Historical Fiction Book Review: Where the Fire Falls

Publisher's Description

"Stunning Yosemite National Park sets the stage for this late 1920s historical romance with mystery, adventure, heart, and a sense of the place John Muir described as "pervaded with divine light."

Watercolorist Olivia Rutherford has shed her humble beginnings to fashion her image as an avant-garde artist to appeal to the region's wealthy art-collectors. When she lands a lucrative contract painting illustrations of Yosemite National Park for a travel magazine, including its nightly one-of-a-kind Firefall event, she hopes the money will lift Olivia and her sisters out of poverty.

After false accusations cost him everything, former minister Clark Johnson has found purpose as a backcountry guide in this natural cathedral of granite and trees. Now he's faced with the opportunity to become a National Parks Ranger, but is it his true calling?

As Clark opens Olivia's eyes to the wonders of Yosemite, she discovers the people are as vital to the park's story as its vistas--a revelation that may bring her charade to an end."

My Review

Where the Fire Falls is the second, stand-alone novel in the Vintage National Parks series by Karen Barnett. From start to finish, it is an historical fiction novel that is incredibly engaging and inspiring. Like a cool breeze blowing through new, spring leaves, the plot of this novel is refreshingly unique as it whispers with mystery, adventure, danger, faith, and romance. Reading this book is as thrilling as venturing on an excursion into a beautifully wild paradise, but without having to leave the comfort of a cozy chair. Through written words alone, I could practically smell the fresh scents of nature and hear the sounds of rustling leaves as I read. The pages of this novel carried me away on a scenic, outdoor journey, and I found delight in the trails and paths that unfolded before me with each carefully chosen phrase and artfully crafted paragraph.
Stimulating all five of the senses, the phenomenal natural setting of Yosemite National Park is integral to this story. This wilderness setting gracefully develops in detail and description essentially becoming an integral character in the novel itself. Page after page, I grew fond of the granite cliffs, the thundering waterfalls, the cool streams, and the towering trees, and much like the characters in this novel, I nurtured a desire to remain within nature’s wild embrace. The rustic setting of this novel thoroughly enveloped me and made me want to linger there long after I finished reading the final pages. 

As the characters interact with and respond to the natural beauty around them, their story unfurls with surprises and unforgettable moments. Not only did I come to care deeply for the characters and find interest in their fears, their struggles, and their triumphs, but I found them to be genuinely sympathetic in their frailties and failures. The characters are deeply compelling as they struggle to overcome their insecurities, face their fears, and pursue their dreams. They are truly inspiring as they wrestle with their doubts and develop their faith.

Where the Fire Falls is well-researched, skillfully written, thoughtful, original, and thoroughly entertaining. I highly recommend it to all readers who enjoy historical fiction that is clean, compelling, uplifting, and truly memorable.

My Reflection

I have always found nature and the outdoors to be a place where God seems just a little closer. From the smallest insect to the tallest tree, the imaginative hand of God is displayed throughout his creation. Within this novel, the glory of God’s creation is held in reverence. While surrounded by towering cliffs and trees and waterfalls, the characters cannot help but be reminded of God’s power and sovereignty. Within the beauty of nature the characters find the opportunity for renewal and refreshment. They are humbled by the majesty of the land that God has crafted. Through the nature that is around them, the whispers of God’s goodness and faithfulness can be heard. Their hope is restored, and their faith is nurtured.  As described in this novel, the beauty that abounds in Yosemite National Park is revelatory. It speaks of the wonder, the joy, and the love that God longs to share with all of his creation. All books have a setting, but not all books have a setting that so dramatically declares the majesty of God. As it highlights the splendor of God’s creation, Where the Fire Falls shares the good news of God’s salvation in a way that is utterly unique, wholly accessible, and truly inspiring.

About the Author

"Karen Barnett is the award-winning author of The Golden Gate Chronicles (Out of the Ruins, Beyond the Ashes, and Through the Shadows) and Mistaken. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, two kids, and three mischievous dachshunds. When she's not writing, Karen enjoys photography, hiking, public speaking, decorating crazy birthday cakes, and dragging her family through dusty history museums. Oregon Christian Writers (OCW) honored her with the Writer of Promise Award in 2013 and a Cascade Award for her debut novel, Mistaken, in 2014. In 2016, she was named Writer of the Year by the prestigious Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. Karen is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Oregon Christian Writers (OCW) and has been published in Guideposts and other national magazines." -Biography from Karen Barnett's author page on Amazon.com.

Click here to purchase a copy of this novel for yourself. 

*I was given a copy of this book by the publisher. A review was not required. The review I have written contains opinions that are entirely my own.


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