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Friday, October 6, 2017

Before She Ignites (Book 1 of The Fallen Isles trilogy) by Jodi Meadows, the summary

Main Characters:
Mira Minkoba- main character, labeled as Hopebearer
Aaru- love interest? cellmate
Ilina- Mira's best friend/dragon sanctuary attendant
Hristo- Mira's protector/bodyguard/friend
Gerel- Mira's cellmate/she was a soldier before she was imprisoned
Tirta- cellmate (not in Mira's block)/Mira's friend before she is found to be a member of the Luminary Council
LaLa- Mira's pet dragon
Crystal- Ilina's pet dragon
Altan- Mira's nemesis, he is a prison guard but is an undercover Drakon Warrior
Chenda-  cellmate, known as The Dawn Lady, she is the representative of the Twilight Council, a mirror image to what Mira does as Hopebearer for the Luminary Council

Need to Know:
There are six (seven if you count Damyan and Darina as two) Fallen Isles, each having their own culture and a god/goddess representing that Isle.  The names of the isles and their culture are as follows:
1.  Harta- very good at growing things and tending the land
2.  Bopha- worship shadows cast by light, it is found that Chenda who is a Bophan can even remove her shadow from her body and get it to do her will, unknown if other Bophan's can do this too
3.  Damina (this is actually two Isles, Damyan and Darina, but most people count them as one)- these people worship kindness and love above all else.  This is where Mira is from.
4.  Idris- value silence above all, have their own silent language made of finger tapping, like a personal Morse code
5.  Khulan- value warrior skills and train all children from a young age to become great fighters
6.  Anahera- to be honest, I don't remember much on this Isle being mentioned in the book, if anyone has info on it please let me know in the comments!

