- Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini
The severe allergies that have kept Lily Proctor from a normal teenage experience lead to her having a seizure at an end-of-the-school-year senior party. Utterly mortified, Lily wishes for a different existence, and that’s just what she gets: she wakes up to find herself in a completely different version of her town of Salem, one where witches not only exist but rule the world with an iron fist. In this version, Lillian, Lily’s alternate, is the most powerful witch, and she ruthlessly uses her powers to strike down those who oppose her. Lily finds herself drawn to Rowan, Lillian’s former lover and now nemesis, as he organizes the effort to end Lillian’s reign, but as Lily learns more about her own powers and Lillian’s history, she begins to wonder if Lillian isn’t after all protecting the world and the people she loves from a power even greater and more dangerous than magic—science. Angelini draws absorbing characters, from the physically frail but doggedly determined Lily, to the grief-stricken but compassionate Rowan, to the incredibly complex, perhaps-not-so-evil villain, Lillian. The environmental message initially seems a bit heavy handed (Lillian’s world is unpolluted and pure due to use of magic as energy), but that element is given depth by Lily’s ethical dilemmas as she navigates the power structures in this new Salem and learns the temptations and the limits of her own abilities. A compelling, intricate world, a swoony romance, and a memorable cast make this one a blazing success.