Breath of Fire
The first book in The Kingmaker Chronicles, A Promise of Fire was an absolute gem. I was incredibly lucky to have a chance to review it for AAR, and when I saw the sequel was coming out soon, I jumped at the chance to read it. Breath of Fire picks up almost immediately after the first book leaves off, with our main characters triumphant and in bed together. That alone promises a far steamier sequel! But while Promise is fast-paced but steady, Breath doesn’t seem quite sure of what it wants to be. It definitely suffers a bit from middle-book-syndrome – there’s the sense that “this is where book one ends, this is where book three starts, so now we just have to get the characters there.”
We start off, as stated, with Cat and Griffin in bed, and having what is basically a monster of a misunderstanding. It’s only a few pages in, and he has found out the truth of Cat’s parentage – specifically that her mother is Alpha Fisa, quite possibly the worst overlord of the different regions. Griffin destroys a few things (including their bed, Cat reflects sadly, because it has so many sexy memories attached!), and Cat figures he’s tossed her out. So off she goes, back to her old room in the barracks. Turns out, it was really just a big misunderstanding, and Griffin was upset but just needed to leave that particular conversation. He was pretty distraught that Cat wasn’t in the palace when he returned, and was even more so when he thought she’d left altogether.
And that is my first issue with the book – the scenes here are wonderfully written, and I loved the emotion, but it’s only the beginning and things have gone haywire so far out of left field that I had no idea what was happening. It just doesn’t fit. While the actual argument doesn’t last long, after they get back together Griffin says it all happened because Cat doesn’t really trust him and then they basically just jump into more sexy times. And when they aren’t having sex, Cat is thinking about their last encounter, or daydreaming about a future one. Again, this doesn’t fit the storyline as a whole. As a result, the pacing suffers, the characters suffer, and the whole reading experience suffers.
Luckily, it doesn’t take too long to get past this section. While Cat and Griffin are still a bit on the outs (not firmly angry at each other, but still a little reserved), they have to come up with a way to save their region, hold off one enemy, and completely defeat another. And that’s not even including confronting Cat’s mother (which I’m looking forward to – I’m pretty sure it‘ll happen in book three!). The solution is to find someone to guard the borders – in this case to find a group of giant centaurs to guard the borders. Cat’s connection with the gods (and I really do love the Greek mythology used throughout) gives her an advantage, and they go off to fight a hydra, gather their centaurs, and get the blessing of at least one of the gods.
But again, Cat is so preoccupied by sex that it’s a bit of a turn off. I don’t know about you, but sex wouldn’t be the first thing on my mind when confronted by an oracle so in touch with the gods that if I pissed him off, I’d be insta-killed. That’s just not sexy. There are definitely times and places that are not conducive to having sex and this is one of them.
But once we get past Cat’s burning loins, the story itself works out really well. I won’t go into too much detail, but imagine an almost gladiatorial arena where groups fight with and without magic. Cat, Griffin, and the gang get involved in the whole mess as part of their grand schemes. It’s pretty convoluted and really fun to read. The action in this is definitely is on a par with that in A Promise of Fire, and I was flipping pages breathlessly waiting to see how the fights would turn out.
Breath of Fire suffers a bit from middle-book-syndrome, but overall I enjoyed it. There was so much that needed to happen to get from the end of book one to the beginning of book three that the end result was a bit convoluted and a little messy. Even so, I’m definitely looking forward to book three!