Desert Isle Keeper
Awesome! Fantastic! Riveting! Buy this book! That’s the review I want to write for Emerald Blaze. Since AAR requires that I write a slightly more detailed exposé, those interested in why they should make this purchase may find out more below.
This is book five of the Hidden Legacy series, and my review necessarily contains spoilers for the novels that come before it. I would not recommend starting here, since you will miss a lot of wonderful tales that provide the needed history for this story, and would recommend you at least read Diamond Fire and Sapphire Flames, the two previous works in the Catalina trilogy. Especially since an interesting character from one of those stories makes a thoroughly unexpected reappearance here.
Catalina Baylor has picked up the millions of pieces of her heart Alessandro Sagredo left her with and has moved on with her life. Not that it’s much of a life at this particular moment. Hot, sweaty, dirty and dehydrated she, her brother Leon and employee/friend Cornelius are in a park, in a face off with another group of investigators also seeking to recover a rare tamarin monkey named Rosebud. The frightened animal is hiding in a tree, well out of reach of the angry humans pursuing it. The folks from Montgomery Investigations believe it to be the property of a laboratory but Catalina knows it is the service animal of a twelve year old girl with a spinal injury and is determined that it will be returned to the young lady unharmed.
Thanks to help from animal mage Cornelius, she’s able to retrieve the monkey and thanks to her own awesome paperwork skills she’s able to convince the Montgomery investigators that Rosebud belongs to her client – but as her team is leaving they are suddenly attacked by a weird group of creatures from the arcane realm. That’s successfully resolved too, but it leads Catalina on an all new quest, one in which she will have to tangle with a unique, horrifying villain, a team of lethal assassins, and once more have to partner with the sexy, mysterious Alessandro in order to save the world.
That’s all you’re going to get from me on the storyline. It’s complicated both because of the complex magical world in which it takes place, and the fact that the authors have had six other books in which to refine that world and fill it with interesting denizens, many of whom play a role here and have their own intricately detailed motivations and tangled relationships with our hero and heroine.
I assure all of the fans of the series that they will find this book a pleasure to read. The plotting is tight, the action enticing and exciting, and lots of favorite characters make appearances. I was especially pleased to see a bit more of Cornelius in this tale. His involvement in the previous installment was woefully small but here he plays a slightly larger, more meaningful role.
Also present are all the members of the beloved Baylor family. It was wonderful to see the marginally more mature manifestations of Arabella and Leon and read about the new roles they are playing in the family business. Leon is a personal favorite so I was delighted that he was the secondary character with the largest role in this story. We learn some about how he deals with the recent materialization of his magical talent and what his life looks like now that he’s no longer a whiny teen. He’s become a more adult twenty-something but never fear, he is still the nosy, impetuous, and snarky, fearless warrior we fell in love with in the previous novels.
The romance between Catalina and Alessandro here works far more smoothly than it did in the last book. In Sapphire Flames, Catalina’s residual teenage-crush feelings and the fact that her magic gave her no opportunity to date had kept her from having any real agency in their relationship. She’s grown far more confident thanks to her successful running of the family business, the tutoring she is receiving in House strategy by her paternal grandmother, her growing control of her magic and the fact that she has created a strong network of friends and allies. This makes her more of an equal for Alessandro, who has been a globe-trotting assassin for years and has the world-weary jadedness that such a job would engender and require.
We learn what led Alessandro to that career choice and also about a recent confrontation which had an incredible impact on how he views life and love. The mellowing of his utter confidence has made him more open and given him a willingness to be vulnerable and emotionally accessible to Catalina. Now that he’s honest and willing to share his history and the problems in his life with her, they forge a true connection. I absolutely loved watching that happen. The great thing is that like Connor and Nevada, Alessandro and Catalina have complimentary magical talents. Alessandro fits perfectly into Catalina’s dangerous, action-filled lifestyle, which makes their HEA very believable and totally satisfying.
Readers of the series will remember that a romance for Bern was hinted at in the last story and I am pleased to announce the continuation of that thread here. I would have liked to see a bit more detail but it was satisfying to have my suspicions confirmed.
