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Book Review: Circle of Fire by Riva Shaw

Updated on October 7, 2015

A heart-warming story of adventure, heroism and chivalry!

See below for an interview with Riva Shaw!


Set in the medieval Kingdom of Subia, Circle of Fire is the first part of the Circle of Fire trilogy by Riva Shaw. We meet our hero, Nick Trayer, on the day that he is finally due to marry Catherine; his childhood sweetheart and love of his life. Just before the big event the King’s men arrive with news of the imminent death of the current King, following a hunting accident, and make a request of Nick that will see him taken away from his wedding, and worse, away from Catherine. As the youngest ever warrior of the Circle of Fire, Nick knows his duty to the King takes precedent over everything else, but following his duty means he must confront the tragedies of his childhood and follow a path that he had tried hard to turn away from.

Nick must escort the new fourteen year old King, Rowan, to safety, as his life is in danger from those who see an opportunity to take the crown. When the mercenaries fail to find Rowan in Nick’s little town of Claveham they take Catherine instead. Torn between love and duty, Nick must find a way to get the King to safety and rescue Catherine whilst protecting himself from dangers he’s not even aware of. Naturally, neither task turns out to be as easy as it seems, and as his duty pulls him in one direction he must travel further and further away from Catherine and further towards the destiny that was imagined for him when he fought to wear the mark of the Circle of Fire.

Cover design by me
Cover design by me


I’ve read this book several times now and each time I find myself up at 2am, unable to put it down, compelled to read on even when I know how it ends. This, I believe, is the mark of an excellent book. Others, who have read Circle of Fire, have made similar comments, complaining that they were up reading till the early hours, one even saying that the only thing they didn’t like about it was that it had to end! What I like most about the book, and I think, what makes it so engrossing, is that there is always something going on. I get exasperated with novels where there are pages and pages of description that seem to have no purpose other than to make the book longer. But Circle of Fire doesn’t have that problem and the way the story keeps moving, forcing you to read on until the early hours reflects how Nick must feel, having to overcome one obstacle after another unable to stop until he has the chance to go after Catherine. Circle of Fire doesn’t easily fit into any genre; it is historical fiction, fantasy in fact, as it is set in a fictional world. But it’s also a romance, adventure and it has elements of a mystery with many twists and turns to keep you guessing. This guarantees that there is something for everyone, or at least for most women, to be honest I can’t see it being the sort of novel that many men would enjoy.

Circle of Fire by Riva Shaw

One of my favourite things about the book is that the characters really come to life. They are exceptionally well written, and they’re not just in the present; they all have a history, a life that you can feel going on independently of the story ... if that makes sense. I like that Nick embodies everything you want from a traditional hero. Before he is sent off on his quest, we learn how much he is loved by the people of Claveham. Even though he is essentially their superior, he never treats them as such, instead acting like one of them and sharing everything with them even though his status does not dictate that he must. We know that he is a warrior of the Circle of Fire but when we learn what this entails, we respect and admire him all the more. It goes without saying that he is brave and courageous, he doesn’t run from his duty when every bone in his body tells him to protect Catherine and when he has to fight to defend himself and protect the soon-to-be King he recalls the words of his father: ‘do not take a life needlessly but if you must, do it quickly and efficiently.” But above all, what I like most is that he is not perfect. We see him make mistakes, rebel, and generally we just see that he is vulnerable. This makes him easier to relate to and to empathise with, and I think we like him more for it.

Interview with Riva Shaw

Do you read a lot of historical fiction? Is that where your inspiration comes from?

I do read a lot of historical fiction but the inspiration for this book came from a house we stayed in on holiday. It was in a beautiful medieval village in the Alsace in France. Our room was on the top floor and we could see across the rooftops of the houses to the distant hills just as Nick does in chapter one. The rest of the story grew from that.


What else do you like to read?

Historical fiction is my favourite, especially medieval history but I also like good crime and mystery novels, other contemporary fiction and of course fantasy. My favourite writers are Elizabeth Chadwick, Conn Iggulden, Joanne Harris, Robert Goddard, Kathy Reichs and David Gemmell.


What do you find the hardest thing about writing a book?

Most of the time, if I have worked out the story in my mind, I can't wait to get it all down on paper, but sometimes I come to a particular chapter or scene which isn't quite clear and it's like pushing my way through a barrier. I think that's the hardest part. I have to force myself to stay focused and not get distracted.


Were the characters created purely from your imagination or were any of them based on people in your life?

They were from my imagination but having said that, it's inevitable that character traits and mannerisms from real people will find their way in. It's not a conscious thing and no one character is based on any one real person.


When can we expect the second part of the trilogy?

I'm going as fast as I can but I think I would have to say it will be ready this time next year.


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      christinemariezzz 3 years ago


      You've kept my interest all the way through in this review, just as you described the read itself did for you in the evening. I believe it may soon be in my hands for good winter reading. Your efforts are timeworthy.