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Set Fire to the Gods #1

Set Fire to the Gods

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Ash is descended from a long line of gladiators, and she knows the brutal nature of war firsthand. But after her mother dies in an arena, she vows to avenge her by overthrowing her fire god, whose temper has stripped her country of its resources.

Madoc grew up fighting on the streets to pay his family's taxes. But he hides a dangerous secret: he doesn't have the earth god’s powers like his opponents. His elemental gift is something else—something that hasn't been seen in centuries.

When an attempted revenge plot goes dangerously wrong, Ash inadvertently throws the fire and earth gods into a conflict that can only be settled by deadly, lavish gladiator games. The fights put Madoc in Ash's path, and she realizes that his powers are the weapon her rebellion needs—but Madoc won’t jeopardize his family, regardless of how intrigued he is by the beautiful warrior.

But when the gods force Madoc’s hand, he and Ash uncover an ancient war that will threaten more than one immortal—it will unravel the world.

432 pages, Hardcover

First published August 4, 2020

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About the author

Sara Raasch

16 books5,753 followers
Sara Raasch has known she was destined for bookish things since the age of five, when her friends had a lemonade stand and she tagged along to sell her hand-drawn picture books too. Not much has changed since then — her friends still cock concerned eyebrows when she attempts to draw things and her enthusiasm for the written word still drives her to extreme measures. Her debut YA fantasy, SNOW LIKE ASHES, the first in a trilogy, came out October 14, 2014 from Balzer + Bray. It does not feature her hand-drawn pictures.

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5 stars
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659 (27%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 483 reviews
Profile Image for Samantha.
417 reviews16.7k followers
September 3, 2020
TW: death of a parent

This had a lot of potential with a gladiator arena backdrop, elemental gods, and elemental magic, but ultimately fell flat for me.

I didn’t feel much connection to any of the characters. Motivations and plot points felt one dimensional and I found myself not caring. I didn’t hate the reading experience, but I will not be continuing with this series.
Profile Image for Shawna Finnigan.
477 reviews318 followers
January 19, 2023

Random fun story about this book: This book happened to be involved in two of my biggest health issues over the past few years. First, my preorder arrived while I was hospitalized in 2020 and my parents brought it to the hospital to cheer me up. And then I freaking got covid while in the middle of reading it in 2023. It’s an unfortunate coincidence… but I’m just going to blame Petros for it. (If you’ve read the book, you’ll know why I hate his guts.)

I’m going to try to be as coherent as possible in this review, but this review probably won’t be as detailed as my other reviews since I’m trying to write it while I’m still battling covid.

I’m a massive Kristen Simmons fan, so it’s no surprise that I enjoyed this book. Set Fire to the Gods is what would happen if Avatar: The Last Airbender met The Hunger Games but some mischevious gods were added to the mix. It worked really well to create an interesting story with fun world building.

Madoc and Ash, the two leads, were both really well written. They had complex personalities and backstories that were super intriguing. While this book has a lot of unique worldbuilding, it’s Madoc and Ash that carried the story and made this book enjoyable.

There were several great side characters as well and I’m guessing that the sequel will work on developing the side characters even more. Rook and Elias in particular were two side characters that really stood out to me. I was rooting for them both from the start and I was crushed whenever things didn’t go their way.

Some of the plot twists were predictable, but there’s one major twist in the story that made me shook to my core. After reading Kristen’s Vale Hall series and seeing how many twists she included, I should’ve expected a big twist in this story but I was caught so off guard and literally gasped because of what happened.

The only issue I had with this book is that there is a ton of information thrown at the readers really quickly in this book and I wish the information would’ve been revealed slower. There’s seven gods, six countries with unique cities, fictional names for the magic system, and a wide cast of characters that are all introduced within the first two chapters. It was really overwhelming and all the information felt really dense, so it slowed the pacing of the story. I eventually got in the swing of it after the first third of the book, but I wish this book had been a little longer so that all the introduction stuff could’ve been done gradually.

Overall I really enjoyed this one. Set Fire to the Gods is a great first book in a duology and I can’t wait to read Rise Up from the Embers to see what happens next. I’m also looking forward to reading more of Sara Raasch’s works in the future. This was the first one of Sara’s books that I’ve ever read and if all of her books are this enjoyable, then I’m sure she’ll become one of my favorite authors.
Profile Image for Breanna.
503 reviews175 followers
July 22, 2020
THIS REVIEW & MORE → Paws and Paperbacks

ARC provided by HarperTeen through a giveaway.

