Tuesday 30 January 2018

#CBR10 Book 5: "Heart on Fire" by Amanda Bouchet

Page count: 448 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars

Spoiler warning! This is the third and final book in the trilogy, and will without a doubt contain spoilers for the earlier books in the series. Don't read this review if you want to remain unspoiled and aren't caught up with the previous two books. If you want to start at the beginning, book 1 (by far the best book in the series) is A Promise of Fire.

Cat and her warlord husband Griffin have defeated the rulers of tyrannical Tarva and united two thirds of the ancient realm of Thalyria. Their biggest challenge is still before them, however, with Cat's absolutely ruthless and megalomaniac mother ruling the third realm of Fisa with an iron fist. She's the only thing Cat truly fears and she's not about to let her long estranged daughter and the mortal Cat's chosen to share her life with topple her from her throne and remove her from power.

Before they can get far enough to mount an offencive against Fisa, it turns out that Cat and Griffin have challenges closer to home. Griffin's brother is none too happy about how his family's life has changed since Cat came into their lives and takes drastic steps to try to have her neutralised. It really doesn't go as he expects, but Griffin is left badly shaken by his betrayal (not to mention the revelation of some of the very, well divine, protectors Cat has had watching over her throughout her life).

Defeating the Queen of Fisa will take everything Cat and Griffin has, and it seems impossible that they are going to manage without losses along the way. It's quite clear that Cat has gifts from the gods much more powerful and unpredictable than she had been made aware of, but even they won't be much help if she doesn't learn to control them properly and get over her childhood terrors and survivor's guilt once and for all.

While I really enjoyed A Promise of Fire despite the rather problematic premise of Griffin kidnapping Cat and keeping her as his prisoner for much of the book, and Breath of Fire ended up being entertaining, again despite some problematic elements, and a rather unsatisfying beginning, sadly, I think this, the final book in the trilogy, is the weakest book in the series. The structure of the book is disjointed and after a lot of conflict of various kinds throughout the narrative, the final show-down ends up feeling rather anti-climactic and a bit too easy.

I've seen at least one other reviewer being annoyed at Cat and everyone around her refer to Cat's unborn (and yet creepily sentient) child as "Little Bean", which seems strange in a fantasy society with strong elements of Greek mythology. Pretty sure they had no idea what unborn children look like in the early stages of pregnancy. It felt very anachronistic.

I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting from the conclusion of this trilogy, but it seems to me that both Cat and Griffin should maybe have spent less time being conflicted about their relationship at this stage and there's a few decisions they make that border on TSTL, where they are lucky to get out alive, and their various supporters should have kicked their asses for going off into dangerous situations on their own. There's an extended section where Cat is separated from everyone else she cares about for overreaching her new god-given powers which, while interesting, I felt went on for too long.

I also wish we'd gotten a little bit more resolution on the lives on some of the supporting cast, as I'm pretty sure (based on the preview of at the end of the book of what appears to be a new science fiction series) that this is Bouchet's last entry into this world. I'd have liked to have some hint as to what was in store for Griffin's various brothers and sisters, who have been important supporting characters throughout the series, but alas, that was not to be.

Judging a book by its cover: While it's nice to see a muscular and powerful looking woman with a sword on a cover for a fantasy romance, I'm not sure what's up with the flaming sword (with pregnancy brain, I'm pretty forgetful, but I'm 98% sure Cat doesn't have a flaming sword at any point in the book) or all the pastel coloured...smoke? The pink and turquoise doesn't really fit in with the warm red and orange tones of the rest of the cover.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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