m so glad I did.

Review: If you’re anything like me you read the description of this book and rolled your eyes.  It starts out strong and then you have a Were-Cheetah, guys named Zulu and the use of the word “raunchy.”  I knew this book was a risk when I started it.  It was either going to be the best book ever written in the Supernatural Genre or it was going to be a complete tomato.

By the time I was two pages in I knew which it was – this was going to be an awesome book.  I’ll list out below the major things that pull Fire Baptized out from the crowd of crappy Supernatural Romance books out there right now, but the main thing that set it apart is that Wright buys into her own story so completely, it comes alive on the page.  There is never a moment when it feels like the author is pushing too hard or where the prose comes across more tongue in cheek then actual.  This book is written as fictional realism, contemporary mystery or literary romance, there just happen to be flying monsters and were-folk.  It’s presented as so common place that you can’t help but believe the world created.  Parallel to our own, it’s a completely plausible alternate reality.

In addition there are a few points that separate Fire Baptized from the pack:

The Love Triangle:

Instead of some convoluted, unexplainable attraction, the romance in FB is believable and engaging.  MeShack (the were-cheetah) is Lanore’s ex-boyfriend, who is promiscuous and still madly in love with her.  It’s hard not to want these two to end up together, except for the fact that MeShack is led by his were-instincts more than his head and can’t resist the seduction and conquest of a new lover.  It seems like Lanore should just tell him to bugger off, but their love is the kind of soul-mate bond that isn’t so easily broken.  They were raised together and MeShack is conditioned, dedicated and biologically pre-destined to be Lanore’s protector.  Their childhood traumas and mutual devotion form a strong bond.

The other man in Lanore’s life is Zulu (yeah, I laughed at the name at first, but it fits him once you get into his story).  He’s mysterious, political, influential and driven.  As the leader of the MFE (Mixies For Equality) he represents a Black Panther or ACT UP! kind of movement.  Lanore is drawn to him for his politics, his beliefs, his devotion to her as well as a sick body.

While there’s definitely a choice for Lanore to make, there is no flip flopping or whiny “Oh it’s so hard to be me” Twilight bullshit.  Instead we have a sexual woman, with a past and a future which includes two wonderful men.  Both have flaws but both are fully developed three dimensional characters.

The Diversity:

Thank Baby Buddah!  For ONCE there is a book set in the supernatural world which includes people of multiple races.  I’ve read a few who have tried to do this but it’s usually a “hey, look!  I have a book about black people!”  Instead Fire Baptized is just a book, set in a world where diversity is the norm.  Race is discussed, joked about and sometimes even an issue, but it’s as much a part of their lives as it is for most of us who live in a multi-ethnic community.  Lanore isn’t just a black girl.  She isn’t defined or announced by her race, instead MeShack helps her wax her dreads after a shower.  It’s a normal and real part of her existence.  This is the kind of writing which brings diversity into a story without making you feel like you’re getting some kind of lecture.

Fire Baptized could easily be seen as a exploration of race relations in America, with segregation and internment camps from our past coming to a speculative reality.  If you dig deep, you can see issues of desegregation, inter-racial relationships and children as well as an us vs. them theme.  These themes are there, but they aren’t teaching us or lecturing us, instead Wright has built on the reality of racism/sexism/homophobia and used them to create a world which presents as true.

The Series:

Fire Baptized is a stand alone book. The story is completed and the reader is satisfied with what they have read.  However it is the first book in the Habitat Series.  Book Two Burning Bush will be coming out in August and I have to say I am chomping at the bit for a copy.  FB did what the best First Book of a Series will do, it made me want to read more, but left me feeling satisfied with the adventure I had been on.  Wright also has a free ebook called Caged View which appears to be little character explorations for The Habitat MCs.  I’ll check it out at some point but I hate ebooks.  However, I love this series so much I’m going to try and pick it up.  In addition The Habitat World is used as the back drop for another series Wright is working on called Cage Punks.  Book One Chameleon is coming sometime later this year. I’m a little giddy…

The Audience:

Another HUGE plus for Fire Baptized is the fact that it is NOT YA.  When’s the last time you read a good Supernatural Dystopian book that wasn’t written for teens?  Oh you can think of one?  Bet’cha a nickel it was full on romance or erotica.  Not so with Fire Baptized.  Here we have characters who are strong and vulnerable, smart and emotional.  We have a woman who isn’t ashamed of her body but who also isn’t a slut.  Sexy men who serve as more than just masturbation material (although there’s some of that too.)  This is not PG or PG-13.  This is a book meant from grown-ups, real people swear, real people fuck, real people cry.  Lanore and her co-horts are more like us than one would expect from a book about Fairies and Were-Cheetahs.

In the end, Fire Baptized is what every Indie book should strive to be.  I found ZERO typos or other editing issues.  I’m sure there are a few (there are in every book) but I’ve gotten to be a pretty critical reader and they either aren’t there or I was too wrapped up in the story to notice.  The book is beautifully written, expertly constructed and fully realized.

If Sookie Stackhouse is a penny then Lanore Vesta is a million dollars.  This is the next big thing, buy it now.

Buy here:

E-Book:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Baptized-Fantasy-Santeria-Habitat-ebook/dp/B006YHTT9G/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&qid=1338207372&sr=8-1

Print:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Fire-Baptized-Kenya-Wright/dp/0985023007/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1338207372&sr=8-1

Pavarti K Tyler is an artist, wife, mother, number cruncher and author of the critically acclaimed Shadows on the Wall, the first novel in the Sandstorm Chronicles. She graduated Smith College in 1999 with a degree in Theatre. After graduation, she moved to New York, where she worked as a Dramaturge, Assistant Director and Production Manager on productions both on and off Broadway. Visit her website, Fighting Monkey Press, for more book reviews, the latest on her own writing, and much, much more.

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