Set Fire to the Gods can easily be described as Spartucus meets Avatar: The Last Airbender, in which gladiators fight to the death using elemental magic to settle skirmishes between the gods. And yes, it’s just as awesome as it sounds.

The worldbuilding is what really drew me into the story. Set Fire to the Gods is set in a Greco-Roman inspired world in which humans are either divine–possessing elemental magic–or undivine. All mortals are descended from the six gods and the type of magic you possess is dependent which god is your ancestor.

The story is told through alternating POVs of the two main character, Ash and Madoc. I found both their characters to be well-developed and I enjoyed reading from both their perspectives. Madoc is undivine and engages in street fights with his brother to help support their family. Ash is a fire dancer and the daughter of one of the best gladiators for the fire god, Ignitus. They each have their own struggles and agendas throughout the book and it was satisfying to watch them grow, both on their own and together.

I really wish there had been more gladiator fighting scenes, because they were excellently written! They were full of heart-pounding action and suspense. The book had a few fight scenes but I would have loved to read more of Ash and Madoc fighting in the arena. As far as the pacing, it started out strong but began to loose a lot of steam as the story went on. It lost the momentum it had built in the beginning.

Set Fire to the Gods satiated my appetite for anything gladiator. I keep hoping and wishing this particular aspect of fiction will make its way into YA books, so I was really happy when this book was announced. Expect action-packed gladiator fights, elemental magic, and excellent worldbuilding in this YA fantasy!
Profile Image for Jenn.
1,729 reviews295 followers
July 18, 2020
This was a solid start to a new series, I thought. I received this arc from Simmons herself at one of her signings and was really excited to dive in. I love stories that surround Gods and Goddesses. And written by two well-known fantasy authors, sign me up!

As with any new fantasy series, the world building takes time. I did feel that the beginning of the story was a little slow and so much information was thrown at us that I didn't really retain all of the details, so that took me out for a bit. But as the story progressed and the characters became more focused, I was able to really settle in and enjoy the story.

This is the story of petty Gods who refuse to fight their own fights and therefore subject their people to war and poverty just to satisfy sibling rivalry. At least that's what it seems on the surface. As the book went on, the story really picked up it's rhythm and I began rooting for Ash and Madoc even though they were on opposite sides. There was deception and betrayal, but also friendship and family and courage. I also liked that what little romance was there did not overshadow the story. Because this is not a story about love in the romantic sense, this is a story about love of your country and people and standing up for what's right. And also maybe a little revenge.

The book opened up so much that has yet to be settled that I'm excited to read the sequel to see where it all goes.
Profile Image for Booktastically Amazing.
470 reviews391 followers
May 25, 2021
[UPDATE: No yeah, it was not good.
I didn't know how petty I was.
am still extremely petty.
It's a full time job.
What am I even saying-]

For full review visit: www.booktasticallymazing.com

It was um...lackluster? Like it was not BAD it just didn't live to up to its expectations. Yep, not saying anything more. Goshdarnit, now I feel bad. [right now, I definitely don't. This took me way too long to read. Reason? It was just... eh]


Well, okay, I’ll admit that this book had higher expectations than most for me. And unfortunately, it did not reach them.

By all accounts I’m not saying that it was bad or that I did not enjoy it, the thing is, it did not make my heart sizzle. It did not make my eyes pop out of their sockets (picture that if you will), it did not make my emotions run wild. But they did go for a bike ride at times.

And also, WHY IN THE WORLD OF ALL THINGS THAT BLEED DID THEY KILL IGNITUS?!? Seriously, he was the flame. He was evil, broken, and I needed more of him. PERIODT. Let me just say, I love gladiators and warriors. Those are two things I strive to find in books and when the opportunity arises to read something about them I absolutely blow my cap off. My mind goes overdrive and my expectations skyrocket. But dang it, I still don’t see the smartness in killing the fire god. HOW COULD YOU? Okay, I need a second. Alright, let's discuss this from the first impression. It was awesome, the first glimpse we get of the gladiators and arena fights left me in a state of shock not unlike when I read the Divergent series, because, who wouldn’t? And when they introduced the Gods it all just made my insides go all “OhMyhfeuhfehfuer” Yep, I literally had a brain pop. It’s a thing, trust me. My dudes, when I met Ignitus I will honestly admit, I started crushing HARD. Like for real, he was just, ugh. He intrigued me and I knew, I KNEW there was something more to his story. With all this said he was a big, idiotic douche at first glance. And second, perhaps even fifth glance. But you could clearly see that there was more to his story, more that was not told. Because guess what ?! He DIED. HE STOPPED BREATHING. Excuse me as I go drown in my tears...
Profile Image for L. | That_Bookdragon.
252 reviews12 followers
August 18, 2020
4/5 ⭐️

Thank you so much to HarperCollins for providing me with a free e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest opinion!

