by Rebecca Podos
Published by Balzer + Bray
Release Date: February 22nd 2022
Genres: F/F, Fantasy, Mystery, Mythology, YA
Format Read: ARC, eBook
Buy on Amazon
Hannah’s whole life has been spent in motion. Her mother has kept her and her brother, Gabe, on the road for as long as she can remember, leaving a trail of rental homes and faded relationships behind them. No roots, no family but one another, and no explanations.
All of that changes on Hannah’s seventeenth birthday when she wakes up transformed, a pair of golden eyes with knife-slit pupils blinking back at her from the mirror—the first of many such impossible mutations. Promising that she knows someone who can help, her mother leaves Hannah and Gabe behind to find a cure. But as the days turn to weeks and their mother doesn’t return, they realize it’s up to them to find the truth.
What they discover is a family they never knew, and a history more tragic and fantastical than Hannah could have dreamed—one that stretches back to her grandmother’s childhood in Prague under the Nazi occupation, and beyond, into the realm of Jewish mysticism and legend. As the past comes crashing into the present, Hannah must hurry to unearth their family’s secrets—and confront her own hidden legacy in order to break the curse and save the people she loves most, as well as herself.
I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
What I truly love about fantasy at any level is its ability to invite readers into various cultures, seeped in ethnic and religious symbolism. I love books that introduce me to the pagan rituals of medieval Russia and the godly war of ancient Greece; they invite a new perspective, a new nuance to a tried-and-true genre. Much the same can be said for Rebecca Podo’s From Dust, a Flame a sapphic Jewish coming-of-age story wrapped in a mystery.
From Dust, a Flame tells the story of 17-year-old Hannah Williams. Hannah’s life has been defined by constant upheaval, as her artistic mother moves Hannah and her older brother, Gabe, across the country every few months, supposedly at whim or fancy. For the last two years though, Hannah and her family have been living in Boston (hey! that’s my home!) as Hannah attends an elite prep school on scholarship. So, readers- be prepared for some local Boston homages! Yet, the morning after her 17th birthday, Hannah awakes to a physical mutation (and soon thereafter a missing mom), that will ultimately send her to New York, searching for an answer to why Hannah’s body is changing.
This is a story full of Jewish lore and at a time when antisemitism is disgustingly rampant, From Dust, a Flame provides positive Jewish representation through historian and religious enrichment. I enjoyed the mystery and fantasy alike, yet as an adult reader, the story moved a bit too slowly for me. While I loved watching as Hannah’s character grew, I also yearned for a bit more nuance and depth, a bit more drama throughout. That said, the drama does pick up in the second half of the book and, without spoiling it, the time-leaps and narrative changes make for a more inviting and exciting book. All told, this is a diverse and keenly representative folkloric novel that you will enjoy!
Hi, I’m Caitlyn! During the day I’m a graduate student, so you can usually find me hiding in the corner of a coffee shop (iced coffee always in hand) reading, writing, or lesson planning. But, come nighttime, I’m always trying to squeeze in a few extra pages of whatever I’m reading for fun. I love to decorate with books and antique trinkets, light a musky woodsy candle, and curl up with my cat, Mercutio, to devour fantasy, historical fiction, literary fiction, or, really, whatever I’m feeling in the moment!