Welcome to Book Battles, a feature here at Crazy for YA where I put two books in the battle ring and have them fight it out to see which one is better.
Today's fight is between Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini and Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini.
Starcrossed is a story based on the Greek story of Helen of Troy. Helen is the main character and throughout the novel, she learns about her heritage and how much it is going to mess up her life. As it turns out, beauty is not everything, especially when an entire culture is angry at you for starting a war over your romantic issues.
Trial by Fire follows the story of Lily, the girl who is allergic to everything. One sniff of pollen can send her into a medical meltdown. These problems have always made her weak and unstable, but in a New Salem, she is the most powerful witch in existence. She must quickly figure out who sent her to this strange, and dangerous, Salem and learn to survive in a world of magic.
Both of these books are rooted in fantasy and have some kind of mythology behind them.
Starcrossed- This book is based on the classic Greek story of Helen of Troy. Supposedly, the Trojan War (you know, the one with the fake horse that had all of the people inside) was started with "The Face that Launched a Thousand Ships" also known as Helen of Troy. She was blessed by the gods to be the most beautiful woman in the world. So, of course, some guy really wanted to marry her, and that guy was a jerk named Paris. He really started the war. He got the gods to make Helen fall in love with him even though she was already married to the King of Sparta, Menelaus. Obviously, the King of Sparta wanted his queen back so he decided to start a war with Troy to get her back.
This book incorporated a lot of the legend and came up with a few surprises on its own. We get to see more of the story from Paris's point of view and more was revealed about Helen of Troy's true feelings. I am a sucker for Greek mythology, so I loved every one of the connections.
Trial by Fire- This story is loosely based on the Salem Witch Trial era. The story sets place in Salem, Massachusetts where the infamous trials were held. This was a time of extreme superstition and fear of anything that was not normal. Innocent women, and in some cases even children, were accused of practicing witchcraft and killed. Mostly by hanging, but there are some rumors of burning witches at the stake. They also liked to "test" and see if someone was really a witch. There were many tests, almost all of them resulted in fatal "accidents."
This story takes place in an alternate Salem were magic is not only accepted, but essential to the way of life. Witches rule the world and provide everything for the citizens through their magic. It is also said that burning a witch at the stake will increase her power and make her able to achieve the seemingly impossible, like transporting between worlds. The mythology in this story was more subtle than with Starcrossed and more of the magic was fabricated than based on actual folklore.
Both of these books had one of the most dreaded romance techniques in YA-- love triangles.
Starcrossed- I know that the myth is hinged on the love triangle, but I expected something more subtle, or maybe less annoying. Almost everything that Helen does is based on the love triangle. I could barely go ten pages without her rambling about Paris (which is not his name in the book, but I am not giving away spoilers) or Menelaus (again, not his name in the book). The romance was the highlight of the book, which is in unfortunate but not unexpected. The original myth was all about insta-love and Helen's heart being torn between the royals. But honesty, I expected more from a modern interpretation. I wish more attention was paid to the awesome mythological aspects instead of the cliche romance.
Trial by Fire- The love triangle featured in this book is very subtle, so much that I do not even know if I can call it a proper love triangle. In the beginning, a lot of the focus was on the romance, and the book seemed more like a contemporary than a fantasy. But about a quarter of the way in, the fantasy kicked in big time. The romance was still a prominent theme of the story, but the action, world-building, and character development was just as strong.
There were many times that I caught myself loving the romance and its development. It was definitely slow-burning, a rich relationship that somehow grew through the ash and blossomed into something truly beautiful. (You really know something is good if I use cheesy metaphors to describe it.)
Starcrossed- Unfortunately, the plot and action was not really the main focus of this story, the romance took the spotlight. (On the plus side, the rest of the series had more action.) It was kind of predictable.
Trial by Fire- Lily and her wonderfully adventurous (and dangerous) situations were the main focus of the book. At first, you know next to nothing about the strange new world Lily is dumped into, and with the world-building and mysteries, the plot thickens, so to say. It started as clear water and throughout the novel it turned as thick, black, and ugly (in a good way) as hot tar. Everything becomes complicated and exciting, but I was never confused or left without enough information.
Starcrossed- There are many, many characters in this novel, but I still felt like I knew and understood all of them. The story went beyond the usual myth and dove into who these characters really are behind the thousand-year-old tales. They were modernized pretty well, but still kept their Greek roots.
Helen- She is definitely stronger than I thought she would be. Throughout the nightmares of being the most beautiful woman on earth, she kept her bearings and never really let it go to her head. I can respect that. But, she did not really develop that much over the course of the novel. I wished she would have gained something for her character after everything that happened.
Helen's dad- He was a really static character, but I loved the relationship he had with Helen. They were really close and actually did normal things like talk to each other on a regular basis, which everyone knows almost never happens in YA novels.
Paris (still not going to say his name)- I loved the characterization of Paris. Angelini did a great job of looking past the stereotypical gunk that most people would associate with the person who helped cause the Trojan War. I really got to see the kind of person he was, and I surprisingly did not hate him.
Claire- She was Helen's sassy and generally amazing best friend. Claire keeps Helen down to earth and has many hilarious sarcastic comments to share. Even though she is not based on anything in mythology, Claire was one of my favorite characters.
Trial by Fire- The characters were few in this story, but they were very vivid and bold. The story is told through multiple perspectives, which adds to the voice of every character. The characterization was also subtle. I slowly learned everything I needed to know about the characters without excessive info-dumping.
Lily- She starts out seemingly like a sort-of helpless character who has neither emotional or physical strength. But as she delves into this new world, I was introduced to a new, strong Lily who was capable of things the old Lily never would have even imagined. That said, she still has a emotional turmoil throughout the novel (and from what I predict, it travels into the next book too). She fights for what she believes in a tries her best to be the hero of her own story.
Rowan- He is Mr. Mysterious and my favorite character of the novel. That is all I can say without spoilers. In unrelated news, I have a new book boyfriend...
The villains- With the multiple perspectives, I got to figure out the villains' plans before Lily and I love that ind of dramatic irony. It sets my nerves on edge, but gets me excited. I also loved seeing why the villains are evil (or maybe not so evil?).
This is by far the closest Book Battles that I have had so far, but I will have to go with...
Trial by Fire
In the end, Starcrossed was only a 3.5 star book while Trial by Fire earned a full 5 stars.
Starcrossed's strong mythological roots could not redeem the overuse of romance and the love triangle that rubbed me the wrong way.
Trial by Fire's exquistite world-building, unique magic system, and just the right amount of romance won it the title of Book Battles Champion.
Have you read either of these books? What did you think of them? Which book would you rather read now? Do you agree with my final decision?