Emerald Blaze is a wonderful addition to the Hidden Legacy series. While it brings Catalina and Alessandro’s romance to an HEA, the authors leave us with lots of unresolved issues so that our appetite is whetted for the next installment in the series. I, for one, can hardly wait.
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I've been an avid reader since 2nd grade and discovered romance when my cousin lent me Lord of La Pampa by Kay Thorpe in 7th grade. I currently read approximately 150 books a year, comprised of a mix of Young Adult, romance, mystery, women's fiction, and science fiction/fantasy.
|Review Date:||August 24, 2020|
|Book Type:||Urban Fantasy Romance|
|Review Tags:||Hidden Legacy series | magic|
Leon and Bern are brothers and cousins to Catalina. Leon is not her brother. :)
I really enjoyed this book. I actually really like Catalina and Alessandro much more than Nevada and Rogan. I also like the book is becoming more of an ensemble with lots of interesting side characters.
I actually felt there was too much action in the book. It was all about action, strange beings, guns, and rescuing someone. Most of the character motivations happened of page or told were to us. There was 6 months between this book and Sapphire Flames. But both Catalina and Alessandro underwent significant character developments that were essential to this book. That seemed like too short a time.
Regardless, Ilona Andrews’s imagination is beyond compare. I love the new Primes, the fantastic reveals, the snarky dialogue….everything. I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Thank you Maggie, I just finished it.
As Sapphire Flames was a bit less good, I would not have jumped on this one as fast without your review, that really explained things well, what you appreciated, and why.
Did anyone notice that the authors are describing people as “white” explicitly? Like “X was a white man of about 40..” – I found this interesting and a very very good way of making “white” not just “normal” but a specific feature of some people. One of the loveliest, smoothest, non-intrusive ways of acknowledging the debate of the last months on race that I have seen till now. Big Bow to Authors for that.
A B+ from me.
The story was good and such an easy rapid read, kept the tension wonderfully throughout, I read it in pretty much one go. Like an action film with very few quiet moments. I had fund reading.
I liked the relationship developments of Catalina & Alessandro, both were believably grown from last time, and their actions reflected that.
I liked the family interactions, Bern, Leon, Arabella growing and developing – and the important talk of Nevada and Catalina felt like a defining moment that retroactively improved Sapphire Flames a lot for me.
The story was good, and the minor characters were all enjoyably well described to get a real “feeling” for them.
I found it slightly short, and missed a bit of resolution – review of the whole big criminal story, talking with the good guys and celebrating a moment: who survived the big confrontation? What was Linus doing with Alessandro? etc. – I will continue to read the series, so this is not a major issue, maybe it will be clearer looking back in the next book.
I have resisted downgrading further because I feel it would be unfair.
My current feelings are more an overall exhaustion with the story arc never being truly OVER.I get tired of the Uber-villains in the background (or are they not villains?). I want an END.
I understand the genre, and the concept of long running series, so this is just a personal thing:
I am getting tired of the never resolved “uber villain + destruction of the world” plot over multiple books. I do not need every series to be about saving the whole world every time. Having some smaller scale mysteries would be so nice! This is not just a Ilona Andrews thing, I feel the same about Nalini Singh’s books, and about Thea Harrison’s Elder Races. I have not even started certain series once I saw they were still ongoing.
Do not misunderstand, there is no cliffhanger or anything here – just the hint of the larger mystery that has been there in all the books of this series, and the sense of dread that the small band of heroes in the still fragile House Baylor (&friends) constantly feel: evil grandmother, general warfare of Houses, etc. And I personally start feeling that this will go on and on: Catalina’s third book, then Arabella, or maybe someone else? And I like these people. and the writing, I just get so tired of never having a true END to the large plot line.
“Did anyone notice that the authors are describing people as “white” explicitly? Like “X was a white man of about 40..” – I found this interesting and a very very good way of making “white” not just “normal” but a specific feature of some people. One of the loveliest, smoothest, non-intrusive ways of acknowledging the debate of the last months on race that I have seen till now. Big Bow to Authors for that.”
