Book Review: Playing with Fire (Book 2 of the 1st Freak House Trilogy) by CJ Archer

Playing With Fire (Freak House #2)

Title: Playing with Fire (Book 2 of the The 1st Freak House Trilogy)
C.J. Archer
Release Date: 2nd September 2013
Genre: Young Adult, Gothic, Victorian, paranormal
Format: e-ARC
Page Count: 201 (paperback)
Source: Author (thank you!)

5 of 5 hearts

Hannah is living at Frakingham House, training her supernatural fire-starter power with Jack, resisting all temptation to touch her beloved lest they both burn up from the inside. However a mysterious creature is terrorising the house, murdering innocent people, and someone keeps trying to kidnap Hannah!

I absolutely adored the first book in this trilogy, The Wrong Girl. I thought it had the most amazing voice and writing style, almost flawless technique, a love story that belied insta-love (attraction, yes, love, no), female friendship, and all sorts of things that get the Nemo stamp of approval. Playing with Fire was certainly not a disappointment and lived up to any expectations and wishful thinking I had about the sequel. It didn’t feel like a ‘filler’ book nor suffer from middle book syndrome – the active adventures of the characters served as the foreground to the bigger questions uncovered by the series in general.

Once again, CJ Archer’s prose soars with phenomenal Victorian-era voice, her characters are completely loveable (Samuel Gladstone, I think you’re swell!) even if Sylvia is a twit who deserves a pinch at times, and I also found myself finding Jack more and more attractive – this is a huge deal because I don’t do book boyfriends, I just don’t. I find it really hard to feel anything for a figment of my imaginations no matter how hot he’s supposed to be. But Jack showed some lovely moments of deep caring and affection, as well as attraction towards Hannah, and although the romance was still completely clean (by necessity of their unique powers), I felt myself softening towards Jack and now firmly ship him and Hannah.

The plot wasn’t what I expected, but only because I kind of didn’t even read the blurb. I’m at the stage in my fangirl of CJ that not only do I find myself calling her by her initials but I’ll read anything young adult by her you put in front of me. Upon reflection, yes the blurb is terribly accurate of what happens, but guess what? I don’t care. I’m finding it difficult to be coherent and identify exactly why I love the book so much. It was just awesome, OK?

I did find the middle section after a guest appearance by Emily Chambers (from the Emily Chambers Spirit Medium trilogy, also by Archer) dropping in pace, although it did pick back up, and I find myself frustrated at Hannah’s Victorian-era damsel in distress helplessness – though by no means is she as useless in a tussle as Sylvia. I wanted to see Hannah gain more control of her power by the end of the book, not simply figure out a way around the hindrance to touching Jack. Her helplessness and lack of learning control did frustrate me a little, even if it is understandable, and I hope in Book #3: Heart Burn she finds the control she needs. Hannah’s got a strong will, and she’s brave, but she’s not quite the modern woman I want her to be. Not yet. There’s still room left for growth. I’m not asking for Katniss or a Mary-Sue who finds herself an expert at things with no practice, but a little control would have been a nice move forward. It makes me feel like Hannah didn’t really change or grow apart from in her romance towards Jack.

Overall if you read and enjoyed The Wrong Girl I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with Playing with Fire. A lot of questions that were leftover from Book 1 were answered in the sequel, and it also raised some more questions, the answers of which will be uncovered in Book 3. It doesn’t quite end on a cliffhanger, but the ending was slightly abrupt, even after a rather grand climax and denouement.

Thanks to the author for providing a copy of this book for an honest review, even if I am a raging fangirl, which had absolutely no influence whatsoever on my opinion of the book.


About Nemo

A lover of kittens and all things sparkly, Nemo has a degree in English Literature and specialises in reviewing contemporary, paranormal, mystery/thriller, historical, sci-fi and fantasy Young Adult fiction. She is especially drawn to novels about princesses, strong female friendships, magical powers, and assassins.

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