As soon as I read "Gladiator" meets "Avatar: The Last Airbender", I was sold on this story.

I particularly enjoyed the way elemental magic was portrayed and used within the whole book, but also the way the Gods were used within the story. The world-building was in my opinion really well made, although I did thought we were given a tiny bit too many information right from the beginning that could have been spread more evenly throughout the novel itself to make it less dense for the reader.

The basic premise of this story is that gladiators are made to fight each other into deathly battles in order to appease the Gods' skirmishes. Honestly, this was truly a really cool concept which I thoroughly enjoyed. Moreover, I grew really attached to the characters of Ash and Madoc. Both were really well developped and had their own personalities which made them very unique, and their magic was incredible.

If you are looking for an action-packed novel with magic and fantastically written combat scenes, this one might be the one for you!

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Profile Image for cherelle.
183 reviews154 followers
June 13, 2021
disappointing but i was still entertained so hey! | 2.5 stars ✨

I enjoyed this book but there were quite a number of places it was lacking in. The world-building (social disparity, petty politics, powers/magic) was incredible, the fighting scenes in the arena were also really thrilling thanks to the writing...

However, where Set Fire to the Gods fell short for me was the plot. There was a huge info dump in the beginning, random reveals and overall confusing plot for me which definitely hindered my enjoyment of this book! Furthermore, there isn't much character development which is a pity as Ash and Madoc are characters with strong morals and firm backstories...

That being said, I think that Set Fire to the Gods does set up pretty well for the next book in the series so I'm looking forward to it!

blog | instagram | amazon wishlist ��
Profile Image for rachel, x.
1,719 reviews857 followers
September 3, 2022
Trigger warnings for .

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Profile Image for booksneedcaffeinetoo.
339 reviews92 followers
Want to read
November 16, 2020
okay so epic reads said this is basically LEGEND OF KORRA meets GLADIATOR and has there ever been a book more perfect for me!?!?!?!?!?
Profile Image for Aila.
911 reviews32 followers
May 16, 2020
I've only read one of each author's past work, and they were both very mediocre. However, the glorious cover for SET FIRE TO THE GODS and exciting blurb convinced me to pick up their joint creation. What came out from this experience was reading a powerful punch of combined mediocrity. The world-building was weak, the storyline was fine but failed to grip me, and I couldn't care less about the characters. This is odd, because despite everything, the writing was fine. The narrative switches between Madoc and Ash's POV's as they enter a "war" as gladiators and fight against gods. The blurb promises non-stop action and maybe a hint of romance. Something about it, though, failed to differentiate this story from the amalgam of YA fantasies out there, and it just wasn't gripping enough to really make me care. This review is my good-bye for picking up any of these author's next works. 

If you're looking for a fantasy to "wow!" you and keep you up at night, you won't find it with this book. Full review to come on the blog!
Profile Image for Aly.
2,619 reviews
September 4, 2020
When I read that this was a gladiator YA book with god powers, I was sold. What a cool idea, of course I want to read it. And I will say, the gladiator fights are awesome and the different powers people can have are pretty sweet too. The issue I had was that there weren't nearly enough fights and we only scratched the surface of the different abilities that come from being related to the various gods. I know the first book has to set up the world and characters, so hopefully book two will dive into this more, although I fear we may be finished with the gladiator scenes!

I thought Madoc and Ash were great characters and I liked that they had a bit of romance, but it wasn't forefront in the story. It focused more on their families and them developing as people and I loved that. Madoc is a mystery for most of the book, though I did sort of guess what his reveal would be. Ash is a badass and her commitment to avenging her mother and the war was impressive.

The pacing was rough for me. We started out with fights and cool abilities, then went downhill into plotting and scheming. The ending picked up quite a bit, but I was lost in the middle and struggled to understand the smaller points of the plot.

I am looking forward to book two, I hope we'll learn more about the various gods and see more romance between Madoc and Ash.
Profile Image for Opal  (shesreading).
97 reviews54 followers
July 29, 2021
the plot was weird and the charachters were annoying....

i dnf'd it because reading this was painful
Profile Image for Becca Fowell.
118 reviews45 followers
August 13, 2020
This was one of my most anticipated books for 2020 and it did not disappoint, it now holds pride of place in my top 10 books of the year. I've not read anything by Kristen before but I have read Sara's Steam Raider's duology which I absolutely LOVED.

