Review: Heart on Fire by Amanda Bouchet + Giveaway

Review: Heart on Fire by Amanda Bouchet + GiveawayHeart on Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles, #3) by Amanda Bouchet
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Series: Kingmaker Chronicles #3
Pages: 416
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on January 2nd 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

The riveting conclusion to the Kingmaker Chronicles, available January 2018!

Who is Catalia Fisa?With the help of pivotal figures from her past, Cat begins to understand the root of her exceptional magic, her fated union with Griffin Sinta, and Griffin's role in shaping her destiny.

Only Cat holds the key to unlocking her own power, and that means finally accepting herself, her past, and her future in order to protect her loved ones, confront her murderous mother, and taking a final, terrifying step--reuniting all three realms and taking her place as the Queen of Thalyria.

What doesn't kill her will only make her stronger...we hope.

My Review:

Heart on Fire is the stunning and searing (sometimes literally) conclusion to the Kingmaker Chronicles, begun in 2016 with the author’s intense debut novel, A Promise of Fire. About which I had some very mixed feelings.

There are no mixed feelings as I close the final chapter. The beginning of Cat and Griffin’s story needed to be what it was (mostly) in order to reach this remarkable finale in Heart on Fire.

If you’ve heard a friend rave about this series, and you probably have, you need to read it in order, from the promise of marvels in A Promise of Fire, to the flush of possibility in Breath of Fire to this wow of an ending here in Heart on Fire, because yours will be too.

The story of this series is a combination of heroine’s journey and romance, but with a whole lot of mythology mixed in. Particularly that of the Greek pantheon. It turns out that as much as Catalina Fisa is the daughter of her monstrous mother, she is also the child of the gods. Not just one or two, but in a metaphysical way, ALL of them.

And they all seem to have a vested interest in not just keeping Cat alive, but finding ways to make sure that she survives, thrives and comes into the vast heritage of magic they have invested her with. Not just so she can topple her mother from her throne, but so that Cat, in partnership with her husband Griffin, can end the corruption that rules all of their land, and start over.

Literally start over. Because Cat discovers that she is the embodiment of “Origin” and her purpose is to wipe the slate clean and create a fresh start for all the peoples of her world.

If she can just manage to get her head out of her own ass long enough to figure out how her magic works. So she can kill her mother.

Escape Rating A: This certainly ends the year (or begins it, as it won’t be published until next week) with a bang. And a few whimpers. Cat’s journey has been long, hard and frequently dark. The story of Heart on Fire is literally the story of Cat’s heart finally catching fire, so that the woman can forgive herself first.

She needs to learn an awful lot of hard lessons to find the balance that she needs in her life in order for her to access the magic that has been inside her all along. And Cat is pretty stubborn about believing the worst of herself and it takes a lot of effort on the part of all the gods as well as a lot of pain and anguish on Cat’s part for the lesson to finally sink in. This is often a hard story, and Cat’s journey travels to some dark and torturous places.

Sometimes good can only triumph over evil if good is very, very strong. Cat needs to learn about her own strength, so a lot of this story is about just how difficult it is for Cat to find her own place, her own balance, and get out of her own way. Although Cat has always believed that her mother is her worst enemy (and she’s awfully, awfully bad) Cat’s true worst enemy has always been herself, and her unwillingness to put her faith in herself.

So this story is the end of an epic and sometimes heartbreaking journey. It will bring to mind the old saying that “Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad”, although in Cat’s case its more the madness of anger than insanity. That much meddling in one’s life by capricious and omnipotent beings would drive anyone crazy.

But Cat’s crazy has made for a fantastic journey. I’m sorry to see it end – but this was the time. And the way it ends is right and heartbreaking and triumphant all at once. As the series has been, and as it should be.

Reviewer’s Note: Heart on Fire particularly of the series is a story about mothers and daughters, and just how terribly wrong that relationship can go. As I was reading this book, my mother was admitted to hospice, and by the time this is posted she will probably be gone. It made the reading of this book particularly poignant, and also made it difficult as hell to review.

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

Sourcebooks is giving away a bundle of the first two books in this series, A Promise of Fire and Breath of Fire, to three lucky entrants on this tour.

