Review: Flame and Sparrow by S.M. Gaither





On the eve of her twentieth birthday, Karys woke to the sight of a divine creature dying outside her home.

Two weeks later, her sister disappeared, leaving nothing but a trail of blood in her wake.

Convinced the gods were responsible for the disappearance, Karys has spent the past five years plotting her revenge with the help of a cutthroat band of likeminded elven rebels. So when Dravyn—one of her world’s most powerful deities—descends upon her kingdom in search of humans worthy of serving him, Karys knows what she must do. Earning a place at the god’s side will allow her to find out what truly happened to her sister…and then destroy the gods from the inside out for what they did.

Thrown into the dazzling but deadly world of the divine courts, she must navigate complicated politics, strange magic, and dangerous trials to prove herself worthy of standing among the gods.

Among the most dangerous of these trials is Dravyn himself.

Karys knows better than to trust the enigmatic God of Fire. The flames of passion that stir between them are only divine trickery. And yet, the more she learns about him, the hotter the forbidden sparks burn. The more she begins to question all she thought she knew about the world of gods and mortals and everything in-between.

And the more she risks betraying her own secrets, which may be the most dangerous thing of all.


Reviewed by Nethra Deckland

Basically the concept of Flame and Sparrow is this. Once there were elves with magical powers and ordinary humans with no magic. Then the Old Gods decided to rip all the magic from the elves and created a bunch of Middle Gods (Marr) with elemental magical powers that could ascend to godhood even from being a mere human. Also, just to stir things up, they decided to sprinkle some magic in humans, too. So the story begins with a bunch of salty, royal, trust fund elf babies whining about their ripped away privilege, how unfair the tables had turned and deciding to bomb a few temples humans erected for these Middle Gods with seemingly no clear long term plan of how to regain their magic or status or end the reign of Middle Gods.

The beginning of Flame and Sparrow was chaotic and confusing as it could be. Over five hundred pages felt daunting, and to be honest, the first hundred were rough. Although there were a lot of info dumps still there were a lot of holes in the story and a lot of “wait, what?” moments when it came to the backstory. The characters seemed immature and shallow.

I am so glad I didn’t dnf the book based on these pages because thankfully, the second half of Flame and Sparrow redeemed the initial chaos. While the first hundred pages felt like an avalanche of unexplained lore and immature characters, the story took a sharp turn for the better once Karys entered the Marr realm. The world building, initially a confusing jumble, became clearer with each chapter. New characters, far more interesting than the initial cast, were introduced, and the Marr court politics added a layer of intrigue I craved. It felt like the story finally clicked – the info dumps became breadcrumbs leading to a much larger plot, and the unanswered questions from the beginning transformed into mysteries that propelled me forward.

Karys in Flame and Sparrow was a bit of a mixed bag for me. In the first half, especially, she came across as incredibly impulsive and immature. Her actions felt reckless and frankly, a little annoying considering the supposed gravity of her mission. There were glimpses of a strong character underneath, but they were overshadowed by her rash decisions. Fortunately, the story did Karys some justice in the second half. Maybe it was the influence of the Marr court, or maybe she just grew up a bit, but she showed a willingness to learn and adapt. She started questioning her initial assumptions and even tried to understand the “other side” of the story. It wasn’t a complete personality overhaul, but that growth made her a lot more relatable and easier to root for.

Dravyn, on the other hand, was a breath of fresh air. He actually acted like the god he was and I loved how calm and collected he was when Karys was acting like an unreasonable and destructive hurricane. Also, I loved how he managed to knock some sense into her through conversations. Although he showcased some of that overprotective alpha male behavior that’s expected in romance fantasy, I don’t think it was so overbearing that I felt like I was suffocating alongside Karys.

But what truly stole the show for me was the romance. Yes, Karys had her moments of frustration, but Dravyn? He was the ultimate patient partner. He gave her the space she needed to grow on her own, while still knowing exactly when to push and pull to help her reach her full potential. Their interactions were beautifully written, filled with a simmering tension that blossomed into a truly captivating relationship. And let’s not forget S. M. Gaither’s talent for sizzling love scenes – Flame and Sparrow definitely delivered on that front too!

While some side characters like Valas and Mairu didn’t necessarily propel the main plot forward, their constant bickering and banter provided a welcome dose of comic relief. They were a delightful addition to the story, rounding out the cast and making the Marr court feel even more alive.

All in all, Flame and Sparrow wasn’t a perfectly polished romantasy. The pacing was uneven, and the world building could be overwhelming at times. But the second half of the book had me hooked with its intrigue, suspense, betrayals, heartbreaks, and exciting action scenes. Here’s hoping the second book in this duology builds on this momentum and delivers an even stronger story.

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