I loved the elemental magic system in this book. We have multiple gods who each have a different type of elemental magic (fire, earth, water, etc.) and they each rule over their own country. Each country have mortal children born with the same powers as the god that ruled them. Wars have very few casualties as the gods choose champions who will then go face to face in the arena against the champion picked by the other country, and whichever champion wins is the winner of the war, however the gods are very petty and will start wars over the tiniest thing - literally like a baby throwing it's toys out of the pram.

I loved the main two characters with all my heart; we have Maddoc who lives in the Earth god's country but is Undivine, his Divine father threw him out when he showed he had no powers and a poor Divine family took him in and his adoptive brother Elias cheat in street fights which helps them get some extra money for the family but also gets them into a spot of bother. I love Maddoc, he's an absolute sweetheart who just wants to protect his family and there are things about him which we learn in this book, some I was shocked at and others not so much. Then we have Ash who is the daughter of the Fire god's champion, Ash accidentally causes a - very petty - war between her god and the Earth god and so Ash and Maddoc meet. There is lots of scheming and plotting and so much action in this book, both from the arena fights and then the outcome of aforementioned scheming and plotting, that I really struggled to put it down. There is also a pretty predictiable romance side plot but it didn't take away from the main plot although I think (and hope) the romance will be a bigger feature in the sequel... which I am so excited for and don't want to wait until next year for.

So if you like books with an elemental magic system, gladiators, politics and schemeing then this is definitely a book for you, I highly recommend it and it's actually already out now so no excrutiating wait for a pre-order.
Profile Image for Roaringwave.
319 reviews60 followers
September 14, 2020
*stunned silence*

Profile Image for Cassie.
178 reviews5 followers
August 24, 2020
Not only is it co-written by one of my favourite authors, but it has elements that I absolutely adore in general. I love elemental powers and I am an ATLA fan through and through (I watched it when I was a kid and continued throughout my entire life!). I also am a huge classics nerd, and while I prefer Ancient Greece, gladiators are such an interesting part of Roman history that I can't not love the premise.

The world-building was chef's kiss and while that caused the beginning of the book to be a tad bit slow, I was totally okay with it! I am such a sucker for learning about new worlds and some of the details just made me so giddy.

Now, our two main characters are just amazing. I love Madoc with all my heart and he deserves a big ole hug. And Ash, I mean I think I might be in love with her? She's such a good character and the arc that she goes through in this first book captivated me.

It sets up such an interesting sequel and I CANNOT WAIT for it to come out next year!!!!!!!!!!!

I have so much more to say, but that will get into spoilers. I don't want to ruin it for anyone. Message me on here or on Insta if you want to squeal about this book!!!!!!!!!!

Profile Image for The Nerd Daily.
720 reviews345 followers
August 4, 2020
Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Marley B

Set Fire to the Gods is an elaborate fantasy novel with an interesting concept, but falls somewhat flat due to the execution. There are some unique ideas explored, but it takes a while for the worldbuilding and plot to get going, although both do pick up in the latter half of the book, and it finishes on a note that will likely leave you wanting the next book.

Read the FULL REVIEW on The Nerd Daily
Profile Image for Tilly.
1,294 reviews149 followers
September 29, 2021
2 Stars

I won't write a long review on this but I sadly really didn't enjoy reading it. The storyline was rather boring, the pacing was not right and I didn't enjoy the writing either. It made for quite a frustrating read and I would have dnfed if it wasn't for buddy reading it. The most unfortunate thing for me was the characters as they were so bland and lacking in personality, I just didn't connect with them or really care about them. It is a shame as there is a decent amof potential with the worldbuilding and the gladiator aspect but even this wasn't used to it's full potential. Unfortunately not for me and I won't be continuing this series.
Profile Image for Kayla Charisse.
325 reviews246 followers
September 6, 2020
Overall, I enjoyed this book but found a few elements lacking depth. I wish the character motivations and relationships were a bit more fleshed out/explored, and the world-building overall could have been more concise. That being said, it was fun and the last half of book was definitely better than the first half, which has me thinking I will read the sequel. The story structure definitely had old-school YA fantasy flair, and it sort of provided a nostalgic touch during the reading experience. Check out House Salt Book Club’s Live Discussion for more thoughts: https://youtu.be/_f1KDx_hQF4
Profile Image for mads.
357 reviews346 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
August 3, 2021
DNF @ 10%

I decided to stop reading this when I realized the only reason I was still trying to finish it was to no longer be reading it. Just not for me.
Profile Image for Taschima.
860 reviews394 followers
September 14, 2020

