By Dylan West
© 2023 Pickle Jar Press
Kindle version; file size 3015 KB
Paperback, 430 pages.
Scribes Aflame is the second book in the Scribes trilogy, and continues the story of Mallory, Rain, and Boxer, the Scribes foretold in the Book of Books. The adventures and trials they began in book one carry into more critical territory here, putting all their lives—and others, besides—in danger as they struggle to carry out their fated mission.
This is a pretty fast-paced story, with lots of action to keep the reader turning pages. Everything from hostile humans to feral and dangerous animals and otherworldly beings (to us surface-dwellers, anyway!) arise to challenge our heroes. In fact, everything is moving so quickly that the Scribes barely have time to stop and think about what they’re doing; instead, they are obliged to throw themselves at each successive challenge in order to keep going. While there are moments when the pace slows, it’s never for long—just enough to let readers, but not the characters, catch their breath.
The young protagonists, Mallory and Leah, along with their friends, are well-educated, intelligent, rational, thoughtful, and courageous. Mallory, especially, questions everything. It’s rare that she simply accepts something at face value. In addition, they think their way through problems, seeking reasonable and workable solutions that will benefit the most people. I can see how they would serve as excellent role models for YA readers.
Author Dylan West’s imagination takes interesting turns in the descriptions of the story’s subterranean ecosystems. It’s clear he’s given a lot of thought to their creation, and how such environmental marvels might occur in a real-world scenario. Descriptions are accompanied by dialogue between the characters about how they could have evolved in such a setting, explanations that are well-reasoned and totally believable.
Given that the Scribes series is YA Christian fantasy, there are certain expectations set up from the beginning. The Scribes are followers of a religious system called Protectorism, are on a spiritual mission, and are being aided (less often than they would like) by The Voice, to whom they pray for guidance and protection. Through character development, we see the doubt that can creep in, even with the strongest believers, and how faith helps them overcome the hurdles and move on into a deeper connection with the tradition, and with God (though they call Him something else in the story). While I am not a Christian myself, I understand the significance of that connection between the Divine and the religion’s individual practitioners and was thus able to sympathize with the characters in these moments.
I would venture to say that it would be difficult to easily follow book two, Scribes Aflame, if you have not yet read book one, Scribe’s Descent. That said, both books are good, well-paced stories. If you like faith-based fiction, you’ll want to add these books to your list.