A guest review by Jenre
Carlin Rhodes is a firefighter, first and foremost. He loves his work, he’s good at the job, and he’s reliable to a fault. Some might say he’s too focused. A night out on the town with a good friend is exactly the thing he needs to loosen up. Even if that good friend abandons him at the doors to the Baseline and leaves him to find his own fun.
Zaid, a fire-called Djinn, dances at the Baseline, a nightly routine that bares it all for his customers and keeps him entertained while he avoids his destiny as a leader of his kind. When Carlin watches, though, it’s more than having fun. Zaid is intrigued and curious, drawn to the somber, focused man.
And like a moth to a flame, the firefighter is drawn to the fire-called djinn—and into a fight to save his city from the flame, when Zaid’s destiny comes calling.
This novella by new-to-me author Sienna Black started with a great deal of promise but was ultimately let down by being too crammed with plot and world building for such a short medium.
The story begins with a great deal of verve and energy as firefighter Carlin is celebrating five years on the job by gaining access to an exclusive club known for its fetish scene. Once inside Carlin is mesmerised by beautiful and lithe dancer Zaid who invites Carlin back to his dressing room. Before anything too naughty can happen the club catches fire. It turns out that Zaid is a fire Djinn, who can conjure up and control fire. Another fire djinn wants Zaid to abandon his interactions with human beings and take his position of leader of the elements and the fire is his way of gaining Zaid’s attention. Zaid is torn between his new relationship with Carlin and his calling as a leader.
Putting Out Fires is told from the alternating points of view of Carlin and Zaid. When we first meet Carlin we are given a few pieces of information about him: that he is gay, but not openly so; that he is shy; that he has dedicated his life to his job as a firefighter and his personal life has been lacking as a result. Actually this is all we are told about Carlin and even by the end of the book I didn’t really feel I knew him any better than that. We are also introduced to the character of Toby at the beginning who is a friend of Carlin. Toby has managed to get both he and Carlin into the exclusive club and there is some hints that Toby has tried (and failed) to get into Carlin’s pants in the past. Once inside Toby drifts off to dance with another guy and we never see or hear from him again. I thought it rather strange that a situation is set up between Carlin and Toby and then forgotten about. Even when the club is burned to the ground Carlin never once worries about whether Toby made it out of the building safely, even though they are supposed to be good friends. This is just one example where the characterisation is under-developed in the story which meant that I was lacking any empathy for any of the characters in the story or their situation. Zaid is also another character where we are only fed bits of pieces of information about him. He is a fire djinn but it is never quite explained what this entails and why he was raised to be a leader or why he chooses to remain with humans rather than with the elements. Perhaps I was just being a bit dense, but I was left by the end with far too many questions about Zaid for his character to have been at all satisfying.
The reason why the characterisation is lacking is mostly due to the length of the story and the amount of plot which is stuffed into it. It is hardly surprising that there isn’t room for the characters to develop when the rest of the book contains world building about the djinns; the meeting of Zaid and Carlin; some establishing of a friendship between Zaid and Dash, who is a sort of friend/go-between; sex scenes; and a complex plot based around Zaid taking his rightful place as leader of the elements and battling with another djinn. It was all just too much to put into a short medium of a novella and I felt that the story would have been far better had it been lengthened to novel length and some scenes added to enhance the characterisation and perhaps explain a little more about who the elements are and how Zaid is their leader.
Having said that, the book isn’t badly written. It zipped along at a quick pace and had some really good paranormal ideas in it. The opening section was particularly done well with lots of lovely sexual tension as the men meet and then the tense action sequence as the two men try to escape from the burning building. I liked the initial introduction of Carlin and was sorry that he didn’t get to develop beyond that as he could have been a very sympathetic character. Actually, far and away the most interesting character was Dash and I found myself wanting to know a lot more about him, and what seemed to be his sad little life, than I did about Zaid
Overall, I would say that this is a book with a lot of missed potential. It wasn’t bad, but it could have been so much better. The story ends quite abruptly and I did wonder whether it is to have a sequel. If it does, I hope it features Dash. I would recommend this book to fans of the author and those who are looking for a quick read with little depth.