Lily Proctor has had enough of the real world. Sure, her hometown of Salem, Massachusetts, might have an interesting history, but she’s tired of her best friend Tristan’s romantic wanderings, her mother’s public outbursts and, most of all, the perpetual fevers and allergic reactions that keep her from having a life. So when an otherworldy voice offers to transport her to a place where she can be powerful and strong, Lily readily agrees.

Soon she finds herself in an alternate Salem, where a ruling coven of witches led by an alternate version of herself is terrorizing an indigenous population, especially those who dare to practice science. In this world Lily’s unexplained fevers are actually a sign of her unparalleled abilities as a Crucible, a witch who can convert raw materials into heat and energy. With the help of an alternate version of Tristan and his two companions, Lily needs to learn to wield her abilities quickly—before warring factions destroy both this world and her own.

Teens who love magic-fueled romances set against a backdrop of courtly politics, with hints of historical fiction and scientific ethics, will finish Trial by Fire eagerly awaiting the remaining books in the Worldwalker trilogy. But slow pacing, poor world-building and heavy borrowing from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials books (in the form of daemon-like “willstones”) interfere with the full potential of the intriguing premise. Still, readers looking for an escape from their own real world will find it in this genre-blending YA tale.


Jill Ratzan reviews for School Library Journal and works as a school librarian at a small independent school in New Jersey. She learned most of what she knows about YA literature from her terrific graduate students.

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