I am the Salamander is a book about a teenager recovering from cancer who finds himself with a set of salamander-based superpowers, the blogger determined to reveal the Salamander’s secret identity, and the villains determined to kidnap him to conduct experiments on how he got his powers.
Despite being a book about superpowers, the situations and the way it unfolds seems remarkably realistic. The main character, Tim Cruz, is returning to school for the first time after an extended illness from which he had not been expected to recover. After months in the hospital, and the pity and other reactions he has experienced, he has become very isolated and would prefer to stay that way. He is trying to get back into the swing of life and complete the semester so that he can stay on time for graduation. He gets gradual flashes of his new superpowers before they are ever put to the test, and at first thinks that they are signs of his cancer returning. His first act of heroism gains the attention of a local blogger, and soon the Salamander and the mysterious blogger are local celebrities when attention is just the thing Tim is trying to avoid.
The book is well-written blending of fiction and realism. One thing I liked about it was the way the writer describes things. As a writer myself, I can appreciate the desire to show readers every detail so that they can picture the places and people just as well as the author can. This is balanced out by my love of old radio shows where so many of the details were left to the listener’s imagination, as well as my hatred of actually reading huge chunks of description. This is often a problem in fantasy novels where the writer is trying to create new worlds, but if I get long paragraphs of description with no action in them, I tend to skim ahead to where the action starts again. I am the Salamander had the perfect blend of just enough detail and imagery without getting bogged down in them.
Aside from one rather convenient power that real salamanders probably don’t have, the set of superpowers and flaws was an interesting and the reader joins the hero on his journey of discovering them. Although it won’t join my list of all-time favorites, it was an enjoyable read. The hero seems very realistic, the tension increases at a good pace, and it is a very engaging read. The one thing is that I wanted more of a resolution at the end. It gives enough clues for the audience to make some predictions about how everything will resolve, but leaves the ending feeling abrupt.