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Promise of the Flame
Book Two of the Hidden Flame duology

Their starship was low on life support when they went into stasis—so it’s still low when they wake. They must land fast, or they’ll run out of air. Captain Jesse Sanders is their only pilot. How can he choose a site for the colony with no chance to explore their raw new world? How can he shuttle them all to the surface within a few short hours? And when the site proves less than adequate, how can he live with the knowledge that his own astrogation error was what got them into such a fix?

Three hundred people, isolated forever in the hope of fulfilling a dream, the dream that their psi powers will become the foundation of a culture that can someday shape the future of humankind. If they don’t starve first. If they don’t lose heart in the face of hardships beyond any they imagined. And if their kids can be reared to believe in the dream and advance both their technology and their psi powers from one generation to the next.

Jesse Sanders hasn’t expected to be responsible for the settlement. Peter is the leader, the visionary on whose inspiration they all depend. But Peter has his hands full, not only with maintaining morale but with grueling ordeals of his own. So the job of ensuring the colony’s survival falls on Jesse. And in the end, he must stake his life in a desperate attempt to prevent the loss of all they have gained.
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Although Promise of the Flame is the second book of the Hidden Flame duology and is followed by the Rising Flame duology, it is complete in itself and can be read alone. However, reading it before Stewards of the Flame will spoil some of the suspense of the earlier book, so they should be read in order if you are planning to read both. Unlike some of Sylvia Engdahl’s previous novels, it is not a Young Adult novel and is not appropriate for middle-school readers. (If you are wondering why, please read Why My Flame Novels Aren't Suitable for Kids).

“I started reading Promise of the Flame as soon as it arrived and I was hooked from the first page. I picked the book up every chance I got and finally the second day finished it by staying up late. Sylvia Engdahl knows how to pace a novel and get her message across while telling an engaging and suspenseful story.” —J. C. Jones, Mixed Book Bag, October 10, 2009.

“I think I actually like Promise of the Flame even more than Stewards of the Flame. In the first book, the idealist philosophy was created in opposition to the bounds of their society. However, in the sequel, the characters have to balance survival (short and long term) with these ideals. Definitely not an easy task.” —Tami Brady, TCM Reviews, October 30, 2009.

“The FLAME novels’ premise is incredibly timely.... Both books introduce new readers who wouldn’t ever want to read science fiction to a way of thinking about the world that challenges the issues that are so big we can’t see them.... Ought to be required reading in university philosophy courses.” —Jacqueline Lichtenberg, The Book Connection (comment), October 19, 2009.

“Outsoars its predecessor. . . . This is a book written by somebody at once holding firm convictions as to the potential human life can have but with enough political intelligence to note that even a society far improved over its predecessor will have its own problems, will be only a half-utopia. But even a half-utopia equipped with freedom and the possibility for optimal human interconnection is better than a society that disciplines and denies these. . . . As with all of Engdahl's work, science-fiction fans will recognize the tropes she uses, but it is not just ‘for’ them, no more than the work of a great artist who happens to work in, say, ceramics is just for adepts of that medium. Engdahl has produced high-quality work over a forty-year period, but this is one of her finest achievements.” —Nicholas Birns, Amazon.com, May 30, 2010.

“Right now all I can feel right now is ‘wow!’ What a great story with thought-provoking themes and heroic characters. The suspense is so much fun, I couldn't put the book down through the last couple of hundred pages.” —Robert Haven, Amazon.com, March 9, 2010.

“It is not necessary to read the first [book] in order to be enthralled by the second. . . . Engdahl’s gift is to make her characters seem comfortable and familiar to the reader, even though their circumstances are not. Although clearly a work of science fiction, the ideas and futuristic possibilities are disturbingly real and will remain with the reader long after they’ve finished the book.” —Peggy LaVake, IndieReader Staff Review, July 2010.

Here's a short excerpt:

You had to trust your own unconscious mind, Jesse thought. You had to believe in its power to function in ways past your understanding. Like Luke Skywalker, you had to trust the Force. . . .

He was drifting, spinning, into a dream, but he knew where the ground was, partly because Peter knew, but also because he sensed it, sensed even the location of the landing pad, and he was aware, with some astonishment, that this was how the remote viewers had seen the planet from far above. He had not been trained in remote viewing, but Peter was showing him now what in a less urgent situation might have taken him weeks of practice to grasp. It was instantaneous because psi functioning of this sort occurs outside time. It demanded altered consciousness; he could not have absorbed it if he’d been fully awake. As it was, the skill in flying spacecraft gained through long experience combined with a new and more awesome skill. His hands knew what to do with the controls as Peter’s did not, and he knew, too, the contours of the land below them; but only through Peter was he in touch with the reality of the ship’s position in time and space. Alone, neither of them could bring it down. Together. . . .

But it was too dangerous! Drawn by the settlement’s electronic beacon, the ship had reached low altitude. In sudden panic Jesse jolted back to awareness, struggling unsuccessfully to rise out of sleep. He must take control. . . .

No, Jess, no! Don’t fight it! You can’t wake now, you’ll break the contact. Trust it! Trust your inner mind; it’s our only chance.

Peter—we’ll be too close to the shelters! I have to control—if I miss the landing pad I’ll crash into them!

That’s not going to happen.

How can you be sure it won’t?

Because I won’t let it.

You can’t— Jesse stopped in mid-thought. Peter could. He knew without any exchange of words that Peter was prepared for that possibility. They might die if they failed, but they wouldn’t kill the people on the ground. Committing himself fully, he sank once more into the dream state, and the ring of boundary lights, magnified as seen through Peter’s eyes, merged with the memory of candlelight . . . they blurred into flames, a bright circle of fire. Always fire . . . time after time, the crises of his life had been marked by fire . . . hearthfire, candles, torches . . . the burning safe house he’d entered to save friends . . . the pyre that had been the Lodge . . . and now he was plummeting into the center of a flaming wheel that rushed up to meet him. His hands were on the controls but he wasn’t aware of what they were doing; they acted of their own accord. The ship was on target. Beneath it, the landing lights illumined the pad within the encircling flame; he needed no eyes to know that, for he saw it with the same new inner sense that told him their speed was precisely right.

And then, abruptly, the lights veered to one side, and the ship was coming down too fast. It lurched with a force that threw him hard against his seat harness and the yoke jerked in his hands, so that he no longer had any form of power over it, and the brightness he perceived swung sharply around from right to left. Too fast for even an exchange of thought, Peter had taken over. I’m dreaming, Jesse thought, and I’ll wake soon next to Carla . . . and Carla responded instantly, Jesse! Jesse, I’m with you! With you forever—

The thought cut off, and he did not have time to dream about the crash.

Please note: Promise of the Flame was first issued in September 2009. In April 2015 the original cover, shown below, was replaced with the current one; no changes were made to the book itself. The present ebook cover, also shown below, has different lettering than the paperback edition (shown above) to make it more legible when seen online in a small size.

Main Flame Duology Page
The two Flame duologies, The Hidden Flame and The Rising Flame, are separate stories that can be read independently, although the backstory included in the second one may affect some of the suspense of the first.