The Fireman by Joe Hill

It’s over-played and cliché to say, but: The Fireman was a page-turner. There was action on every page and the story unfolded smoothly and interestingly. It’s hard to believe it was 700+ pages long, because it had me so thoroughly absorbed. I could not read The Fireman fast enough. I couldn’t stop once I started, and now I’m sad it’s over. I savored every word like bites of my favorite cheesecake. I couldn’t recommend this highly enough. My favorite element of this story comes from Harper Willowes: The Portable Mother. Not only am I impressed that Joe Hill was able to craft such an interesting idea, I’m also inspired to create one of my own!  I’m so happy to see Joe Hill not only follow in his father’s footsteps but create footsteps of his own. I can’t wait for more from him!

 

SPOILER ALERT: 

Immediately, we’re thrown into the catastrophic world that’s people are falling ill to draco incendia trychophyton, otherwise known as Dragonscale. Basically, this disease leaves black, tattoo-looking marks on the host’s body, referred to as “scales.” It’s later learned that when the host is under duress or extreme stress, the fungus causes the infected person ignite from within. The group at Camp Wyndham have realized this and fight the illness by singing together—this in turn has caused a glowing impact on them. So, rather than catch fire, when their joyous and mid-song, their “scales” glow various colors. This was such an imaginative and descriptive part of the book.

 

The group at Camp Wyndham give off a cult-like vibe. While Father Storey isn’t exactly a Charles Manson type, his daughter “Mother Carol” definitely had traits of Jim Jones when she took over the camp. Ben Patchett and Michael Lindqvist seemed to be the more innocent bystanders amongst the growing hostility in the camp, so it came as a shock when Michael was revealed to have been a villainous character and Ben became hard and cold as the story went on.

 

Then there’s the title character: The Fireman, John Rookwood. I thought he was going to be invincible and far more sturdy than the clumsy and caring Englishman he turned out to be. Within the overall scheme of things a romantic story is woven of The Fireman and Nurse Willowes. So of course it was devastating when the ending didn’t turn out exactly as I hoped. (Spoiler alert: The Fireman goes up in flames).

 

I absolutely loved the main character, Harper Grayson. She made me laugh, she made me teary-eyed, but most of all she was relatable. Her attitude and wit were very real and personable. When we first meet Nurse Grayson, she is meek, quiet, and basically a doormat for her soon-to-be-psycho husband. The best part of this book, for me, was reading about this pregnant woman running around in a post-apocalyptic world and running things—not because she was pregnant with the sympathy vote, but because she was intelligent, strong, and a fighter. Reading about her development as a character was a story in itself.

 

Of the many plot twists and graphic scenes, there  were three, for me, that really stood out. The first was Michael Lindqvist’s betrayal of Nurse Willowes. I did NOT see that coming. It was clear that someone in the camp had been betraying her, but I was surprised it was him.  I was led to believe that he was on her side, mostly because he was “dating” Allie; I couldn’t get over the fact that it was actually her aunt he was having a relationship with! What really got me, though, was him setting up an 8 month pregnant Nurse Willowes. I was flabbergasted. A very far along Harper is being dragged out to face the entire mob of the camp and forced to confess to every misdeed Michael committed as if she were the perpetrator. I was honestly scared for her and her baby’s life.

 

Which leads me to the second scene: Harper being stoned and assaulted in the snow by Allie’s group of friends. As if it wasn’t bad enough they threw snowballs with stones in them (the point they were trying to make is something you’ll just have to read for yourself!), but then they knock her down to the ground and attack her! Duck taping her hands, duck taping her mouth to trap a stone inside, cutting off her hair! I was truly terrified for her and her pregnancy at this point. I could almost hear her cries and feel her dire need to protect her growing baby. It was probably the most INTENSE scene of the book.

 

The other one was how horrifically and intensely Harper’s husband, Jakob Grayson, turned on her. This was the first of the two betrayals, but probably the more harsh. I mean, in the beginning of the book, he’s made out to be a kind and loving husband. He caters to her and dotes on her. Then all of a sudden, he’s this horrible brute verbally and emotionally abusing her after she contracts Dragonscale. It was almost too much, how easily he turned on her. However, I guess this shows that, in reality, being under an intense amount of pressure can really change a person.

 

I was absolutely devastated to see John Rookwood aka The Fireman die; again I assumed he was invincible. I kept waiting for him to come back somehow. I just wasn’t ready to let him go. When the bullet struck, I thought for sure, or at least hoped, there’d be some crazy miracle, but he was just dead. And then, he was The Phoenix.

 

The ending was touching. Harper bringing the baby into the world, just barely being saved from the cold ocean water with Renée, Nick, and Allie. The Phoenix withering away to ashes and falling onto Harper and her newborn daughter. The greatest hope, though, came from the cliffhanger-type ending: Sailing off into the ocean to find another Dragonscale refuge island. I do hope that this means we can look forward to another installment!

 

 

© Chelsie Cummings 2016

 

 

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