We Unleash the Merciless Storm is the sequel to 2019’s We Set the Dark On Fire, a Mexican-inspired young adult fantasy novel with a fabulous female/female relationship at its core. The first installment did end on a rather sizable cliffhanger, so I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of book two.
This is a duology that absolutely must be read in order. You’ll struggle to understand the world, the characters, and the conflict if you dive straight in here. As a result, this review will contain spoilers for events in the first book, so if you haven’t already done so, I recommend reading We Set the Dark On Fire before continuing.
The story picks almost immediately following the events in We Set the Dark On Fire. Carmen and Dani have been separated, and Carmen’s role in the resistance movement known as La Voz has been revealed. She’s on her way back to the group’s headquarters to share the intel she’s gleaned from the months she spent among the city’s elite, while Dani has returned to her husband’s side, hoping to convince him she had nothing to do with the attacks on those in power. Carmen has been branded a traitor, and La Voz is being blamed for many of the country’s problems, Dani’s husband has grandiose political aspirations, and Dani is determined to do whatever she can to keep him from achieving those dreams, all the while struggling to keep from thinking about the girl she loves more than she ever thought possible.
For her part, Carmen is struggling with a serious case of conflicting loyalties. She quite literally owes her life to La Voz, and she’s been one of their best operatives for years. Now though, things are different. She’s fallen in love with Dani, the girl La Voz‘s leaders aren’t sure they can trust, and it’s possible Carmen will be called upon to end Dani once and for all.
Once she’s back at La Voz‘s headquarters, Carmen sets about trying to figure out her mind and heart. Will she be able to put her feelings for Dani aside, or will she be forced to betray the movement she’s regarded as her life’s work in order to save Dani from certain death? These questions don’t have easy answers, and it will take every skill Carmen possesses to ensure she doesn’t lose what matters most.
I admit to being a bit surprised by the author’s choice to make Carmen the narrator of this novel. The first installment was told exclusively from Dani’s perspective, so the change in narrative voice took a bit of getting used to. Luckily, Carmen is an engaging heroine in her own right, and I soon found myself enjoying the time I spent in her head. She’s a bit more brash and cynical than Dani, seeming overly hardened at times, but she possesses a hidden set of vulnerabilities that are slowly revealed as the novel progresses. I don’t think I warmed to her quite as much as I did to Dani, but she’s a complicated heroine who deserves her chance to shine as the main focus of the narrative.
Dani and Carmen are physically separated for the first half of the novel, and I was a little disappointed at the lack of page time accorded to their relationship. However, in the novel’s second half, their feelings for one another are given quite a bit of attention, and I was satisfied with the way the author chose to wrap up that element of the story. They don’t solve all their problems by the novel’s end, but the reader is given the impression they’re working on a number of things, and I believed in their ability to commit to one another fully in time.
One of the best things about this book is the female empowerment readers will find within its pages. Carmen isn’t the type of heroine who needs a man to come along and save her; in fact, she’s the one who does the biggest part of the saving. She’s extremely smart, resourceful and cunning, and I loved that the author allows her to capitalize on those strengths rather than sitting back while a man does most of the heavy lifting. This is exactly the kind of book I would have loved reading as a teenager, the kind that celebrates feminine strength rather than demeaning it.
We Unleash the Merciless Storm is a solid ending to a unique duology, and I’m eager to see what the author has in store for readers in the future. The Young Adult genre needs authors like Mejia, and she has risen to the challenge in an admirable way.
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