Hi everyone and welcome to my tour stop for It Ends In Fire by Andrew Shvarts hosted through TBR and Beyond Tours. For my stop, I’m sharing a spoiler free review as well as an exclusive Q&A with the author.
You can check out the full schedule for the tour here.
About the BookIt Ends in Fire by Andrew Shvarts
Published by Little Brown/Patterson Pages: 384
ALKA CHELRAZI IS ON A MISSION:1. Infiltrate Blackwater Academy 2. Win the Great Game 3. Burn Wizard society to the ground
As a child, Alka witnessed her parents' brutal murder at the hands of Wizards before she was taken in by an underground rebel group.
Now, Alka is deep undercover at the most prestigious school of magic in the Republic: Blackwater Academy, a place where status is everything, where decadent galas end in blood-splattered duels, where every student has their own agenda. To survive, Alka will have to lie, cheat, kill, and use every trick in her spy's toolkit. And for the first time in her life, the fiercely independent Alka will have to make friends in order to recruit the misfits and the outcasts into her motley rebellion.
But even as she draws closer to victory — to vengeance — she sinks deeper into danger as suspicious professors and murderous rivals seek the traitor in their midst, and dark revelations unravel her resolve. Can Alka destroy the twisted game...without becoming a part of it?
About the Author
Andrew Shvarts is the author of the Royal Bastards trilogy. He has a BA in English Literature and Russian from Vassar College. He works for Pixelberry Studios, making mobile games like High School Story, Choices, and more. Andrew lives in San Jose, California, with his wife, son, and two cats.
This YA magical School novel gave me serious Harry Potter vibes, only much more grittier and full of LGBTQIA+ characters.
At first I was a little taken aback by how similar to Harry Potter the book was. The students are divided into four orders (houses?), wands are used to cast magical spells, and let’s not forget a bit of the chosen one trope.
However, as you will see below, the author talks about the deliberate choices he made to kind of poke fun at magic school novels in general and the tropes they often entail, it really made me view the novel differently and raised the rating I gave it in the end.
One of my biggest reading wheelhouse items is books featuring any kind of competition and so naturally I was drawn to this book. I enjoyed the challenges, which the author wrote with plenty of tension and suspense, I was never sure what exactly was going to happen or if our protagonist would be victorious.
As a protagonist Alka isn’t exactly a likeable protagonist. She is frequently impulsive and selfish and faces consequences as a result Throughout the book we learn more about Alka, her past, and what motivated her through flashback chapters which break up the present day storyline and often relate to whatever Alka is dealing with currently.
Thematically, Shvarts tackles ideas of oppression, class, and racism through the lense of an outsider and a rebel determined to overthrow the system. It’s parallels to the US’s present struggled specifically felt obvious and timely.
While I found a lot of the book predictable there were enough twists and turns and the pacing was super quick, making the novel a fast and enjoyable read.
Overall, I gave this 5? and recommend it to any anyone who loves books about magical schools, competitions, and revenge stories.
1- For those who haven’t read it, what is It Ends In Fire about and what you as the inspiration behind it?
IT ENDS IN FIRE is my anti-magic-school magic-school book, a book about a world where magic schools are institutes of oppression and injustice, where Wizards are a brutal elitist oligarchy. The protagonist, Alka Chelrazi, is a Wizard raised by rebels, and she’s on a mission to infiltrate the school on a stolen identity and destroy it from within.
The inspiration was two different ideas I had bouncing around in my head: one about an outsider who infiltrates a prestigious school and succeeds through cunning and deception, the other a rumination on how most magic schools seem designed to create conflict and chaos. The breakthrough was when I realized… these ideas could be combined to make one book.
2- As a protagonist Alka is strong but flawed. Did you always intend to write the story from her point of view? What was your writing process like?
I always knew it was her story, yeah. Alka is the kind of protagonist I love: driven, flawed, at once resolute and conflicted, someone who surprises herself as much as she surprises the reader.
My writing process tends to be very chaotic and messy, a wild flying draft followed by a long frustrating revision. I’m very much a pantser: I usually have a beginning and an ending, and I wing the rest as I get there… and then by the time I get to the ending, it’s not the ending I want anymore anyway.
3- Which order would you be assigned? What sort of loci would you choose for yourself?
I created the Order of Nethro specifically for myself, so I’d have to be assigned there: the Order for misfits and outsiders, an Order for the Orderless. As for Loci, as much as I want to say I’d have cool bone daggers like Alka, I think realistically I’d have something plain and functional. Redwood wands, maybe.
4- The magic system is based on glyphs. Where did the inspiration for it and it’s rules come from?
The honest answer is that it came to me because it looks really cool. The visual image of people stabbing into the skin of the world with wands and daggers, carving floating flowing glyphs that then give way to magic, with precision and speed the ultimate tests… all of it really came from “what would look and seem really awesome.” I love magic systems where the magic is ancient and unknowable, where it feels like the slightest misstep could put you in terrible danger. The magic system in IT ENDS IN FIRE, with strange shadow beings lurking in the Null, where cutting your Glyph wrong could result in explosive death or worse… it’s very much what I love.
5- What is the writing process like when creating an entirely new world? Where do you start? What is the hardest part?
I usually start with the story I want to tell and the scenes I want to hit, and then tend to build the world afterwards, around those. For me, it’s less about sitting and creating a world for the story to take place in, and more about letting the story write itself, and then crafting the world in revisions that can support it. And the hardest part is just that this virtually always means hitting contradictions, moments where the elements contradict each other, or even straight up plot holes. Fixing those can feel like solving a puzzle where every piece you click into place knocks another one out of alignment.
6- One of the key themes of the book is the detriment of caste societies. Can you speak to the role of literature in exposing the social issues of our own societies and what role It Ends In Fire plays in the ongoing conversation?
IT ENDS IN FIRE is very much a political book, borne of this era, a book about systems of oppression: how they justify and perpetuate themselves, how they present themselves as vital for social order, how challenging them can be so hard without becoming a part of them. One metaphor I really wanted to explore was magic as wealth, a system of power passed down from oligarch to oligarch, used to control and dominate.
7- Lastly, what do you hope readers will take away from your novel?
I hope readers will come away feeling inspired and empowered, willing and ready to fight against injustice no matter how overwhelming it can be. Like Ursula K. Le Guin said, “We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings.”
What About You?
Have you read It Ends In Fire? What did you think of it? Do you have questions for Andrew? Let me know in the comments!