I received an advanced copy of The Defiant Heir in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Melissa Caruso and Orbit Books. *Minor Spoilers May Follow*
In the second entry to the Swords and Fire trilogy, we pick up events approximately a month after the finale of The Tethered Mage. Everybody seems pretty content in the world of Eruvia right up until the point that some of the Empire’s Falcons and their Falconers start to turn up murdered. Known as The Serene Empire’s secret weapons the Falcons are the magic wielders ranging from warlocks to alchemists and the Falconers are their protectors. They bind the Falcons magic and can help, train, and unleash them should the need arise. These assassinations create unrest and cause whispers that the Witch Lords in Vaskandar might actually be plotting and preparing to invade far beyond their borders.
The first book was extremely enjoyable so I was excited to jump back into Amalia and Zaira’s tale. In similar fashion to the previous novel, this follow up is a unique mix of young adult and political fantasy intertwined with heightened poetic world building and addictive, intriguing dialogue throughout. This is the sort of fantasy adventure that ticks all the boxes for me at the moment. Complex enough without being overwhelming or confusing so the descriptive narrative creates perfect imagery in my mind which overtakes me and once again I raced through this in a few days even though it is longer than the first.
We visit a lot more of the world this time, the majority of which is behind the lines of this potential united enemy in Vaskandar. The characters visit haunted forests, volcanos, plague-ridden villages, and highly dangerous fortresses. The ensemble seems to have doubled in size with new additions including the seventeen Witch Lords and Amalia’s relatives in Callamorne. The cast was already quite large but these new characters are introduced and presented expertly and too many to name are true scene stealers. That being said, many of the individuals present in the previous book have developed and changed following past harrowing events and also their current dilemmas. For example, you might even call Amalia and Zaira friends now. Along with the Skinwitch Ruven, these three from the previous narrative arguably produce the finest moments. That is alongside new members the Crow Lord Kathe who is charming, mysterious and loves playing games and The Lady of Eagles, Lady Amalia’s Great-Grandmother who is so formidable and powerful it would make many grown men cry to be in the same room as her. Also, The Lady of Spiders’ dress deserves a special mention too.
The histories of the world and the magic system was already deep and intricate. Both elements are expanded on here. Amalia is a scholar so we learn a great amount of knowledge through her first-person perspective thoughts especially with reference to the history of the Northern Witch Lord controlled territories and about her lineage and how she fits into the bigger political picture. We saw snippets of a different sort of magic in the first tale. In The Defiant Heir, we learn about this further. It’s known as Vivomancy and Caruso writes the descriptions in a way that emphasises the power and potential of such magic to Amalia and it resonates with the reader as we’re also finding out the capabilities for the first time. Some of the possibilities are truly harrowing.
The Defiant Heir was pretty brilliant. It started strong and it was easy and exciting to get reacquainted with these characters. It’s full of great political drama, hidden plots, thrilling moments, betrayals and showdowns, yet the finest showdown is probably a battle of wits and words which I re-read numerous times because it was that exhilarating. The novel features a few interesting beasts such as giant wolves, chimeras, and forests that have lives of their own. It includes a love triangle dilemma which I’m not normally too fond of. The one here didn’t change my opinion, however; I did like the interactions between two of the members a lot. There is also an LGBT storyline which I know many young adult book readers enjoy and this one takes a very interesting turn about halfway through but is definitely worth following. To conclude, I love losing myself in Caruso’s world which features lead characters I truly cared about. I can’t wait for the final book in the trilogy. Recommend.