Book Review: Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popović

Wicked Like a Wildfire (Hibiscus Daughter, #1)Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popović

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I got Wicked Like A Wildfire this summer, and sadly, it sat on my bookshelf unread, for months. The premise sounded intriguing though, and I finally picked it up a couple weeks ago.

Twin sisters, Iris and Milena, both have what their mother calls a “gleam”—a unique magical gift. Iris can see flowers in fractals, and translates what she sees into blown glass. Milena uses her voice to interpret emotion. Their mother, the sharp-tongued Jasmina, can evoke settings with her baked goods. The three live a sheltered life running their café in Montenegro, and Iris and her mother are constantly at odds with each other, even going so far as to slut-shame the other. Iris rebels by drinking, being promiscuous, and always dreaming (and talking) about Japan since she and Milena have a long-lost Japanese father. Then everything changes when their mother softens one night, showing them tenderness once again. Too bad the next day she is brutally attacked, and left hovering somewhere between not alive and not quite dead.

The girls are determined to find out what happened to their mother, and who the strange visitor who came to town was just the day of the attack. The storyline twisted deeper and deeper, bringing new light to who their mother was, and why she became so cold toward the two, and the more I read the more interested I was.

Lovers of sparse, clean prose might not care for the poetic descriptions. At times it even became noticeably to me—and I love a beautifully-crafted sentence, but overall I loved it. Passages like:

Other days, she made floating islands, fluffy lumps of spongy, unset meringue bobbing in creamy zabaglione and laced with orange syrup, violet preserves and a powder she ground from bee pollen, so every bite tasted exactly like late spring sunshine. She churned her own gelato too, but her chocolate stracciatella was always streaked like a sunset with other things, marmalade and rose hip jelly and crystallized chips of honey, and somehow it put you in mind of the sky—the held breath of twilight, the sanctity of dusk, and the final slippage of night. And you knew that when she looked at the sky, this was the taste that bloomed in her mouth.

(OMG gorgeous, no?) really set the tone of the story, and I felt so much of my imagination was using the senses the author brought to life. At times, the description slowed down the story, and I wish there’d been more with iris’s glass blowing—we only get 1 actual scene of the process and I’d have loved to have gotten more immersed in her talent. But in general I loved the story, the question of who had attacked their mother (and why), would she survive, and the hint of romantic tension throughout. The last 20% had me with my knuckles white, for things really got exciting, and I was left both unsure what to think, and freaking out for the next book. I cannot wait for the second book to find out more. 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for a lush and generous book about sisterhood, complex mother-daughter dynamics, beauty, love, sensuality and for including diverse characters and relationships.

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