Novella Review: Up in Flames (Tales of the Outlaw Mages, Origins) by Amy Campbell

Up in Flames

Up in Flames, a novella of the Outlaw Mages origins by Amy Campbell; bright, hopeful fantasy.Series: Tales of the Outlaw Mages, Origins

Author: Amy Campbell

Genre: Fantasy

Book Description:

Her gift of fire will either be his salvation or his end.

Kittie Larue dreams of changing the world. As a maverick mage, she faces a life on the run, forever looking over her shoulder in fear of being captured by the lackeys of the dreaded Salt-Iron Confederation. While her Pyromancy is strong, her voice is stronger and when she speaks at a festival to light a fire of rebellion under the other magic wielders in attendance, Kittie snares the attention of her enemies.

Seasoned theurgist Jack Dewitt has no qualms with hunting down renegades. When he crosses paths with the mysterious Firebrand, her fierce spirit intrigues him. But Jack serves the Confederation, with no choice–and he’s tasked with bringing her in, dead or alive.

When Jack and his crew snare her in a late-night ambush, Kittie fights back. But Jack has tricks of his own, and he proves to be tougher than any opponent she’s taken on before. Will the Firebrand blaze her way to victory, or will her dream of freedom turn to ash?


Up in Flames is a really fun fantasy novella, a bit of a romance, but more a story about freedom and love. If you’ve read Breaker, you know from the first few pages that Kittie actually has some things in common with Blaise, despite his magic being more feared by many people (not the pegasi, though), except that in her case, it’s been a lot worse.

I’m not sure how much I should reveal, as I suspect this novella will be a very different read for anyone who hasn’t read the novels. Though short, the novella touches, if only briefly, on a little of the issues raised in its protagonist’s lives.

A throng of mavericks wreathed them, abuzz with questions. How can we help? We want a better future for our children—my son is a mage. What can we do? So many questions—and she was sorry to say she didn’t have answers for all of them. Kittie’s head was swimming by the time she and Myrtle reached the outskirts of the crowd, though people shifted to make way for the evening entertainment as a band took the stage.

Most of all, what I really loved was Kittie – and Jack. Kittie is a free mage and a Pyromancer, a fire mage, and her personality matches the fire she plays with, though some of her confidence hides her own fears and darkness in her past. But she really believes what she says, and she is full of the hope and strength to try and make a bid for the freedom denied her fellow mages. Kittie’s spirit and fire is striking: she thinks in terms of ‘the enemy’, and she is absolutely no-nonsense in her perspective. She doesn’t, like others, have any qualms about killing her enemies either, though sometimes reason holds her back. But, at the same time, some of that is fiercely guarded:

“I don’t want to know your name,” Kittie cut in. A name meant he was a person. A name meant it was that much harder to think of him as the enemy. Better to only know him as the theurgist. Better to run from here as soon as she could.

In the meanwhile, Jack is broken – and not. Bound, lacking the freedom to do as he chooses, he still thinks and wants, and Kittie’s belief reawakens in him a hope almost impossible to endure, as her wildness sings to his own desperate, impossible longing for freedom, and makes him more resistant than ever to bring her freedom – or her life – to an end, in contrast to his acceptance of his miserable fate, one which has become so commonplace as the constraints binding him burrow into his mind day after day, that he barely questions it outside of his instinctive, relentless grasp for what freedom and defiance he can manage.

“I asked if you believed what you said on stage,” Jack clarified.

Oh, that. What a strange thing to ask. “I said it, didn’t I?”

“A lot of people say things they don’t really mean.”

Now that was an interesting way to look at it. But she knew exactly what he meant. Kittie nodded. “With every fiber of my being.” Faedra, watch over me if I just gave myself a death sentence by speaking the truth. But something tugged at Kittie and told her that this question was important. That the answer mattered to Jack on some primal level.

This is a stirring, inspirational story about freedom and love, what it means to seek freedom, and how sometimes your prejudices can keep you from knowing who you’re really talking to, and fear can make you see as the enemy other victims, trapped by it. It’s a story of the power of love, and how the willingness to question oneself, to face one’s fears and be moved by love, can break those bounds, prejudice included. It speaks to the profound place of hope, and having to a reason to fight, in giving us the strength and ability to resist what we’ve believed and everyone has been told is impossible to stand against. Though Up in Flames is a romance, the romantic elements are not explicit, and the message of the power of love and the desire for freedom is applicable and just as compelling if you don’t know anything about romance or aren’t interested in that. This is not the deepest treatment, for its length it has plenty of complexity and depth, and it is one of my favourite novellas.

Sometimes it only needs to make a difference to one.

Review for Book One (Breaker)

Review for Book Two (Effigest)

Review for Book Three (Dreamer)

Amy’s Website

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