April 5, 2016 • Cee • Reviews

Tell the Wind and Fire

Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan • April 5, 2016 • Clarion Books (HMH)
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In a city divided between opulent luxury in the Light and fierce privations in the Dark, a determined young woman survives by guarding her secrets.

Lucie Manette was born in the Dark half of the city, but careful manipulations won her a home in the Light, celebrity status, and a rich, loving boyfriend. Now she just wants to keep her head down, but her boyfriend has a dark secret of his own—one involving an apparent stranger who is destitute and despised. Lucie alone knows the young men’s deadly connection, and even as the knowledge leads her to make a grave mistake, she can trust no one with the truth.

Blood and secrets alike spill out when revolution erupts. With both halves of the city burning, and mercy nowhere to be found, can Lucie save either boy—or herself?


I received this book for free from HMH Books for Young Readers for review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

First sentence: “It was the best of times until it was the worst of times.”

Was A Tale of Two Cities as convoluted as Tell the Wind and Fire? (Probably, because it is a Dickens’ book.)

What you get in Tell the Wind and Fire are the following: a city divided into the Light and the Dark; a story inspired by A Tale of Two Cities but with magic; a complicated relationship between Light and Dark that sparks unrest on both sides; a girl born in the Dark, but escaped by manipulating the system; doppelgängers born from death; revolutionaries, and so much more.


  • You can definitely see A Tale of Two Cities in this story.

You see similarities between this book and A Tale of Two Cities like both books have a character named Lucie Manette (this YA gives a voice for her story), discusses contrasting classes (for ATOTC, it’s the peasantry and aristocracy; for TTWAF, it’s people born in the Light and in the Dark), have an identical-looking character, and other plot things that feel familiar. Tell the Wind and Fire may have been inspired by Dickens’ novel, but it’s very much its own story with different stakes and magic.

You absolutely do not need to have read A Tale of Two Cities to read Tell the Wind and Fire. I never read the book, but have a knowledge of what happens in the plot, so I didn’t feel like I was missing anything huge.

  • The world of the Light and Dark is fascinating, but is kind of convoluted and lacking.

Readers will learn that the Light and Dark refers to the set of magic that exists. There’s people who practice Light magic, which is commonly accepted and has more people doing it, born of “sun and moon and stones,” and there’s people who practice Dark magic, which uses life like blood and the dead as their source of power. Fearing the Dark magic because of reasons revealed in the story, the first council of Light decided to build walls to close in the Dark. Thus began years of unrest and anger, which would eventually lead to a revolution.

Sarah Rees Brennan spends about half the book trying to build this world and the complicated relationships between the Light and the Dark, which I appreciated, but the world-building was a heavy dose of information dump. Nothing about this world seem exciting or fresh; it just gets boring because it was all talk and no action. What you learn will make you ask more questions that are never answered like if there’s a world and magic outside this Light and Dark New York. Every time readers get more information about the Light and Dark or an emphasis on the two sides, the book spins a web that makes how the things work in this city convoluted.

  • Doppelgängers are not your friend.

You know that urban legend, if you meet your doppelgänger, you are marked for death. It’s an omen that forebodes your death (and possibly the doppelgänger). However, in Tell the Wind and Fire, maybe they can be good.

The idea of doppelgängers fascinate me, so I was really excited to see where Tell the Wind and Fire will take it, and well, it was disappointing because Sarah Rees Brennan didn’t take it as far with it as I’d liked it. Readers get to read about the origin story of doppelgängers, which I loved to hear about, and are introduced to one, but that’s the extent of the excitement.

  • The characters suffer because of the world-building.

Because the book is spent trying to develop the world and the complicated relationships between the Light and the Dark, the characters’ development suffers a lot.

I couldn’t connect with Lucie, the shining heroine who was born in the dark but escaped to the Light and spends the book explaining this world and her feelings repeatedly in the narrative. She was weirdly naive despite everything she’s gone through; I expected her to do something bold, but she never did. I didn’t like Ethan Stryker, the son of a prominent Light council member Charles Stryker, because he was very bland who had no semblance of personality. (Lucie always puts Ethan’s needs and safety before her own, which annoyed me). I didn’t like Carwyn, the doppelgänger, either because he was the cliche snarky bad boy who was playing it up. If you take away all the information of the world-building in the book, these characters won’t stand well on their own.

  • The sans-merci needs to be expanded because I want more. 

The sans-merci is the name of a group of revolutionaries in the Dark City who are rising against the Light. When they come in, boy oh boy, they come in strong. They immediately captured my attention because they were brutal and unapologetic and just—their entry in the story raised the stakes of the book. I just want more of them, and see what changes they make, but alas, it didn’t turn out as I had hoped.

  • Not a lot of magic happens.

Where’s the magic? For a book that has magic in it, magic isn’t used as much as I expected it to. The book doesn’t even discuss how magic came to be. One moment, there was no magic, and then the next, there was magic and it changed the world—at least, it changed New York. It just…existed.

Should you read Tell the Wind and FireI’m gonna give you a very hesitant maybe. This book is ambitious to try to keep it a standalone with a need for world-building and character development. It had so much promise and expectations, but in the end, it lost itself with a whimper.

If you’re interested to see how similar this book is to A Tale of Two Cities and the world, read this book. You may see more than I did with the Light/Dark and doppelgängers concepts. Although I liked the writing, Tell the Wind and Fire fell into a world-building and pacing issue and a lack of character development, which made it hard for me to feel invested in the characters and their stories. Don’t enter this book thinking you’ll get another gem like the Lynburn Legacy. Keep your expectations low.


5 Responses to “(ARC) REVIEW • A Tale of Magic and Doppelgängers (Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan)”

  1. Alexa S. says:

    I’m so torn on this one, but I’m certainly leaning towards giving it a shot! I’m going into it with extremely low expectations, so we shall see how I fare. (Don’t worry – we will discuss once I have finished!)

  2. I have had this for review for ages, and I haven’t had the modivation to pick it up, but after seeing so many reviews of people really liking it, I might have to give it a go. Thanks for the review.

  3. “Don’t enter this book thinking you’ll get another gem like the Lynburn Legacy.”
    You read my mind – the Lynburn Legacy are the only books I’ve read by Sarah Rees Brennan, and as soon as I heard about Tell The Wind and Fire my first thought was, “Ooooh, I hope this is more of the same!” I’m still very interested in this book but will have to adjust my expectations going in.

  4. I got a copy of this book after I heard Sarah Rees Brennan (I just have to say her full name, right?) talk during her book signing with Leigh Bardugo ONLY BECAUSE SHE IS SUPER FUNNY! I mean, I was cracking up the WHOLE TIME she spoke! So yeah. I mean, I am quite familiar with AToTC, but I haven’t read it. Hmmm… maybe I should try this? It’s still sitting on my shelf at the moment…

    • Cee says:

      You should read the Lynburn Legacy if you haven’t! That trilogy is her best books. Great friendships + magic + fabulous humor in it. HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT. (Like to the point I will shove it into your face.) If you read this book, I hope you enjoy it! I didn’t because it didn’t have the humor or the emotional connection I expected. :\

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