When a serial arsonist known as The Fire Dancer strikes in the wilds of Arizona, Tess finds herself fighting more than wildfires.
Tess Masterson's parents died in a terrible barn fire. The tragedy drover her to become one of the best smoke jumpers in the business. Though she makes a living jumping out of planes into roaring wildfires, she's never found the courage to face the wounds of her past--or to deal with the anger that flares whenever she encounters Chase Huston.
When a serial arsonist known as The Fire Dancer strikes near her old homeplace in Arizona, Tess must examine her past. Can she confront her own demons and put a stop to the terror that has the area in flames?
oble's first novel in the Smoke Jumpers series features the excitement of fire fighting in the Arizona wilderness, with heroine Tess Masterson jumping from airplanes to put out the wildfires that a local arsonist keeps setting. Soon, however, she begins to suspect that there's a connection between these fires and the one that resulted in a family tragedy when she was a teenager. Coble attempts to balance several complex plot threads, mostly successfully, though readers may find themselves exhausted by the many catastrophes that befall Tess and those she loves. The final third of the novel is filled with surprising plot twists as well as some starry-eyed romance. But to get there, readers will have to overlook abrupt scene shifts and hackneyed lines like "She'd been a burr under his saddle from the day he first clapped eyes on her." (Oct. 10)
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October 08, 2006
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Excerpt from Fire Dancer by Colleen Coble
Chapter 1 My heart dances with the leaping flames of the campfire. Mom never cared much for poetry, said she had no use for it in what she faced every day, but the cadence of words speaks to me. Kind of stupid when you consider who I am and what I do. There is more to a soul than what others see. The flames mesmerize me. I hold my hands over the flickering light and take a deep breath I close my eyes. We used to roast hot dogs over a fire in our backyard, just me and Mom, in fall when the stars were clear and close and the air was a blade in my throat. The Navajo witch settles beside me. I'm not afraid, even though my breath sounds in my ears. Shrouded by wolf skins, he seems to grow bigger. People have told me there's no such thing as a skinwalker. They are wrong. The hair on the back of my neck rises, almost as if it's saluting the magic of the imposing figure. The heat he radiates is as bewitching as the flames. The witch begins to chant and drops something into the fire. It flares into the black Arizona sky. Color rises deep in the smoke, and I peer closer, longing to grasp the power that thrums around me like an unseen drum. The Navajo witch focuses his dark eyes on me, and I straighten. I am worthy. Suffering produces character, and my suffering is exquisite, like the hottest flame. "You are not ready," the witch says. "I see no pain in your face." His low, guttural voice vibrates with power, a power I will have, no matter what it takes. Can he not see the suffering that screams inside me? Curling my hands into fists, I force my anger back to its cave and peer into the man's unblinking stare. "I'm ready," I say in a steady voice. He shakes his head. "Not yet. Becoming a skinwalker takes much discipline. Many years. It is not a weapon you can grasp in your hand like a bow or a gun." "I know." Power fills me, a sense of destiny no one can steal from me. "I will do whatever it takes." He finally nods. "I will set you a series of tasks to do, but it will take time. One day, your soul will change at your calling." "Tell me what to do." My voice is hoarse as I lean forward. Instead of answering, the witch bends and picks up a firebrand. The red-hot end is in his hand, but he doesn't seem to feel the heat. My respect rises like the smoke ascending above our heads. Someday I will own his power. He holds out the brand. "If you take it, you'll know what to do." He who hesitates is lost, and I'm about to be found. I grasp the flame in my hand. A cry rises in my chest as the pain sears my hand, and I know I am right. Fire is my calling. "You're not pigged in." Tess Masterson raised her voice above the roar of the DC-3's engines. Cooper Johnston, known as Coop to the rest of the smokejumpers, looked back at her and nodded. He attached the pigtail of his restraining line to the clip, then took a firm grip on the cargo-door handles. As the team's spotter, he took responsibility for making sure they hit the target. "Guard your reserves," Coop said as he opened the door. The jumpers all put a protective hand on their spare chute. The sudden influx of air had been known to inflate a reserve parachute and sweep the hapless jumper out of the plane and to his death when the lines tangled. The rush of mountain air blew through the plane filled with smokejumpers and their gear. Tess peered past Coop. Below her was the jump target, a heavy pine forest atop Horse Mountain on the northern cusp of Hellsgate Wilderness. A wisp of smoke wafted up through the pine treetops. The trees parted around a clearing, and she could see a line of fire crackling toward a cabin. A man on a small tractor was plowing up the meadow in an effort to stop the blaze, an effort that showed he knew something about fighting wildfire. He needed help though, and fast. Tess watched