That is an interesting point, and I have noticed it. But when white characters describe other white characters by race in literature, it can come across as stilted and forced. (I don’t know if that’s the exact context in this book, but bear with me.) In general, people in real life don’t tend to notice people of their own race differently and make an explicit point of it, especially if they’re within and/or surrounded by their “in-group.” I’m not saying they’re color blind, but I’ve noticed that people generally only point out what is outside of their group. If they do point out someone in the same group, it tends to be in a different setting such as when two tourists meet up in a majority-Asian country and think, “Hey, look at that. Another white person!” (or vice versa). But for a character in a largely homogenous group to have that same thought seems out of place.
Now, it would also be odd for, say, a black character not to mention encountering a white character explicitly because, again, people tend to explicitly notice and comment upon that which is different in some way. So I wouldn’t necessarily say characters of one race making a direct comment about a member of the same race in literature is somehow an improvement, especially if it comes across as unrealistic. It really depends upon the context.
I’ll give a specific example where this explicit pointing out didn’t work for me. In the Nico Rosso Harlequin Intrigue title Renegade Protector, it made sense for a diverse cast of characters to mentally acknowledge one another’s differences, but I had to give it the side-eye when the protagonist saw a “Chumash man.” I mean, kudos for using the tribal name instead of the generic American Indian or Native American, but there was no way the character could have known his tribe without asking him first!
So, in short, use descriptions when they make sense within a certain context, but don’t make it an automatic habit when the situation doesn’t call for it.
Good additional food for thought. Agree on the context, your picture of two tourists is very good.
I felt that in this way, the authors did not make it normal that I, the reader, and the characters would be white, and only non-white needed mention – for me, it very subtly changed the “in” or “out” group perspective when reading the book.
Also, simply the fact that I noticed (I think it happened twice or three times in the whole book, no more) made me aware how often people are usually described as black, or Asian, or latin, but how rarely the descriptor “white” is used, if ever. Except in the “in a foreign land”- situation of seeing a white person in a place where they would be rare.
Thanks for writing back. You’ve given me food for thought as well. I was a little worried someone would jump on my comment a la “There goes Nan De Plume again on a racist rant.” (Totally not the case!)
There’s definitely a balance when it comes to character descriptions, whether racial or otherwise. In romance and erotica, there tend to be a lot more physical details provided by necessity. What a character looks like in a romance, for example, is often far more important than in a literary work or thriller. Exceptions, yes. But things like eye color, nose shape, etc. generally aren’t too relevant when your protagonist is a hacker bent on bringing down a corrupt organization versus the love interest in a sweeping epic. On the other hand, the writer has to be careful not to inundate the reader with too much description, even in a romance. Context, context, context! :)
I just reread the first Catalina book and noticed the “white” descriptor. I also liked it but also felt it worked since first, the family runs an investigation agency so they should note descriptive details and second, the family is mixed race. The grandmother married a black man so the family’s notions of color is more nuanced. There is also references to same sex married people which is treated as normal, not exceptional which I also appreciated.
“but also felt it worked since first, the family runs an investigation agency so they should note descriptive details and second, the family is mixed race.”
Those are definitely contexts where the “white” descriptor would make sense coming from a white character. Totally agree.
Although have you noticed how “white” Catalina is on the cover. Towards the end of the book there is a mention that Catalina says her mother is the only family member with skin darker than hers. I pictured Catalina as very “white” so this was a surprise to me.
This book is a wonderful addition to the Hidden Legacy series and I think your review is perfect Maggie. Like you I loved hearing more about the background alluded to in previous stories eg Alessandro’s backstory, why Nevada gave up being head of House Baylor. I also love that the Andrews writing team give us more info re Bern’s romance which was hinted at in the previous book ( though, like you, I wouldn’t mind even more about how it developed). I also love that they introduce interesting secondary characters eg Patricia and Regina who I suspect will be more front and centre in future books as there is obviously a story there.
Your comments of “ Awesone!Fascinating! Riveting! Buy this book ! “ are spot on. The only caveat I would offer is that if someone hasn’t read The previous books in the series then start at book one and enjoy the fabulous world building and terrific relationships.
An A- for me; t’s a little bit shorter than I would’ve liked, yet too satisfying for me to give it a B.