Island on Fire
by Sophie Schiller
Publication Date: March 15, 2018
Paperback & eBook; 270 Pages
In the lush, tropical world of Martinique where slavery is a distant memory and voodoo holds sway, Emilie Dujon discovers that her fiancé, a rich sugar planter, has been unfaithful. Desperate to leave him, she elicits the aid of a voodoo witch doctor and is lured into a shadowy world of black magic and extortion. When the volcano known as Mount Pelée begins to rumble and spew ash, she joins a scientific committee sent to investigate the crater. During the journey she meets Lt. Denis Rémy, an army officer with a mysterious past. At the summit, the explorers discover that a second crater has formed and the volcano appears to be on the verge of eruption. But when they try to warn the governor, he orders them to bury the evidence for fear of upsetting the upcoming election. As the pressure builds, a deadly mudslide inundates Emilie’s plantation and she disappears. With ash and cinders raining down, chaos ensues. Left with no choice, Lt. Rémy deserts his post and sets off on a desperate quest to rescue Emilie. But with all roads blocked, can they escape the doomed Pompeii of the Caribbean before it’s too late?
I love historical fiction, especially about events that the history books tend to forget about. On Martinique, the citizens lived for hundreds of years swimming in their dormant volcano. Then, projectiles start to fly out of the mouth, ash starts to appear in the air, and explorers are finding black mud and noxious fumes coming out of the mouth of the volcano. The government refuses to admit that the citizens are in any danger and don’t make any moves for evacuation until it is too late, and the citizens are left to fend for themselves.
I feel as if I am noticing a trend of the early 1900s and disasters. It always seems to be that even when people knew something was wrong, they would never decide to be safe “just in case” and would just allow themselves to believe that nothing was actually wrong. First, in 1902, this volcano killed thousands of citizens. Then, only 12 years later, the Titanic sets sail knowing that there are not enough life jackets for all of the people on board. I will keep reading other historical fiction novels, and I wonder what other events played out in this same fashion.
Emilie was my favorite character in this novel, even though she was very foolish. Rather than trying to get out of her marriage in any sort of normal way, she decides to go to a voodoo doctor to ward off her fiancee. Even when things go wrong, she just keeps returning to him. For a girl who knows how to successfully run a plantation and runs around climbing mountains, she seems quite gullible.
It was interesting as the summary describes slavery as being a distant memory, but there is still a large disparity between the owners of the plantations and the natives of the island. The natives are deeply rooted in voodoo/superstition and work the fields of the plantations or work as nurses for the children, while the plantation owners live in big houses and are Christians. There is definitely a huge divide between the former slaves/the descendants of the slaves and the rich or at least semi-rich owners of the plantations.
It was also unique to be taken back to a time where France still owned a lot of countries throughout the world, as Remy was first stationed as a soldier in Africa and then transferred to Martinique. I won’t talk about it too much, but the politics of this world were clearly corrupted, and Remy’s POV allows the readers to see nearly everything.
The setting was beautiful, and it almost felt as if you were on a beautiful island with them as you were reading it. The only thing that felt a little too real at times was the heat, as I was reading this story in the middle of a heat wave.
The character development was there as Emilie realizes how foolish she was, and she does at least attempt to make up for her mistakes. Also, Remy has to shed the shame that he felt after having to leave Africa and focus on the issues of where he is currently.
I would recommend this novel to lovers of historical fiction romance novels.
I received a copy of this book and this is my voluntary review.
Overall Rating: 6 out of 5 stars
About the Author
Sophie Schiller was born in Paterson, NJ and grew up in the West Indies. She loves stories that carry the reader back in time to exotic and far-flung locations. Kirkus Reviews called her “an accomplished thriller and historical adventure writer”. Her latest novel is Island on Fire, a thriller about the worst volcanic disaster of the 20th century. She was educated at American University, Washington, DC and lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, August 6
Review at Pursuing Stacie
Tuesday, August 7
Review at Oh, October
Thursday, August 9
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Friday, August 10
Feature at Books and Wine are Lovely
Saturday, August 11
Interview at Passages to the Past
Monday, August 13
Review at What Cathy Read Next
Tuesday, August 14
Review & Excerpt at Clarissa Reads it All
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