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From Unseen Fire

(Aven Cycle #1)

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  452 ratings  ·  126 reviews
The Dictator is dead; long live the Republic.

But whose Republic will it be? Senators, generals, and elemental mages vie for the power to shape the future of the city of Aven. Latona of the Vitelliae, a mage of Spirit and Fire, has suppressed her phenomenal talents for fear they would draw unwanted attention from unscrupulous men. Now that the Dictator who threatened her fa
Hardcover, 390 pages
Published April 17th 2018 by Daw Books
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Cass Feminism is, to me, more about women having agency than it is about anything else -- being able to make their own choices, own their own lives, seek o…moreFeminism is, to me, more about women having agency than it is about anything else -- being able to make their own choices, own their own lives, seek out and take opportunities. In FROM UNSEEN FIRE, there are a lot of constraints on that. Women in ancient Rome had it better than women in a lot of other times and places, but it was still very far from ideal. What freedoms they had were a matter of social tolerance and convention, not enshrined right; legally and financially, they were still almost always at the mercy of their male family members. Latona, the heroine of FROM UNSEEN FIRE, finds herself butting up against those restrictions. She knows that her magical powers are a way for her to do good things for the city she loves, but in order to do so, she'll have to find a way to assert herself and take up space in the public sphere. She possesses abilities that are natural to her, not just in her magic but also in her mind and her spirit, and she's no longer content to keep them small and quiet as she's been told to.(less)
Cass I guess that depends on how you define "divine". The Iberians, as you see in the book, derive their magic from blood, the stars, and the water, but it…moreI guess that depends on how you define "divine". The Iberians, as you see in the book, derive their magic from blood, the stars, and the water, but it's definitely not disconnected from the deities of those things. The Tennic tribes practice a nature-based magic, not invoking deities directly, but nature is, itself, sort of a divine entity for them. Similarly, the Abydosians' system of magic is deeply tied to the cycle of life-death-rebirth. The gods aren't uninvolved, but they're not the direct bestowers of blessings like the Aventan gods are. There are not, at this time, atheistic schools of magic or anything like that, at least not in any part of the known-to-the-Aventans world. I would say, though, that the direct invocation of deity as part of the magic is stronger in Aventan magic (and its predecessors in Athaeca and Tyre) than in other systems.(less)

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Jul 21, 2020 rated it it was ok
DNF at 50%
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2018, fantasy
With an original IP consisting of nine fully nuanced elements of magic, Cass Morris takes her place among the master worldbuilders.

The genre needs more powerful female leads with more power women writing them.

May this fire continue to burn brightly!
Lara Lillibridge
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Cass Morris is one of my fellow writers on, and I was very excited to read her debut novel. It is outside my normal genre, but I quite enjoyed this epic tale of magic, political intrigue, and romance.

From the start we are thrust into ancient Aven—a city in the midst of political upheaval after the death of the reprobate dictator—a world so real-feeling that I nearly expected to find it in history books as a predecessor to Rome.

The world building is just fantastic, as are t
FROM UNSEEN FIRE is filled with complex imaginings and political magical machinations in a slow building reader's trap.

FROM UNSEEN FIRE is beautifully written and descriptive novel thrusting the reader deep into the Roman error…well a magical Roman error.

You have a woman, Latona, fighting for the best outcome. She is basically doing whatever it takes to keep her family ahead. While, Sempronius Tarren, he wanted the best outcome for his family but also seemed to have a grasp of the land as whole
Crystal King
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely loved this book. As a writer who has a book set in ancient Rome, I know the amount of research that is needed to build a world that is realistic and accessible for modern audiences. Morris has done her homework, setting her world of Aven in an alt-fantasy world that mirrors the wonders of Antica Roma with a magical edge. And she fills it with extraordinary characters, led by a mage of Spirit and Fire, Latona of the Vitelliae. The dynamic between Latona and her sisters made the book fo ...more
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received this book free from Penguin Random House in exchange for this review.

So this was interesting and I want to thank DAW for the opportunity to read this, I received a free copy at ECCC and honestly this wouldn't have been something I normally picked up. because while I like the cover it is more historical then fantasy like.

I was initially skeptical I would care about Latona or Sempronius Tarren. As anyone familiar with my romance reviews can attest, I am STRONGLY anti-cheating. The hint
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As I said about a year ago, this is a novel by a friend (a friend I've known roughly half my life to boot.) So I can't pretend to neutrality. I will say that as much as I've been tearing through books this year, I also have a ton more I have trouble focusing on at all.

