Editorial Review: Within the Flame: After the Fall Book 1 by Jordan Crestwood
Within The Flame is a book that quickly draws in readers with interesting characters and relatable situations. However, it then wastes no time in pulling the rug out from underneath them and plunging them into a post-apocalyptic nightmare.
James and Charlotte are both miles from home when they meet and form an unexpected connection in the city of Langford. James is in town for his martial arts while Charlotte is visiting her cousin. Unfortunately, as they are busy getting to know each other better over a lunch date, the city is hit by a cataclysmic event that leaves everyone scrambling for survival. With both of them cut off from friends and family, James and Charlotte stick together and watch helplessly as the world descends into chaos. As it becomes clear that society is crumbling they flee the city in search of safety, but quickly discover that nothing will ever be the same again.
The author has a knack for creating characters who are not just believable, but also likable, which makes it even more harrowing when they are placed in peril. Although James is proficient in martial arts he is still an ordinary man and the consequences of his actions while protecting himself and Charlotte weighs heavily on him. Charlotte, on the other hand, has a way with people, but her tendency to favor diplomacy over conflict sometimes places her at odds with James.
While Within The Flame is the tale of perseverance in the face of the apocalypse, it doesn't rely on zombies or other supernatural threats to keep things thrilling. Instead, it's a realistic look at how quickly morals can change and people can give in to their primal instincts when the rules of society no longer apply. Even encounters with ordinary thieves and murderers are described in an edge-of-your-seat manner, which is quite an accomplishment. Every scene is described so vividly that it is impossible not to get caught up in the action and there is a palpable sense of dread as things go from bad to worse.
Although James and Charlotte take center stage in this story there is no shortage of other great characters as well. Without delving too much into spoilers, the duo eventually encounters another friendly group of survivors and decide to stick together for safety. All of the people in this group have their own fears and motivations, not to mention unique personalities, which ensures that there is never a dull moment. In fact, one of the characters in the book, Melissa, has a story compelling enough that she could easily be the star of her own novel.
The biggest challenge faced by James and Charlotte is survival in a world gone mad, but Within The Flame also sets up a villain who is thriving in the anarchy of this new world. There are a couple of chapters dedicated to him and his actions are as disturbing as they are plausible. However, even the seemingly peaceful scenes without any outside threats are tense at times due to the conflicting opinions and clashing personalities of the characters.
Overall, Within The Flame is a fresh and compelling take on a genre that is already very crowded. It effortlessly draws readers in and thanks to the brilliant writing it is easy to root for the characters even while you are annoyed at them for making mistakes or doing things you don't agree with. In the hands of less-skilled authors, this is something that can quickly cause readers to be pulled out of the story, but thankfully that is not the case here.
The only minor complaint we have is that the story is so fast-paced and engrossing that ending it on a cliffhanger feels a bit jarring and frustrating. Nevertheless, there is no way that anyone reading Within The Flame would want to miss out on seeing what happens in the next book.