Review of Firecracker by Charles R. Verhey
Firecracker is an urban fantasy which centers on the life of Aideen Cassidy. She is a “Zoë Blood”, a psychic born with special talents caused by the cure to the “88 Virus” plague that killed thousands of people around the world. That cure was the Zoë Vaccine. The vaccine has created a few thousand of these psychics.
Aideen has had a tough life. She is a thin, chain-smoking, vermillion eyed, red-headed young woman, and she is extremely volatile in all senses of the word. She is a pyrokinetic, a fire starter, so she can, and frequently does, start fires with her mind. She is ruled by her passions and can go from one emotional extreme to the other. Unfortunately for her, when she loses her temper, she creates fires and the object of her ire often doesn't survive. Her uncontrollable gift (or curse) has dominated her life and prevented her from staying in any one place for too long. After burning down every business she has worked for, she is now a pariah and no one will give her a job – even PsychTeam.
PsychTeam is a group of psychics who aid the police in solving crimes and they don't want her. Aideen, is broke and desperate and badgers PsychTeam until she gets an interview with the handsome and charming Agent Li Hung. He tells her bluntly that they don't want her or need her.
Fortunately for Aideen, Agent Le's decision is overridden by the head of PsychTeam, Miyuki. She is a frail little girl with enormous psychic powers whose failing health keeps her from living a normal life and whose psychic visions torment her constantly. Miyuki tells Agent Li that he must hire her and that they will need her for the battle with the shadows that is to come. Aideen's life turns around from there and becomes filled with excitement, romance and drama.
I don't want to go much further into the story line lest I reveal things best revealed by the author.
Firecracker is a well written book. Mr. Verhey's writing is strong and his characters are believable and likeable. Aideen is especially fun because of her volatile nature ( which earns her the title of Firecracker from Agent Li ) She is ruled by her emotions and can go from exuberant to depressed in a matter of seconds. I enjoyed following her along on her ride. She starts out with critically low self esteem but is strong willed and bull headed. It is this latter trait that gets her where she needs to know. As she starts to understand and find positive uses for her power, she becomes more confident and starts gaining a sense of self-worth.
The world that Mr. Verhey has created is interesting, self-consistent and complex. This book reveals some of that world, but hints that there is much more going on than the characters know, even the enigmatic Miyuki with her glimpses of the future.
The story is also well structured with tension gradually building towards a satisfying and dramatic climax.
For my tastes, Mr. Verhey is a bit too cagey with the information he reveals. Even most of the members of the PsychTeam don't know what is really going on. They are kept in the dark as to the nature of the coming threat. The reader is too. There is a lot of hinting and suggesting and shuddering which builds up readers expectations to the point that the actual reveal of the enemy is a bit of a let-down and the story arc is fairly predictable. That being said, there are other very interesting things you discover about the plague and the nature of the Zoë Blood which keeps your interest.
Overall, I give Firecracker 3.5+ stars. The characters are likeable and complex and the story is engaging, even if some of the tension seems a little artificial. I would recommend it to anyone who likes urban fantasy. Its an enjoyable read and a good start to what seems to be a promising new series by a promising new author.