From Unseen Fire did a great job at capturing my attention, however. The prologue pulls you in, lets you know the stakes, and then immediately upends things just a few pages later. This is one of those immersive fantasy series whe
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: net-galley, 2018
A subtle reworking of Rome, with a very large cast of characters, an interesting magic system based upon the elements and their relationship to the Roman pantheon, and a whole lot of politics. This book is DENSE. I enjoyed it a lot, but it took a while to get through.

The characters are absolutely the strongest part of the story, with an excellent trio of sisters at the core, along with many other women with strong convictions and men with many motives. It's definitely a good thing that a cast o
Kimmery Martin
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
From Unseen Fire has been described as a mixture of I, Claudius and Game of Thrones. It’s an apt comparison. Morris employs her background as a historian to delve into the fascinating relationships between the different strata of society in a fictional society reminiscent of ancient Rome. The story centers around a large cast of characters vying for control of the city-state Aven after the death of its vicious dictator. It opens with the best prologue I’ve ever read; the dictator Ocella, prior t ...more
Jul 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2020, dnf
i pretty much skimming the last 100-ish pages. interesting premise, but it was so boring. the magic system seemed really cool so i wish there was more of it. the ancient roman setting was cool and i'd be interested in reading another story set in this time and place. i love politics and whatnot in my fantasies but this was so boring. the characters were not very well developed and the writing was very dry - almost like a textbook. unfortunate. ...more
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From Unseen Fire is a beautifully written and nuanced work of historical urban fantasy. The focus here is not on the magic so much as the interpersonal relationships and politics of a pseudo ancient Rome. Accomplishments are through intellectual decisions rather than random actions - a rarity in this age of 'tell and forget to show' fiction. I appreciated that we have a mature set of main characters who are navigating
Rebekkah Brainerd
Apr 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Two words: Masterful and delicious.

This is the kind of book that feeds your soul. This is the kind of book that wraps you up in intelligence, wonder, and charm and leaves you thinking about it for weeks afterwards.

The writing is excellent all on it's own. Then you have the incredibly sophisticated world that is freaking DELIGHTFUL. The societal structure, geography, politics, magic system -- every aspect of this world is weaved with mastery. And did I mention the politics? The politics are pos
Sarah Foil
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
The ancient country of Aven has been the victim of its Dictator for decades. When he dies of a chronic illness, the capitol city and the entire country is thrown into chaos. Those who were exiled under the previous regime flock to the capitol. Politicians scramble to capture power. Enemy countries make plans to attack. The lives of a trio of sisters and their historic family are turned upside down.

I was excited to be sent a copy of From Unseen Fire. I'd seen it marketed on Twitter by the author
Helena of Eretz ✰
Oct 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: greco-roman, adult
This was dry and dull and boring ... which is such a shame because everything about this seemed right up my alley. Instead, the plot was choppy as it jumped from POV to POV, the characters were as dry as paper, and the language didn't fit the time period at times. The magic system did admittedly have potential though.

I felt as much enthusiasm about this as I do when reading one of my uni textbooks. There's writing an alternate history, and then there's emulating a historical textbook. This was
This book is a lesson in tempering expectations. One would think that, being a fan of the video game industry, it's one I've learned backwards and forwards by now, but nope--not when it comes to books, it seems. I came into the story wide-eyed and giddy. Months and months before, I'd feasted my eyes on the gorgeous cover, read the words "alt-history" and "rome" and "magic," and thought "holy hell, this is made for me," then fell headlong into hype town. But alas, reality is a cruel mistress. Bec ...more
Iryna KL
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc
I received a free galley of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you publisher!

4 out of 5 stars

First I would like to take a moment to appreciate the cover by Tran Nguyen who is one of my favorite traditional artists. Thank you Daw Publishing for always putting a lot into your covers - they’re always INCREDIBLE!

From Unseen Fire is an alternative retelling of ancient Roman history with magic. It is a tale of intrigue and love. It is a story of a woman struggling to
Susana Zemlyakova
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arcs
Unseen Fire is a unique take on magic and fantasy within a Roman society. Although not quite a historical fantasy, the author is clearly a big fan of hellenic and roman studies because the first hundred or so pages painstakingly lay out the government, magic system and patrician/plebeian classes. The magic system is tied closely to roman gods but is also very subtle throughout the book.

I found Latona and her sisters very likable but could not connect with any of them outside of perhaps some femi
Barb Lie
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
From Unseen Fire by Cass Morris is the 1st book in her Aven Cycle fantasy series. This is an epic fantasy that takes place in Aven, with an Ancient Rome background, where they worship the Roman Deity. The story is filled with magic, intrigue, history and romance. From Unseen Fire was a very good story, but I did have some mixed feelings, which I will note later in my review.

