Popović, Lana. Wicked Like a Wildfire. Katherine Tegen Books, 2017. 405p. ISBN 9780062436832. $17.99 HS OT ****
Iris and Malina are not ordinary twins; they have special powers of sense. Malina speaks and sings in triple layers and Iris can bloom the things she sees into kaleidoscopic fractals of beauty. Their mother had special skill with flavors and baking but always held her powers and the girls’ powers back from the world. These were personal, private things. But when their mother is brutally murdered Malina and Iris know they have to figure out what happened and what it has to do with these special powers. This sets them on a journey of magical inquiry across Montenegro as they first discover and then try to unravel the curse that has plagued them, their mother and generations before them.
This is a family story involving the loyalty among sisters and mothers in spite of difficult relationships. But it is also a romance and a magical fantasy. Lush writing, an unusual setting in Montenegro, and an interesting premise come together to make a lovely, witchy fantasy. The plot breaks in two with the first half taking a more leisurely pace to get going and the second half pulsing with adrenaline. Some readers may find the shift challenging. Also there are some very sensual scenes, alcohol use and violence (blood is liberally sprayed around on some pages) which make this a better fit for high school and older readers. But for more mature teens who like strong female characters and richly detailed descriptions this book hits the mark.
Andrea Mullarkey, Berkeley Public Library