Flare, the second book in J.M. Hackman’s Firebrand Chronicles, is a fantasy adventure aimed at teens.
Flare takes us deeper inside the Jasper Territory as Brenna James, a wonderfully resilient and sarcastic teen with ADHD, and her friend Tiny travel to Ginselwyn by way of the travel portal. The story picks up after the dust has settled from the battles and prophecies that unfolded in the first book, Spark.
In the beginning, things seem peaceful. But shifting clouds of subterfuge reveal a brewing storm for regaining power. By the end of this fantasy adventure road trip, Brenna and her beloved Linneah are not the same and readers are left with a sense of the war to come.
Flare is a refreshing blend of flavors fans of Spark will enjoy. I eagerly await the next book in the series to see how Brenna’s story continues (and Baldwin’s, but that’s all I can say).
*While a complimentary copy of Flare was provided, I also bought my own in paperback. Because I love this series.
Brenna travels to Linneah via a portal to visit her boyfriend Baldwin, only to find heartbreak. Betrayal. A serious case of never, ever wanting to see him again. Worst summer vacation ever.
So when her best friend Tiny invites her on a road trip to meet Tiny’s fiancé, Brenna jumps at the chance. Even if her mother disapproves. Even if it’s through a dangerous travel portal. Even if Tiny has never met this fiancé handpicked by her dad. Anything’s better than staying in Linneah.
But the trip disintegrates into disaster. The two friends are separated, Brenna is kidnapped, and not only are Brenna’s Firebrand skills tested to the limit, she must participate in the dangerous event, Starfall . . . or go home. Broke. Alone. With a shattered heart. So not fun.
And then as if that’s not bad enough? Brenna discovers a plot that could spell disaster for everyone she holds dear. And no one believes her.
Can she prevent a bloody government takeover? And what will become of Brenna’s broken heart?
J. M. Hackman loves thunderstorms, bookstores, and happy endings. She’s never met a reading nook she didn’t like and prefers soul talk to small talk. When she’s not writing, she spends time with her two munchkins and her handsome husband who supports her in this crazy profession. Her days are filled with writing stories, consuming massive quantities of dark chocolate, and looking for portals to other worlds. You can find her at www.jmhackman.com.
K.A.: J.M., thanks for coming on the blog. Having enjoyed Spark, the first book in The Firebrand Chronicles, I’m looking forward to learning more about the world of Linneah. First, for those who aren’t familiar with the story, tell us a bit about it.
J.M.: Spark and Flare, books one and two in The Firebrand Chronicles, are YA fantasy. I’m super excited for Flare which releases February 26! The first two books (I’m planning for three total) are appropriate for readers who enjoy contemporary fantasy (ages 10-adult)
J.M.: In Spark, Brenna James wants three things for her sixteenth birthday: to find her history notes before the test, to have her mother return from her business trip, and to stop creating fire with her bare hands.
Yeah, that’s so not happening. Unfortunately.
When Brenna learns her mother is missing in an alternate reality called Linneah, she travels through a portal to find her. But Brenna’s arrival in Linneah begins the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy, including a royal murder and the theft of Linneah’s most powerful relic: the Sacred Veil.
Unwilling yet left with no other choice, Brenna and her new friend Baldwin pursue the thief into the dangerous woods of Silvastamen and beyond. Exactly what Brenna wanted to do for her sixteenth birthday. Exactly. When they spy an army marching toward Linneah, Brenna is horrified.
Can she find the veil, save her mother, and warn Linneah in time?
J.M.: And more importantly, why on earth doesn’t this alternity have Belgian waffles?
K.A.: No Belgian waffles! Brenna should take some with her. The Linneans are missing out. ;-)
K.A.: If we could go to Linneah, the world in your series, how would we get there?
