Review: The Kindling by Traci Chee

Kindling by Traci Chee cover shows a battle scene in a field. One warrior stands with their back to the audience, one hand on the pommel of a sword that hangs down their back. Another stands with her back to the audience, her hair fanning out behind her. Others run toward them.

The Kindling
Traci Chee
Published February 27, 2024

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About The Kindling

From bestselling and award-winning author Traci Chee comes a standalone fantasy set against a war-ravaged world where kindling warfare—the use of elite, magic-wielding teenage soldiers—has been outlawed. In this rich and evocative novel, seven kindlings search for purpose and identity as they prepare for one final battle. For fans of the classic films Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven.

Once, the war was fought with kindlings—elite, magic-wielding warriors whose devastating power comes at the cost of their own young lives.

Now, the war is over, and kindlings have been cast adrift—their magic outlawed, their skills outdated, their formidable balar weapons prized only as relics and souvenirs.

Violence still plagues the countryside, and memories haunt those who remain. When a village comes under threat of siege, it offers an opportunity for seven kindlings to fight one last time. But war changed these warriors. And to reclaim who they once were, they will have to battle their pasts, their trauma, and their grim fates to come together again—or none of them will make it out alive.

From bestselling and award-winning author Traci Chee comes a gut-wrenching, introspective fantasy about seven lost soldiers searching for the peace they once fought for and the future in which they’re finally daring to believe.

The Kindling on Goodreads

My Review

I hadn’t read anything by Traci Chee before picking up this book, so I had no idea what to expect. I’ve heard good things about her other books, so she’s been an author I’ve wanted to read for a while.

The very first pages absolutely hooked me. Right away, I knew I was reading about a character who’d survived a war and was traveling, trying to get to a particular, important place. As the setting and history of the world became clear, I couldn’t help needing to know more about these young warriors who’d been forced to use magic in a war they didn’t choose and then cast aside and forgotten after the war ended.

The story follows seven points of view, which is pretty ambitious. That’s a lot of POVs to keep track of as a reader, and I’m sure it was a lot of details and backstories to keep straight as a writer– I’m in awe of Chee’s ability to do that.

You Are in This Book

The book is also written in second person, using “you” pronouns.

Side note: I ended up in a much-too-long debate with my husband about why “you” is considered second-person and “I” is first-person when, from the reader’s perspective, “you” is a closer pronoun than “I” because you, the reader, are reading, whereas, I, the author, wrote the story, which is a step removed from reading it. Des Cartes was name-dropped. It was intense. (Intensely silly.) He’s an engineer. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So, I know I’ve read short stories with “you” pronouns, but I’m pretty sure this is the first novel I’ve ever read that uses them– and definitely the first where each POV is written that way. Ambitious, I’m telling you.

For the most part, I loved that. It made me feel like I was right there in the middle of the book. Like the narrator was talking directly to me, relating what was happening as it went down. I think because the last quarter or so of the book is essentially an extended action sequence, this helped keep that from being exhausting or feeling like it dragged at all.

The only downside, to me, is that I had a really hard time keeping track of some of the characters. I didn’t feel like I got a lot of visual details about any of them, because it’s like, as the reader, you’re looking out through your eyes into the story, if that makes sense.


I love that the author shared this reimagining of The Seven Samurai– and I especially love that she chose to recreate the story without male main characters. It’s so rare to see a cast like this, and I enjoyed that a lot. I think Chee took a lot of risks in the way she chose to tell this story, and for me, they really paid off. I think readers who enjoy fantasy inspired by Japanese history or folklore will enjoy this one.

The Kindling on Bookshop

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Inspired by The Seven Samurai but set in a fantasy world. Characters are Japanese-coded. Most of the characters are female. One is nonbinary. At least one character has PTSD.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used very infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between two girls. References to sex. Two scenes show brief (a few sentences at most) explicit encounters between two girls.

Spiritual Content
References to spiritual practices and rites based on a character’s culture.

Violent Content
The main characters are former soldiers, so there are some references to their pasts as soldiers or soldiers-in-training. The last quarter or so of the book focuses on a battle between two groups of people. Battle details get a little gory at times.

Drug Content
One character is an alcoholic. Other characters drink alcohol to celebrate.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions my own.

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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