The land has awoken, and news of magic’s rebirth has traveled across the sea. Jahan, a daring noble who has been concealing his powers, is finally ready to stop hiding. Now he returns to the imperial capital, where the use of magic carries a death sentence. There, he must face his dark past, learn to embrace his gifts, and prevent an all-out war across the kingdoms.
The Waking Land was reviewed and well received here, with a vivid setting, a spunky and flawed heroine, and beautiful battle scenes. So when The Memory of Fire, the sequel promising the heroine’s dashing and swashbuckling significant other’s POV, of course I signed right on up. It delivered well enough, but it left a lot to be desired.
While Elanna is trying to heal her land and unite the people living within it, Jahan leaves her in order to establish peace with Paladis and receive aid from other forces that would do them harm. But there is no aid to be found, and mishap after mishap befalls him and eventually Elanna. He soon finds himself in a different kind of war, and along with whispers from a demon in his past and learning his family has gone missing, Jahan has to walk carefully in order to keep everyone he loves safe.
The Memory of Fire is such a huge change of pace that whiplash is inevitable. Gone are the lush groves, the trees marching Lord of the Rings style, the stone rings, the humble villages of Caeris and Eren. Instead, the scene changes to Paladis, which offers a different style of book. We have horse drawn carriages, huge palaces, glittering gems, and of course, gutters and alleys. Nothing is what it seems in Paladis, which offers a lot of room and potential for political backstabbing and behind-the-scenes brutality. I know from experience that changing settings on a dime like this is difficult, but Callie Bates manages to do it without changing her style from The Waking Land. Her descriptions are just as stunning and potent. It feels like the reader is walking along with Jahan as he gets into trouble. This remains consistent throughout the entire book, which is also not an easy feat. I take my hat off to Bates in this regard.
In order to discuss the rest of it, I have to discuss it in the first half and the second half. The first half, to be frank, is rough. Jahan is almost impossible to relate to since he whines so much, and how he interacts with other characters is bizarre. The only relationships that felt real in the first half was with his little brother and his aunt. I realize that Bates was trying to make him as flawed as Elanna, but this didn’t feel right. His insistence that his home is in Paladis and not in Caeris with Elanna sounds ridiculous, and I was quite happy that Elanna seemed to agree with me. The first half basically forced conflicts that simply didn’t exist, not with the characters there are and the world around them.
The second half of the book, on the other hand, is breathtaking. Bates is in fine form with her writing style here, and it feels like she finally gets comfortable. Jahan and Elanna’s chemistry finally becomes real and palpable, (and it’s sexy as heck, let’s be serious) and the supporting cast finally comes to life. There are quite a few villains, but the main two antagonists are mesmerizing, calculating, cruel, and most importantly, fleshed out. I laughed, cried, gasped, and cheered in the second half. And the resolution as well as the lead into the third book was satisfying and well-placed.
I agonized between giving this book three skulls and four skulls. If I was only rating the second half of the book, it would easily get five, but the beginning stumbles so badly I have to take that into account. Regardless, I’ll be getting my paws on the third (and last!) book in the trilogy the second it comes out.