Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Series: Kingmaker Chronicles #1
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on August 2nd 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop.org
Catalia "Cat" Fisa is a powerful clairvoyant known as the Kingmaker. This smart-mouthed soothsayer has no interest in her powers and would much rather fly under the radar, far from the clutches of her homicidal mother. But when an ambitious warlord captures her, she may not have a choice…
Griffin is intent on bringing peace to his newly conquered realm in the magic-deprived south. When he discovers Cat is the Kingmaker, he abducts her. But Cat will do everything in her power to avoid her dangerous destiny and battle her captor at every turn. Although up for the battle, Griffin would prefer for Cat to help his people willingly, and he's ready to do whatever it takes to coax her…even if that means falling in love with her.
This is very much of a mixed feelings review. There were parts of this book that I absolutely loved, and parts that drove me completely crazy. And they were often the same parts!
On the one hand, we have a story of revolution. In this world, the non-magical Hoi Polloi are quite literally the middle and lower classes, just as the name implies. The Magoi are the magic wielding upper class – except in Sinta. A family of Hoi Polloi has just “removed” the ruling family and replaced the late unlamented despots with, well, themselves. Also with a rule of law and justice, instead of the previous “administration” of self-indulgence and utter cruelty.
In order to help his family retain their crown, and their lives, the new Sintan warleader invades a peaceful circus and kidnaps the soothsayer. He doesn’t need a fortune teller, but he does need the mysterious Cat, because Cat is hiding a whole lot of power behind heavy makeup and her fortunetelling shtick.
Cat is a kingmaker. She is not merely a soothsayer, as she claims. Cat is a truthsayer. No one can tell a lie in her presence. She also has a host of other powers, some of which she is not yet aware of herself. She also has powerful enemies, and the favor of more than one of the gods.
And this is where things both heat up and go crazy.
Griffin, the Sintan warleader, kidnaps Cat. He threatens to have all of her friends, her family of choice, thrown in jail if she doesn’t go along with him. Cat has been used and abused before because of her talents, and she will do anything to protect those she loves, including give up her much wanted freedom.
That a relationship develops between Griffin and Cat after these events may read like either questionable consent or an unhealthy dose of Stockholm Syndrome to a whole lot of readers. That Cat’s continued resistance to her enforced captivity is treated as “cute” by Griffin’s war band and his family almost sent me out of the story.
Cat’s agency is taken away, and even her right to feel aggrieved by the removal of that agency is undermined at every turn. Looking at other reviews of this book, I’m amazed that this hasn’t squicked a lot more people out.
But there is also a very strong secondary plot about just how ripe this world is for revolution. That Cat decides to help the new Sintan royals figure out how to survive in the cutthroat world into which they have thrust themselves is fascinating. These are good people who have chosen to engage in a system that is not merely corrupt, but also just plain evil. Whether they can win without losing themselves to the dark side of all the forces arrayed against them is going to make for a very interesting series.
On my third hand, the worldbuilding in this series is based on Greek mythology. Not in the sense that concepts were borrowed, but in the literal sense that the Greek pantheon as we know it from our mythology is actively running the place. At least for certain definitions of active and running. Cat draws some of her power directly from Poseidon’s intervention, and Hades lets her borrow Cerberus. The gods are meddling in regular people’s lives for some reason of their own.
The world created in this fantasy romance does not seem to be a descendant of our Earth, at least as so far seen. How did our Greek pantheon get to this world? Something there begs for an explanation that has not yet occurred in the text. And it needs to.
Escape Rating B: All in all, A Promise of Fire turns out to be a compelling read. The worldbuilding is excellent, even though it does need a few details either worked out or explained somewhere along the way. Griffin’s family and their approach to leadership make them a lovely group of people to follow in this world where power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Only the strong and vile survive.
However, the way that Cat is treated and the way that her relationship with Griffin develops gives me a whole lot of pause. But not enough to keep me from looking forward to the next book in the series, Breath of Fire, coming in January.
For another take on A Promise of Fire, check out my friends at The Book Pushers later this week.
~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~
Sourcebooks Casablanca is giving away 10 copies of A Promise of Fire to lucky entrants on this tour!