SO--I really enjoyed the beginning of Set Fire to the Gods. I was into Madoc, in a number of ways, he seemed the right amount of cocky and sweet, with iron fists (figuratively) and a grin to boot. He is undivine--an ordinary among the extraordinary. His brother is an earth bender earth mover thing, and together they scam the SOB "leader" who is trying to take away the money from the poor. Until that same guy comes a knocking and just because he can takes his sister as a servant and tells the boys "come up with x amount of money if you WANT TO BUY HER BACK FROM ME". I mean, the nerve of this guy. So because Madoc is so good at fighting he got approached by a sort of coach who was like "hey you divine and you fight well, come be trained as a gladiator!" Madoc has no choice but to say "fiiiine" so he can get paid.

Why do they need gladiators? Cause the gods are pricks who keep fighting among themselves and gambling away resources, but instead of fighting in full blown wars (and killing a TON of soldiers) they pick their gladiators and basically have them fight each other. It is a whole event thing, people love it (cause, you know, give them bread and circuses to keep them "happy" and contained).

THEN our girl, ASH, gets in all sorts of trouble cause she interrupts another gladiator's fight and that's like a big NO NO--so she is forced to go from being a dancer to being a gladiator (but she was trained by her mom -a gladiator legend- to fight so no biggie, she got this right?) Side note: she hates all the gods and everything they represent. I mean, I can't blame her.

And so ensues gladiator fights, a conspiracy, and a heavy flirtation between our two MCs. My main complaint about Set Fire to the Gods is that the two MCs don't really talk truthfully to each other, thus ensuing a ton of misunderstanding and unnecessary conflict. I just, wish they had more scenes together to build the trust. My other unfortunate dislike concerned the bad guys, their evil monologue, and just how obvious it all was? I think if we would have focused a bit more on the gladiator fights and building an actual relationship between the two MCs in which they could work as a team I would have enjoyed this more. As it is, I really liked the bending of the elements, that was awesome. Unlike in ATLAB the fire benders here actually have to have fire nearby in order to bend it, but they can also "store" it in their heart for later use. I loved Madoc--he was just so genuine. I also liked Ash! She was the only one willing to think outside the box and look at the big picture, trying to by pass her prejudices.

So really at the end this book is for me a 2.5 star, I liked it but it has several issues. I may read the next book, but the bad guys need to seriously get some refinement to their character (stop the evil monologue, let our characters figure stuff out for themselves). There are other things that bothered me but they are a bit too spoilery to talk about here. I did really enjoy reading about Madoc and Ash, so hoping they get a bit more time together to become the team they need to be.

PS; I was provided a review copy in exchange for an honest review. Thanks go to the publisher!
Profile Image for Evelyn.
255 reviews71 followers
October 5, 2020
Buddy read with Riya💞

Before I started this, I saw it being compared to Gladiator and Avatar: The Last Airbender. While I haven't seen Gladiator, I have seen atla and I can now say that it's not very much like it. Sure it has different elements that can be wielded, but that's bout how far the similarities go.

You're fighting, aren't you? For your people. Your family. Where I'm from, we call that brave.

Other than that, it was a pretty solid book. It had good characters and I like where the character development is going.
The first 100 pages was a HUGE info dump so I was kinda confused for a bit... and I still am with the 100+ different names, but oh well I guess.

There was like this whole mystery, but when it was finally revealed, it was sorta underwhelming. As for the magic system, it didn't really go in depth. It had a little bit of history, but I do think it's interesting so I hope we find out more about it in book 2.

I really liked the whole premise, but I think it just missed the mark with how it was executed.
Profile Image for Hasnita Singh.
Author 1 book37 followers
September 30, 2022
Don’t ask me why, but I had insanely high expectations for this one.

And though it was a decent book, it just didn’t live up to it.

The start was really slow but once it kicked in, it was interesting.

Some of the scenes were REALLY well written. The characters were interesting and the petty gods element was interesting. So many interesting elements but it still took me REALLY long to finish it - just a tad boring I think.

It’s not to say that it’s bad or anything. I think a lot of people will even enjoy it. It was just OKAY for me.
Profile Image for Carola.
449 reviews26 followers
August 30, 2020
While I think this book could absolutely work for other readers, it didn't work for me unfortunately.

I liked the world building en the way the story went. I just didn’t like the writing style and I couldn’t feel any affection to the personages through the story. Something that is very important for me. I know this is something from me which is the reason I give this book 3* instead of less.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 483 reviews

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