Island on Fire
Publication date: April 10th 2018
Genres: Adult, Historical, Thriller
In the lush, tropical world of Martinique where slavery is a distant memory and voodoo holds sway, Emilie Dujon discovers that her fiancé, a rich sugar planter, has been unfaithful. Desperate to leave him, she elicits the aid of a voodoo witch doctor and is lured into a shadowy world of black magic and extortion. When the volcano known as Mount Pelée begins to rumble and spew ash, she joins a scientific committee sent to investigate the crater. During the journey she meets Lt. Denis Rémy, an army officer with a mysterious past.
At the summit, the explorers discover that a second crater has formed and the volcano appears to be on the verge of eruption. But when they try to warn the governor, he orders them to bury the evidence for fear of upsetting the upcoming election. As the pressure builds, a deadly mudslide inundates Emilie’s plantation and she disappears. With ash and cinders raining down, chaos ensues. Left with no choice, Lt. Rémy deserts his post and sets off on a desperate quest to rescue Emilie. But with all roads blocked, can they escape the doomed city of St. Pierre before it’s too late?
I have to admit that when I began reading this book, I did not think I would enjoy it. I found it a bit slow to start and it was difficult to follow along. I wasn’t sure where the storyline was going, or even what the point of the story was. I am so glad that I pressed on and kept reading. What I found was that I could not stop turning pages.
Island on Fire takes place in Saint-Pierre, Martinique, at the foot of the “extinct” volcanoes, Mount Pelee. Emilie Dujour is the daughter of a plantation owner. I would not go so far as to say she is pampered; however, she has lived a life of privilege.
Emilie is fascinated by the unexplainable activity taking place on Mount Pelee, and spends quite a bit of time observing and journaling what she sees. The governor appoints a scientific committee to journey up to the summit and report back on their findings, and Emilie convinced them to allow her to join them. Here she meets Lieutenant Denis Remy, a soldier attached to the local garrison. What they find at the summit is terrifying; however due to the impending elections, the governor demands that they not create hysteria and assure the locals that the volcano is settling, knowing just the opposite is true.
I found the descriptions of the scenery both captivating and horrifying and the characters very well developed. I found myself imagining that I could smell the acrid smoke and sulfur from the volcano. It was easy to picture the terrifying scenes as they played out, and to imagine the desperation that the locals and the refugees must have felt.
The author clearly has a good grasp on the mystical voodoo practices, and if that is not true, I was convinced anyhow. I imagine that while this is a work of fiction, it was rich with historical accuracy, which was the most fascinating part for me.
This book was truly a gripping story that had me on the edge of my seat, and turning page after page to find out what happened next.
Sophie Schiller was born in Paterson, NJ and grew up in the West Indies. She loves stories that carry the reader back in time to exotic and far-flung locations. Kirkus Reviews called her “an accomplished thriller and historical adventure writer”. Her latest novel is Island on Fire, a thriller about the worst volcanic disaster of the 20th century. She was educated at American University, Washington, DC and lives in Brooklyn, NY