My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'll be honest, I picked this up because I'm a huge Lou Diamond Phillips fan and attended several Zoom activities where he was talking about it. I actually haven't read the fairytale this was based on (I'll have to rectify that).
Truthfully I stumbled over the first couple of chapters which felt a bit rougher than the rest of the book. Once we know Everson's (as it's mostly his story) full history, the storytelling smooths out and comes into its own. The planets Indira and Mano were once a singular planet split in a massive schism and have been at war ever since. We do not see Indira but it fared much better than Mano which is water and resource poor.
We're dropped right into a battle and its aftermath seeing Everson in the terrible position of being left for dead on an enemy planet. There is some oddness here with tech as there was an attempt to marry SF with fantasy. They are capable of interplanetary travel with ship to ground weaponry that's impressive but hand to hand is swords and guns and the Mano soldiers ride a big winged animal called a birdrun. Ah well if I can have light sabers and Tauntauns in Star Wars, I can handle it here.
Everson finds himself stranded on a hostile planet in a uniform that guarantee he'll be attacked on sight with no way home. On the other side of the story is Allegra, daughter of King Xander who believes entirely that when a certain stellar event happens, his rule will end because his daughter will fall in love with a soldier and it will be the end of him. To that end, Xander has gone a little obsessive about this prophecy to the point, Allegra has never in her life been outside the castle and has been allowed almost no friends (making her highly naive) and he's sent all the soldiers to other areas of the planet, leaving the capitol undefended but this way Allegra can't fall for and marry and soldier.
So there is going to be an obvious ending to this but that's where the titular Tinderbox comes in. Getting it could be fatal (especially since Everson has no idea what the Tinderbox is). Also mixed into this is some racial and social commentary. Everson is an endearing character and I did like him very much. There's a bit less of Allegra and she was a little less well developed (mainly because of the confines of her upbringing).
Overall after a bit of a rough beginning, it was a very satisfying SF retelling of a fairy tale and I'm happy to have it on my shelves.
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