Reviews of Fire Season by Leyna Krow

Fire Season

A Novel

by Leyna Krow

Fire Season by Leyna Krow X
Fire Season by Leyna Krow
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2022, 336 pages

    Jul 11, 2023, 336 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Jennifer Hon Khalaf
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About this Book

Book Summary

The propulsive story of three scheming opportunists - a banker, a conman, and a woman with an extraordinary gift - whose lives collide in the wake of a devastating fire in the American West.

For the citizens of Spokane Falls, the fire of 1889 that destroyed their frontier boomtown was no disaster; it was an opportunity. Barton Heydale, manager of the only bank in Spokane Falls, is on the verge of ending his short, unpopular life. But when his city goes up in flames, he sees an ember of hope shimmering on the horizon, headed right for him. As citizens flock to the bank to cash out insurance policies and take out loans, he realizes he can command the power he craves—and it's not by following the rules. Here is his reason to live.

When Quake Auchenbaucher, a career con man hired to investigate the cause of the fire, arrives in Spokane Falls, he employs his usual shady tactics. But this time, with Washington Territory vying for statehood, the sudden attention to due process jeopardizes Quake's methods of manipulation.

And then there's Roslyn Beck, whose uncanny ability to see the future has long driven her to drink, and with whom both Barton and Quake have fallen madly and dangerously in love. She is known as a "certain kind of woman," in possession of unique talents and influence, if only she can find the right ways to wield them. As their paths collide, diverge, and collide again, Barton, Quake, and Roslyn come to terms with their own needs for power, greed, and control, leading one to total ruin, one to heartbreak, and one, ultimately, to redemption.

With masterful precision, devious originality, and dark whimsy, Fire Season freshly imagines the greed and misogyny of the American West to tell a rollicking, bewitching story about finding purpose in the face of injustice.


On August 4, 1889, Barton Heydale spent his lunch hour with a prostitute named Roslyn who lived and worked in a two-room apartment in Wolfe's Hotel on Railroad Avenue. The apartment was above a lunchroom, where Barton often stopped for something to eat after his visits with Roslyn. But on this day, he was consumed with the trouble of making a decision, and so he chose to forgo his meal in favor of sitting in Roslyn's tiny kitchen and smoking cigarettes.

The thing he was trying to decide: where, and when, to kill himself.

Barton had not set upon his path to suicide lightly. He'd assembled his justifications, which read as such: he was lonesome; he was generally disliked; and he was ugly. None of these conditions, he felt, had any hope of improving. They would only worsen as the months and years passed.

Barton was twenty-nine years old and the manager of the only bank in Spokane Falls. This position should have garnered him respect and power. It instead earned him nothing but ire from ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. Would you consider Fire Season a Western? How does the novel fit into the genre, and how do you think it challenges it?
  2. What was your experience reading the Interludes and illusory Events? What do you think these magical stories add to the novel? Did they change the way you understood Barton, Quake, and Roslyn?
  3. In the prologue, set fourteen years before the fire that destroys Spokane Falls, a "naturalist, inventor, and statesman" named Chase gives a lecture about criminality. What did you make of Chase and the three archetypal criminals he lays out? What relation do you think these types have to the main characters in the novel?
  4. The novel is set in 1889, but fires and record heat waves are modern realities of climate change. Discuss ...
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BookBrowse Review


Fire Season is a thoroughly enjoyable novel that touches upon multiple genres and themes. It initially presents itself as historical fiction, but then weaves in supernatural elements tied to feminist power. The exciting backdrop of the late 19th century Wild West as the territory of Washington is on the verge of becoming a state establishes the paradoxical foundation of America as a place of opportunity for independence, but with restrictions on that freedom for some. The novel takes the reader into the characters' internal turmoil, exploring themes first from traditional masculine perspectives and then revealing hidden individual and feminist meanings...continued

Full Review Members Only (505 words).

(Reviewed by Jennifer Hon Khalaf).

Media Reviews

Fire Season is uncomfortable and excellent—a story of scams set in the Wild West (Washington not-yet-state in the 1800s). Krow's plot takes off like a spooked horse, running and not stopping, to the delight of the reader...Let this Western take you for a ride.

BookPage (starred review)
A picaresque story of three schemers whose paths cross in 19th-century Spokane just as the Washington Territory is striving for statehood...[A] darkly whimsical reimagining of the American West.

Good Housekeeping, "The 30 Best and Most Anticipated Books of 2022 (So Far)"
This story is darkly funny, deliciously devious and hugely inventive, a magical twist on the allure of the American West and who goes there to seek their fortune.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Krow's evocative debut novel follows three misfits who prosper in the aftermath of a devastating fire in 1889 Spokane Falls, just before Washington gains statehood...The prose is marvelous...Readers will be captivated.

First-time novelist Krow is a keen observer and raconteur of human nature; her characters spring forth fully formed from a few whimsical sentences. The prevailing tone is one of delicious dark humor, along with a touch of the absurd and a dose of spiritualism. The result is a literary conflagration that absorbs down to its cooling embers.

Kirkus Reviews
The prose is incantatory...A novel that makes peace with uncertainty.

Author Blurb Anna North, author of Reese's Book Club Pick and New York Times bestseller Outlawed
In this enthralling debut, Leyna Krow brings us the story of three misfits, united by fire, each living out a dream (or nightmare) of the American West. It's an arresting take on magic, science, disaster, and salvation that's eerily resonant with the fire seasons we find ourselves living through today.

Author Blurb Jess Walter, #1 New York Times bestselling author Beautiful Ruins
Devilishly funny and endlessly inventive, Fire Season is a remarkable debut novel, a wry alternate history of Northwest schemers, dreamers and scorched earth. Leyna Krow is a wildly talented young writer.

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Beyond the Book

The Great Spokane Falls Fire of 1889

Black and white photo of burned buildings and debris after Spokane Falls FireFire Season is set in the late 1880s and features a historical backdrop of immense changes — both metaphorical and literal — in Spokane Falls, Washington. It was a time when Washington was seeking statehood and the legitimacy that came along with this designation, and the Great Spokane Falls Fire could have put the territory's future in jeopardy. This dramatic scenery in which a community seeks both validity and rebirth sets the stage for the novel, as the main characters also undergo searches for a similar sense of security in their identities and become born again in different ways.

Washington had been a territory for 36 years before it became the 42nd state on November 11, 1889. It remained a territory for far longer than ...

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