Their careful planning has led to Alka killing and replacing a young woman traveling to the most elite Wizard boarding school, Blackwater Academy, where only some will survive and go on to rule the Republic. As a plant, she is sent to sow chaos and destroy as many Wizards as she can. Once on the island, she begins to see the other side of society, how the Wizards life and their infighting, as well as the way they treat the Humbles around them, born into a servitude they will never escape.
At the school, Alka begins to form her own plans for how she will take down the society that oppresses so many and killed her parents. If anyone stands in her way, Alka is prepared to destroy them.
What I loved: The world-building here was really fascinating, and I particularly loved this Wizard school (it rivals the other famous wizard school with the pageantry, designs, and classes). The school has a competition between the Orders or groupings of students that soon takes over the plot, and it is through these dangerous games that we see the cracks in the Wizard society. The politics were interesting within the Republic, as well as in the neighboring kingdom, whose prince is attending the school. Magic is not a born quality, but one that is given by the governments. This privilege and control of power is a central theme in the book.
Other themes around this power, control, and the use of magic were interesting. Magic has many rules here in terms of how it can be crafted and what it can be used for. The user must create a specific rune (and correctly) to use magic, and it is not whimsical. It boils down to training and knowledge that make a great wizard, something which can also be controlled by governments and those with power.
I found the dual timelines to be really intriguing, showing the reader her past and the things that led up to the present. We meet her sister and learn more about the rebellion through these peeks into her history. Alka has been treated as a tool in many ways, and during this time away, she also begins to develop into her own person, making this in some ways, a coming-of-age story.
This ends up being a pretty dark read. Alka has been trained as a soldier in many ways, and her mindset is to allow no lives to stand in the way of her goals. As such, her connections to others are somewhat tenuous, and there are some really difficult scenes. It does also make other characters feel more distant, and we do not get to know them as well as I would like, but this made sense with who Alka was. She is driven by a need for revenge and destruction.
What left me wanting more: A major theme is around Humbles and the way they are treated by the Wizards. Alka is seen as "different" because of her raising and as part of the Humbles rebellion. However, there is only one Humble servant (if you can call them servants) that she bothers to defend or even ask the name of. She is not so different from the others after all. She sees the suffering, but she does not directly connect or try to help (I suppose her mission would ultimately help). As a small point, the romances did not entirely speak to me, perhaps because they did not speak so much to Alka. She is busy hiding herself and unable to fully connect. Once she does connect more, I felt that I needed more on the page of the build-up to fully buy in.
Final verdict: Overall, IT ENDS IN FIRE was an intriguing YA fantasy read that will appeal to wizarding fans. Recommend for fans of CRAVE, BEYOND THE RUBY VEIL, and VAMPIRE ACADEMY.