Each year, the prosperous island nation of Adar offers one of its women to the Fire God as a bride in order to appease him and keep from being buried under lava and ashes. The newest offering is Camea. Although most other women would be trembling in fear, Camea is secretly elated. She figures that it's one of the witches who kills the women, and not the Fire God himself. If she can overpower the witch, she can escape Adar on one of the trading ships and see the world she's always dreamed about.
It isn't a witch that kills the bride...but it also isn't the Fire God. Matai is a prince of Adar who, many generations ago, was punished by the Fire God. He was turned into a being of fire and, each year since then, has been forced to live with a bride for a year and then kill her in order to save Adar. Even as Matai tries to keep as much distance from Camea as the Fire God will allow, he finds himself intrigued by her fearlessness.
This story was okay, although too short to be more than that. It reminded me of the “Beauty and the Beast” story, with maybe a hint of the Persephone myth. Matai was the prince who was transformed for being a jerk to a witch. Camea's frustration with being locked up inside the volcano reminded me of Persephone's desire to see the world above. A lot of what kept me reading was a desire to find out what Camea and Matai's happy ending would look like, and how they would manage to achieve it.
The “Camea and Matai getting to know each other” stuff was much less interesting than I'd hoped, in large part because Matai was pretty boring. I liked Camea's determination. If she had to be Matai's prisoner, then she'd at least convince him to let her out enough so that she could see the sky. If he refused to talk to her, she'd make it so that he couldn't ignore her. Matai, on the other hand, hadn't even thought of testing his own abilities until Camea started asking him questions.
I should mention that Camea was raped by the farmer's son she would have had to marry if she hadn't been chosen to be the Fire God's newest bride. It happened before the story began and was referred to in such a low-key way that I kept forgetting about it. I was a little bugged by how it was handled. At most, it made Camea nervous about having sex with Matai.
- Radiance (e-book) by Grace Draven - This is fantasy romance in which the hero and heroine marry each other for political reasons. They find each other physically repulsive but enjoy each others' personalities. This recommendation is probably stretching things a bit, but I thought it might appeal to those who'd like another fantasy romance in which the hero and heroine are forced to be together and end up getting to know each other and falling in love. I've written about this book.
- The Hob's Bargain (book) by Patricia Briggs - I haven't read this. Reviews indicate that it's fantasy with "Beauty and the Beast" aspects. The widowed heroine asks the hob to protect her people from raiders and other dangers and is willing to sacrifice herself if need be.
- Bride of the Water God (manhwa) by Mi-Kyung Yun - A small village suffering from a devastating drought decides to try appeasing the Water God by offering him the most beautiful girl from the village. Instead of being killed by the Water God, Soah is unexpectedly rescued by him. I haven't read this yet, although I own several volumes of it.