     At the beginning of the story we get to know Mira.  She is a teenage girl who is known as the Hopebearer.  The Hopebearer is a mouthpiece for the people of the Isles and their government, the Luminary Council. Her father is a powerful official who works hand in hand with the council and created a treaty called the Mira treaty which helped to unite all the Fallen Isles (named so because they worship 7 gods who fell to the Isles so the story goes) in trade and development, along with blending of the peoples.  Before this treaty, most Hartans, Bophans, etc would only stay on their one Isle and socialize with their own culture.
     Now, what you need to know about Mira:  her mother is very hard on her, telling her she's never good enough, her sister Zara ignores her because she's jealous of Mira, and Mira has crippling anxiety and some OCD (she uses counting as a means of calming herself although she tries to keep it secret).  She really loves dragons, and her two best friends are her bodyguard Hristo and also Ilina, who is the daughter of the keepers of the dragon sanctuary on their Isle.
     Mira, Ilina, and Hristo explore the dragon sanctuary anytime they have free time, and Mira has a small dragon who is her pet named LaLa, while Ilina's pet dragon is named Crystal.  One day while exploring they find that some of the dragons are gone from the sanctuary and that there are wheel tracks like they had been taken rather than flying away.
     Upon going back to Ilina's parents, her parents tell them to ignore it and let it be but they can't, and they later find shipping manifests in the paperwork at the sanctuary showing that the dragons are being shipped across the sea to their enemies on the mainland, the Algotti Empire.
     Mira goes to the Luminary Council to let them know what's going on and that they have an enemy somewhere in their midst doing this, but the Council promptly throws her in prison.  The prison is known as the Pit and it is where the most dangerous criminals are sent never to be seen or heard from again.
     While there, Mira makes friends with her cellmates, especially a boy in the cell next to hers named Aaru, and he begins teaching her the silent code of his people and it's hinted at that Mira begins to fall in love with him.
     There's also Gerel who is in the cell across from her, a former Khulan warrior who was top in her class until she was imprisoned for trying to destroy the Pit after seeing the awful things done there when she and her squad were forced to train in the Heart of the Great Warrior (the area in the building beyond where the Pit is, filled with statues of the fallen gods and great warriors).
     Altan, the prison guard, tells Mira that she can choose to take a job in the prison in order to gain better privileges.  She agrees to go to work as a cleaner for a woman named Sarannai who is over the kitchens.
     Sarannai is an evil woman, the same who Gerel told Mira about that caused one of her fellow warrior trainees to die.  She had given them 14 buckets and told them to clean and that those who didn't do it would be removed from training (a great dishonor to the Khulani who's only sole purpose is to be a warrior).
     There were 15 trainees, so the one left without the bucket was forced to try to steal another trainees bucket in order to do his cleaning.
     It forced the trainees to turn on one another and the other trainees ended up beating the 15th boy so badly since he was hindering them from finishing their cleaning that he later died.  This is why Gerel hates the Pit and Heart of the Great Warrior so much.
     Mira manages to complete her cleaning with the help of Tirta's guidance who is working in the laundry at the same time Mira is trying to clean.  Tirta tells her what needs to be done in order to not invoke Sarannai's wrath, and although Sarannai is never kind to Mira she tolerates her because Mira does a good job on her cleaning.
     One day, Altan tells Mira to come with him and he interrogates her about what she knows about the dragons.  She refuses to tell him anything but realizes at this point that he is a hidden Drakon warrior and that the Drakon warriors are still around.  I guess we should discuss some backstory on the Drakon warriors since I'm sure it's going to come up in later books....
     Drakon warriors are Khulani who rode dragons at one point in time before the Mira treaty came to be (yeah I know, all I can think of is Toothless and Hiccup too).  When the treaty was written it said that all Drakon warriors were to be disbanded and the dragons placed into protective sanctuaries since the dragons were seen as parts of the fallen gods the Isles worshipped and should be cherished and protected, not used in war or to ride.  Okay, back to our regularly scheduled program....
     When Mira refuses to tell Altan anything he takes her back to her cell block but all the other prisoners have been moved.  He leaves her there with a small bag of food and water by herself and then all the noorestones are turned off and she is in complete darkness.  She is left like this for four days and begins to hallucinate and even almost dies of thirst.
     She awakes to Aaru pouring water into her mouth through the hole in the wall between their cells where they usually talk.  Altan comes just as she almost regains consciousness and takes her to the interrogation room where she breaks down and tells him what she knows about the shipping manifests and the dragons being sent overseas so that he will leave her alone and not put her through that torture again.
     The next day, another prisoner shows up and it is Chenda (see Chenda's description in the character summary at top).  She doesn't recognize Mira but Mira recognizes her as do a lot of the other prisoners since Chenda was even more of a public figure than Mira.
     When everyone begins questioning why Chenda is there, she makes a speech, saying that she stood up for what was right and was imprisoned for it.
     She claims that the Bophans want to deport all the Hartans back to their own Isle because all the crops have begun to die and the Bophans think it's the Hartans fault since they are supposed to be the masters of the land but aren't able to stop it.  Some Bophans had even begun BURNING Hartans alive to try to force them to do better at "trying" to fix the crops.
     When she was expected to give a speech written by her government saying the Hartans should be sent back home she instead stood up for the Hartans and was put in prison for it.
     The government's explanation to her people was that she had given secret information about the Bophans to her Hartan lover and that he had burned 14 Bophans in retaliation for the previous killings (it's true she did have a Hartan lover, but he didn't kill anyone).  When this information was released to the public he was beaten to death when he was arrested and she was thrown in the Pit for being an accomplice.
     Not long after this revelation, Mira is sent for by Altan again along with Aaru.  Altan tortures Aaru with noorestones by combining them with an element that causes them to burn a person from the inside out and then placing the bowls of noorestones under his feet.
     Altan thinks Mira has more information about the dragons that she isn't revealing, and it's true that she hasn't told him about the noorestones being sent to the enemies as well, so she starts to reveal that to him too but has a panic attack and tells Altan she can't think while Aaru is being tortured.
     This info about the noorestones is important because Mira, Hristu, and Ilina discovered that the 10 largest noorestones in the Isles are being shipped to the Algotti empire.  Noorestones of that size are enough to power a huge ship, which means that someone is sending both these and the dragons to the Algotti so that they can invade the Isles and have a quick takeover.
    The Algotti empire has slowly been taking over countries on the mainland for years but had always left the Isles alone until now.  Mira and the others figure out that the shipments must mean the Algotti are soon planning to invade and take over the Isles as well, using the dragons as weapons along with their large ships.
      The noorestones under Aaru suddenly explode drenching everything in darkness and killing the other 3 guards in the room besides Altan who it knocks unconscious.
     Mira realizes Aaru is the one who caused the explosion when she sees that the noorestones on the wall are dimming and brightening as his heart beats when she checks his pulse to make sure he's alive.
