The Incendiaries

R.O. Kwon

fiction contemporary literary
reflective medium-paced

240 pages | first published 2018

Now a National Bestseller

Religion, politics, and love collide in this slim but powerful novel reminiscent of Donna Tartt's The Secret History, with menace and mystery lurking in every corner. --People Magazine

The most buzzed-about debut of the summer, as it should be...unusual and enticing ... The Incendiaries arrives at precisely the right moment. --The Washington Post

Radiant...A dark, absorbing story of how first love can be as intoxicating and dangerous as religious fundamentalism. --New York Times Book Review

A powerful, darkly glittering novel of violence, love, faith, and loss, as a young woman at an elite American university is drawn into a cult's acts of terrorism.

Phoebe Lin and Will Kendall meet in their first month at prestigious Edwards University. Phoebe is a glamorous girl who doesn't tell anyone she blames herself for her mother's recent death. Will is a misfit scholarship boy who transfers to Edwards from Bible college, waiting tables to get by. What he knows for sure is that he loves Phoebe.

Grieving and guilt-ridden, Phoebe is drawn into a secretive cult founded by a charismatic former student with an enigmatic past. When the group commits a violent act in the name of faith, Will finds himself struggling to confront a new version of the fanaticism he's worked so hard to escape. Haunting and intense, The Incendiaries is a fractured love story that explores what can befall those who lose what they love most.

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summary of 1273 ratings (see reviews)

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dark 80%
emotional 51%
tense 44%
mysterious 29%
reflective 29%
challenging 27%
sad 27%
adventurous 4%


fast 50%
medium 29%
slow 20%

Plot- or character-driven?

Character: 69% | A mix: 30%

Strong character development?

Yes: 45% | It's complicated: 27% | No: 27%

Loveable characters?

No: 62% | It's complicated: 28% | Yes: 5% | N/A: 2%

Diverse cast of characters?

Yes: 84% | It's complicated: 9% | N/A: 3% | No: 3%

Flaws of characters a main focus?

Yes: 91% | It's complicated: 2% | N/A: 2% | No: 2%

Average rating