J.M.: Because The Firebrand Chronicles is a portal fantasy (think Chronicles of Narnia or even Harry Potter), the story starts in Pennsylvania but quickly continues in the alternity of the Jasper Territory. The alternity can be reached by several portals, all of which are situated near water. (The portal to the town of Linneah is on a water reservoir’s spillway in Pennsylvania—this is drawn from my memories of our old reservoir’s spillway in my hometown.) To get to Linneah, stand on the portal, wait, and try not to pass out because it can be a deadly experience. (For some. I’m sure you’ll be fine. Probably.)
K.A.: That’s comforting. Lol!
K.A.: How is Linneah different from our world?
J.M.: We don’t have centaurs, satyrs, or griffins in our world, unfortunately, but the Jasper Territory does. Griffins, especially, have a special bond with Linneans that’s explored in Spark.
J.M.: Linneah looks a lot like Pennsylvania, but with an ocean nearby. Other places in the Jasper Territory have a different landscape and climate, much like North America. There are a few familiar plants and animals, but there are also Blood Spinners, Blade Pines, as well as the adorable, yet parasitic, Bragnaborns. And don’t go for a hike in Silvastamen (aka the Dark Wood). Most who explore there go crazy and are never seen again.
K.A.: Wow. Your map is great, lots of details. And the inspiration for the coastline is beautiful. So, what’s special about Linneah and the Jasper Territory?
J.M.: Aside from the portals? Absolutely nothing.
J.M.: Just kidding!
The Jasper Territory isn’t inhabited by elves, dwarves, or fairies. Instead, there are unique races (Linneans with their hairstreak, the bald, broad-shouldered Camlos, Weldens who have an aura instead of legs, and the shapeshifting Merripens). But all have a special ability, the reason they were born and put on this planet. Sometime during the teen years, the gift begins to show itself. The inhabitants of Linneah live in massive treehouses instead of regular houses where they can enjoy the evening view of the Petrus Rings that circle the planet, much like Saturn’s rings.
K.A.: Every world starts with an idea. What idea inspired Linneah?
J.M.: I believe each person is on this earth for a reason. But what if your ability, your talent was powerful, visible, and you had to figure out how to use it? That idea spawned The Firebrand Chronicles.
K.A.: As a reader, I’m quite curious about how you came up with the name Linneah and if it means anything.
J.M.: Linneah is a combination of my two daughter’s names. When I realized this town would need a name, I began writing out combinations. Linneah was my favorite.
K.A.: Oh, I love that the name of your world has such a special connection. What other connections or influences went into building Linneah?
J.M.: This series is the first series where I’d done any serious world building. It was so much fun, but oh-so-mentally exhausting! I wanted to get the world completely set up before I began, but eventually, I dove in and started writing. As much as I enjoyed the creating, at some point, you just have to stop!
I used Pinterest for visual ideas and relied on two main world building references: Storyworld First by Jill Williamson and The Writer’s Digest Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card.
K.A.: Storyworld First is new to me. I’ll have to check it out.
Lastly, is there anything you didn’t already mention that would be of interest to readers?
J.M.: Because Linneah and the Jasper Territory haven’t experienced an industrial revolution, I enjoyed creating organisms (helli lights and the glowfish) that would give the citizens light and heat.
I also found creating a map was invaluable and kept me from getting too turned around. My first one was sketched on lined notebook paper, the second one was hand-drawn and then scanned into paint.net (which turned out to be a very bad idea), and the third try was hand-drawn and ended up inside the book.
K.A.: Thanks, J.M., for giving us a peek into the origin of Linneah, the world featured in The Firebrand Chronicles series. This was fun. I’m looking forward to reading Flare.
About J.M. Hackman
J. M. Hackman loves thunderstorms, bookstores, and happy endings. She’s never met a reading nook she didn’t like and prefers soul talk to small talk. When she’s not writing, reading, or crafting, she spends quality time with her greatest fans—her family.
Her stories have been published in the anthologies Realmscapes, Mythical Doorways, and Tales of Ever After. Her award-winning YA fantasy Spark (The Firebrand Chronicles) was released in 2017 from L2L2 Publishing. The sequel, Flare, is scheduled to release February 26, 2019. She spends her days writing stories, consuming massive quantities of dark chocolate, and looking for portals to other worlds.