Latona, our heroine, is the middle sister of the Vitelliae family that is highly respected in Aven. With the Dictator now d
Erin Page
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2018, fantasy
From Unseen Fire is a book to sink into. It starts with a bang (or, a sword-slash, as the case may be) in an intense prologue, and then the reader is eased into meeting the large cast of characters, magical powers, and ancient world setting. The ancient world is very similar to Ancient Rome at the time of Julius Caesar (so much so that the Roman pantheon and some actual Roman locations are exactly the same), so if you're a fan of HBO's Rome and/or a bit of a classics nerd you'll already have som ...more
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing

rating: four and a half stars

firstly, i loved this book. as a classical studies major with an interest in ancient rome, it's everything i look for in a fantasy based off of ancient rome, and it doesn't require an in-depth knowledge of the inner workings of ancient rome to be enjoyed. a lot of roman social culture is explained in the glossary or easily enough within the text itself, so anyone with even a passing interest--or no knowledge at all--should be able to follow the workings with relative
Jacqueline Baxter
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such a cool concept and very well executed. I'm so delighted that I read this book I cannot wait for the next one. ...more
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
I started reading this book because the author was coming to the bookstore for her release party. Right away I found myself enjoying the world Morris had created. Aven is pretty much Ancient Rome with magic, but I loved the change of setting (so many fantasy novels are basically England in the middle ages with magic). Loved the characters- while Latona might be the main character beside her love interest Sempronius, the supporting cast is just as compelling. Loved Latona's sisters and I hope to ...more
Maurynne  Maxwell
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'll read the next. Very credible alternate Rome, patriarchy included--as is the diversity of other ancient cultures. I like the magic systems (see diversity reference). Fast read. ...more
Abigail  F
May 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Are you a fan of ASoIaF, but (for obvious reasons) need to find a series to read between book releases? Or, are you someone who wishes that HBO hadn't canceled Rome after just two seasons? Then OMGOSH HAVE I GOT A BOOK FOR YOU.

This lyrical debut novel is part fantasy, part alt-history. Set in the city of Aven, which closely parallels the social, cultural, political, and geographical facets of ancient Rome, the story follows Latona (the daughter of an ancient patrician family) and her family, Se
nikkia neil
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley, fantasy
Thanks Berkley Publishing Group and netgalley for this ARC.

I can't wait to read the next installment of this series. Cliffhanger does not come close to describing how this one left off but I'm excited to read more. If you love ancient Rome, fantasy, fighting, and good fiction then this one is for you.
Kate (Looking Glass Reads)
May 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
My family is chock full of history buffs. My father’s a history professor, my brother works at a museum, my sister gives talks at conferences about historical monuments, and I was an art history student once upon a time. So my excitement wasn't very surprising when I first heard a book being described as ‘ancient Rome plus magic’. And that was exactly what we received in From Unseen Fire by Cass Morris.

From Unseen Fire is a fantastic fantasy book set in a word reminiscent of Ancient Rome. The bo
This review and others can be found on my blog, Fine Print.

Cass Morris’ debut novel FROM UNSEEN FIRE is an accomplished epic fantasy novel that introduces complex characters, politics, and magic.

The Republic of Aven, an alternate ancient Rome, has been smothered under the tyrannical rule of the Dictator Ocella. With the Dictator dead, there is a power vacuum in Aven…one that many people are eager to fill, and not all of them with the best intentions. Who will be the next leader of the Republic,
Jun 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was the surprise of the year. Such a powerful debut novel, amazing set of characters and intriguing and original world-building and story.

Jul 21, 2018 marked it as not-for-me
DNFed at 40 pages in plus leafing through the rest, dipping in to read a page here and there. It’s competently written and it’s always nice to see Rome used as inspiration instead of medieval Europe. Plus, nice to see that three sisters with their own strengths are featured.

And yet. The first 40 pages introduced too many characters. It was slippery trying to keep track of them all. And I found no one caught my attention enough for me to want to follow them through the story.

Also, women’s roles
Alyssa Palombo
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This novel was a highly anticipated read for me, and it did NOT disappoint. I absolutely loved this book, and found myself deliberately reading it at a slower pace so that it didn't end, eager as I was to see how the ending unfurled! Good thing for me this is going to be a series!

This novel hit the sweet spot between historical fiction and fantasy. The magic system was well thought out, and Morris's knowledge of Ancient Roman history is clearly very extensive, and she brought that world to vivid
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Cass Morris works as a writer and educator in central Virginia and occasionally moonlights as a bookseller in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She completed her Master of Letters at Mary Baldwin University in 2010, and she earned her undergraduate degree, a BA in English with a minor in history, from the College of William and Mary in 2007. She reads voraciously, wears corsets voluntarily, and w ...more

Other books in the series

Aven Cycle (3 books)
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  • Untitled (Aven Cycle, #3)

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