What if the tech boom brought more than money and hipsters to San Francisco? What if it brought gang warfare? Those questions form the premise of Shannon Price’s debut novel, A Thousand Fires, a quick-moving thriller set in a slightly dystopian future.
The gangs in A Thousand Fires don’t face off over colors or turf. Instead, their fights are about gentrification and urban development, and their members are as likely to be children of the elite as progeny of the dispossessed.
While Price keeps the gangs’ goals hazy, her heroine Val’s desires are crystal clear. Ever since her little brother was gunned down, Val has been waiting to turn 18 so she can join the Herons with her boyfriend, Matthew, and take vengeance against whoever killed her brother. But no one gets to choose their gang; the gang chooses you.
When Val is recruited by the Stags, the Herons’ rival gang, she’s torn. The Stags promise to help her avenge her brother, but if she joins, Matthew will become her sworn enemy. Risking her life, Val hedges her bets, joining the Stags but staying in surreptitious contact with Matthew. She complicates matters further by falling for Jax, the Stags’ attractive but dangerous leader.
In Val, Price offers an engaging, conflicted protagonist. Though Price’s knack for intrigue and fast-paced plotting will hook readers, it’s her compelling first-person narration and strong characterization that will linger. Price will have readers who prefer their action spiced with a dash of romance and a pinch of speculative fiction eating out of her hand.