     After this while Mira is in recovery from the cuts of the shards of the noorestones, members of the Luminary Council show up to get her.  They now want her to do the same thing that Chenda wouldn't do;  say that the Isles cultures should be separated and all sent to their own lands.
    The reasoning about WHY the Councils want everyone separated so badly now isn't evident in this book but I'm sure it will be revealed in the 2nd or 3rd installment.  Maybe to make them all weaker for the Algotti takeover instead of having any combined forces?
     Mira refuses to recite the speech they've written for her and instead gives her own about everyone loving each other and that the different cultures should all work together.  This infuriates the Council and their representative chosen to be Mira's escort (named Elbena) cuts a huge gash into Mira's face as punishment while in a fit of rage.
     This is a huge thing for Mira as part of being the Hopebearer is that she has always been pampered and kept beautiful to look the part of an elegant representative of the people and that has made her very vain about her looks, especially since her mother always instilled in her that she must always be beautiful.
     In the meantime, Hristo and Ilina have been disguised while all this is happening and they come to Mira's room to help her escape after Elbena leaves but she tells them she can't leave, that she has to go back to the Pit to rescue the prisoners there since she is certain that Aaru, Gerel and the others aren't in the Pit because they've actually done anything wrong and she can't just leave them there.
     Elbena and the other guards storm into Mira's room around this time and throw both her and Hristo and Ilina all in the Pit.
     Altan once again comes to interrogate Mira and she knows he's not going to hold anything back now that the Luminary Council won't be coming for her again.
     He releases a young dragon named Kelsine into the cellblock and tells her that the dragon might not be able to get to her friends in their cells but it will make it really hot in there (breathing fire at them) while he's interrogating her so she'd better make it quick.
     He tells her that she lied about the ports the dragons were supposed to be at because he sent his people there and no dragons were found.  She thinks back to when she and Elbena arrived at Bophan when she was supposed to give her speech after the Council came to get her.
     When they first arrived at Bophan port, a large ship exploded and a dragon flew out of it.
     It was Lex, a dragon from the sanctuary that Mira and Ilina always roamed.  When Mira called for Lex, Lex came to her and immediately calmed down even though she'd been frantic moments before.       Mira had only been thinking of trying to save Lex when she called for her and didn't notice the guards bearing down on them.  They recaptured Lex while Mira fought against them and Elbena portrayed it as that Mira was saving the people from the dragon by calming her.
     At that point the people started calling her not only Hopebearer but Dragonhearted because of her unique ability to calm the dragons and Mira couldn't tell them any different for fear of being killed by Elbena and the Council if she tried to tell the truth.
     After everything had calmed, she realized that Lex shouldn't even have been at the port because the ship shown on the manifests as being in Bophan which was headed for the Algotti Empire was supposed to leave days before then.
     Coming back to the present, she says that the shipping schedules must have been switched when the Council discovered she'd found the manifests in order to prevent her from telling anyone the plans (like she had told him).  He believes her and asks what other routes could have been taken.  She is adamant that she doesn't know and doesn't even know why they would do this.
      At this point, Altan tells her that the she shouldn't be surprised by what the Council does because the Mira treaty is a sham and that the treaty sold the islands to the Algotti Empire.  She tries to deny it but he begins a very convincing theory; in the treaty, it states that the Isles will bow to the one true authority, which Mira always assumed meant the fallen gods, but Altan says it's the Algotti Empire.
     He thinks the Council is sending the dragons as payment so that the Algotti don't attack them for now.  The Algotti Army is endless, growing with each country their empress takes over, and he says that the Isles know this and so send gifts of dragons and noorestones to try to appease the Algotti empress and get her to leave them alone for the time being.
      This has upset the gods of their Isles though as the dragons are their "children", hence all the earthquakes and dying lands as of late.  Altan says he wants to get the dragons back so they can fight the Empire and be Drakon warriors again and save their people.  Mira wants the same, but doesn't want to work with Altan to do it since he's been so cruel to her and his ways are so violent so she tells him that she won't be his puppet anymore and he attacks her.
     She manages to fight him off and grabs a noorestone that's being used for light on the wall to use as a weapon.  In her distress and anger, while holding the noorestone her skin begins to radiate fire and the noorestone starts pulsing.
     Altan comes at her to try to kill her and she stabs him with the noorestone and he goes down because now he is burning from inside, the same as Aaru did with the chemical/noorestone combo.        She realizes that she is able to have the same effect on the noorestones as whatever chemical Altan combined with the stones when he was torturing Aaru but she doesn't understand how or why.
     She goes back for her friends in their cells so they can try to escape and encounters Tirta on the way.  Tirta reveals that she is on the Luminary Council and has been keeping an eye on Mira but that she's on Mira's side and wants to help her and that she needs her to come with her.
     Mira doesn't trust her now and runs.  When she gets back to the prison block, she is able to calm Kelsine just as she did with Lex on the docks and begins releasing her friends but Tirta and the Luminary Guards show up along with Altan and his guards.  A huge earthquake also hits at this time causing even more havok.
      Hristo and Gerel begin fighting the guards and Aaru starts releasing all the other prisoners to help them fight.     
     Chenda, once she is released, tells Mira to take the bag of runestones she has and hold them up to cause as much light as she can (Mira had taken all the stones from the armory where she encountered Tirta even though she didn't know if she'd be able to use them as weapons again).  With all the light, Chendra's shadow behind her has turned to blackest black and she wills it to separate from her.  It turns into a silent assassin and begins murdering all the guards.
     It seems the tides have turned with Chenda's shadow helping but Altan throws his baton at Chenda, knocking her out and causing her shadow to return to her.
     By this time, Hristo and Gerel are worn out since they are the only two "real" fighters of the group and Mira can see that she and her friends are about to lose this battle.
     In her distress her power returns once again and she can feel her body heating as she holds the noorestones, but with this many in her hands she can feel how much more powerful she is.  She yells at all of her friends to run and then she channels the noorestones' power and causes a huge fireball that takes out all the rest of the guards.
     She blacks out for a moment but when she wakes up Aaru is there with her.  Around them the whole cellblock is in ruins. When she went supernova or whatever you want to call it he stayed to help her and was able to protect himself from her fire with his own powers.
     They get out of the cellblock and meet up with Hristo and Ilina who tell them that Altan and a couple of his guards got away but they aren't sure where Tirta is.  They also let her know that Gerel has a spot she says is safe that they can go regroup at and they should head there.
     Around this time, LaLa and Crystal also show back up.  No explanation as to how the dragons found them, I guess LaLa may have sensed Mira when she released the noorestone fire?  Who knows, but that is the end of book one and I'm sure all the questions will be answered in the remaining two books.


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