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Review: Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet + Giveaway

Review: Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet + GiveawayBreath of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #2) by Amanda Bouchet
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Series: Kingmaker Chronicles #2
Pages: 448
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on January 3rd 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository
Goodreads

SHE'S DESTINED TO DESTROY THE WORLD... "Cat" Catalia Fisa has been running from her destiny since she could crawl. But now, her newfound loved ones are caught between the shadow of Cat's tortured past and the threat of her world-shattering future. So what's a girl to do when she knows it's her fate to be the harbinger of doom? Everything in her power.
BUT NOT IF SHE CAN HELP ITGriffin knows Cat is destined to change the world-for the better. As the realms are descending into all-out war, Cat and Griffin must embrace their fate together. Gods willing, they will emerge side-by-side in the heart of their future kingdom...or not at all.

My Review:

Breath of Fire has a whole lot of quest story, wrapped up in a lovely bit of “plucky rebels vs the evil empire”, complete with extremely evil emperor. Or in this case, empress.

It also manages to provide reasonable (for definition of reasonable that satisfies in-world consistency) of how the Greek pantheon from our own history ended up actively running the show in Thalyria. At least for select definitions of active and running.

And the sheer number of times and ways in which the gods step in to “help” their descendant Catalia Fisa lead the reader to the conclusion that her lover Griffin Sinta has always believed – that their meeting and their relationship were fated by those gods, and that neither of them had a chance at resisting the forces that are pushing them together.

That the gods are so hell-bent on saving Thalyria that they are willing to mess with both Cat’s and Griffin’s lives to make damn sure they happen and it happens puts the forced beginning of their relationship into perspective. Like many readers, I found the transformation of their relationship from kidnapper and captive to lovers to smack of questionable consent at the very least, if not an unhealthy dose of Stockholm Syndrome.

Discovering that they are both pawns of the gods makes the whole thing easier to swallow. So to speak. Not that Cat doesn’t swallow, and other things, fairly often when it comes to her relationship with Griffin.

promise of fire by amanda bouchetBreath of Fire follows directly after A Promise of Fire. Now that Cat and Griffin are firmly on the same side, Cat is all in with Griffin’s plan to sweep out the corrupt Alphas in all the kingdoms and replace them with a rule of law. She just doesn’t think she deserves to live to see it.

Naturally enough, those Alphas want to hang onto their absolute power, and are willing to do anything to keep it. To put a further fly in the sticky ointment, the most powerful of those Alphas is Cat’s mother Andromeda, who will do anything to draw Cat back into her sticky and stinking web.

The story in Breath of Fire becomes Cat and Griffin’s quest for magical items and magical assistance that will allow them to defend Griffin’s kingdom of Sinta while they strike out to bring Tarva and Fisa under their control. It’s not an easy quest, and it is not intended to be. Hope seems lost many, many times along the way, only to be found again either through human ingenuity or the grace of one of Cat’s great-great-great-great-great-uncles. Uncles named Zeus, or Poseidon, or Hades.

She even gets to borrow Cerberus again.

Cat’s destiny has always been as the Harbinger of doom. Doom for the evil system that has held Thalyria in chains for far too long. If only she can get past her mother.

Escape Rating B+: We all have mommy issues. Cat’s are just bigger, and a whole lot deadlier, than most. Andromeda is the bitch to end all bitches. There’s no question she’s evil, but I hope we find out more about why, or how she got this way, in the next book. Or we may find out that Thalyria is simply rotten to the core, and Andromeda’s evil is just one of the more obvious symptoms. The other Alphas weren’t any better than Andromeda, just less powerful.

I don’t know why, but I feel much better about the very questionable consent in Cat and Griffin’s relationship after discovering that the whole thing has an element of deus ex machina. Even though I don’t normally like deus ex machina. But there are so many dei machinating in this story that it works. Also that Cat and Griffin are both pawns feels better than when it looked like only Cat was a pawn.

The quest feels like it has elements of the Odyssey. It certainly is an odyssey. Every step along the way leads to another object that must be found, and which can only be obtained through another trial. It is also an important part of the quest that every member of the team gets tried in their own way, and that Cat and Griffin’s relationship gets tried most of all.

One of the good things about this story is that even though Breath of Fire is the middle book in the trilogy, it doesn’t feel like a middle book. The ending certainly has its climactic moments, but it doesn’t end in a terrible trough. Instead, it ends in hope for the future – albeit a future that suddenly has a deadline attached.

I can’t wait for the conclusion of this series, Heart on Fire. It looks like things are headed for an explosive ending.

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

Win one of ten copies of A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet, the first book in her The Kingmaker Chronicles series, plus a signed bookplate!

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Review: A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet + Giveaway

Review: A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet + GiveawayA Promise of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #1) by Amanda Bouchet
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Series: Kingmaker Chronicles #1
Pages: 448
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on August 2nd 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

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.

My Review:

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!

a Rafflecopter giveaway