Wednesday, 14 March 2018

#CBR10 Book 20: "Fire Falling" by Elise Kova

Page count: 380 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars

Spoiler warning! This is book 2 in a series, and as such, the review will contain some spoilers for the plot of book 1. If you want to remain unspoiled, start at the beginning with Air Awakens.

Left no choice after her trial and sentencing, Vhalla Yarl, former librarian apprentice is marching to war for the Solaris empire. She's considered property of the empire and has to use her new and unfamiliar Windwalker powers to help the Emperor and his forces win their conquest of the rebellious north. Two of her new friends from the Tower of Sorcery, her mentor Larel and the cheerful Tower librarian Fritz, have joined the army to help train her and keep her company in the battles to come. Both the younger prince, Baldair, and Crown Prince Aldrik feel responsible for Vhalla, and do their best to help train her, in both magical and mundane fighting, as the army marches towards their destination.

Vhalla is still struggling with nightmares after the attack on the capital, which led to her arrest and keeps seeing her dead friend's face in her dreams. She's unsure exactly what is expected of her in battle, but pretty sure that the majority of senators wouldn't care at all if she's killed, no matter how useful her Windwalker powers might prove to the empire. She's also confused about her developing feelings for the Crown Prince, and his mercurial treatment of her. Sometimes he completely ignores her, while at other times, he appears to return her feelings. Not that it would matter if he did love her, as how could the heir to the empire ever have a future with a lowly commoner, indentured by the Crown?

In many ways, Fire Falling has even more structural problems than Air Awakens. While Vhalla's friendships with Larel and Fritz (I like these characters and both friendships are done really well), as well as non-magical characters Daniel and The Other One? (I'm sorry, I can't remember the names of absolutely everyone, and The Other One was pretty damn non-descript) are developing, and she's being trained in both normal combat and her magical powers, sometimes in a group, other times alone in Aldrik's tent, there's also huge stretches of marching and not much happening. We get hints of another love triangle, because Aldrik has a magically powered lady friend who he's spending a lot of time with, and who's clearly very jealous of Vhalla, but it sort of fizzles out to nothing and again, mostly serves to make me roll my eyes at its being included at all. Then, suddenly, in about the last third of the novel, there's a sudden burst of action and danger, changing the status quo again and leading to a tense finale - before the book literally ends on a cliffhanger.

Impossible as the love affair between a crown prince of the empire and a commoner former library apprentice may be, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that because I've read a whole bunch of books, the end game of the series, no doubt after much of the introduced cast members so far have been killed off so that Vhalla and/or Adrik can be sad and suffer some more, and all sorts of angst and horrible war has taken place, is the two of them ending up together. After a lot of back and forth and "OMG, he could never love me!", they do declare their feelings for one another, and it's all rather sweet for a short while, before everything goes to hell again.

Having now read two books, I'm not entirely sure I can stick with this series. There are too many sections of the books where nothing happens, followed by sections of just a ridiculous amount of action, killing off a supporting character, and then the plot veers off somewhere entirely unexpected for the last third - and what does happen seems to be about the ruthless emperor, the concerned, possibly jealous younger prince, Vhalla and Aldrik's impossible love and one or more really rather forced love triangles. I can already see the outlines of another one all ready for book 3, but I'm not sure I can take the melodrama. I'm going to take a break for now, certainly.

Judging a book by its cover: None of the people on this cover appear to have limbs going the wrong way unless you look at the cover carefully, as was the case with Air Awakens. We still get the same anime style, and in the acknowledgements, the author makes it clear that she absolutely adores the covers. I think the lighting could have been better, and would have liked to see the armour on the characters more clearly. Also, not at all how I picture Aldrik and Vhalla (my mental image is pretty much Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley, as their Star Wars characters.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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