Book Review: Breath of Fire

The Details

Cat in boarskin battle gear, on the Ice Plains

Cover of book, by Sourcebooks Casablanca

Breath of Fire, Amanda Bouchet (Sourcebooks Casablanca, January, 2017)

Book two of the Kingmaker Chronicles, 432 pp. At the time of this review, 2/7/2017, it holds a 4.5-star review on Amazon.

Genre: Romance, High Fantasy

Book Obtained by: Purchased from Amazon.com

My Chocolate Rating: 5 Godiva Chocolates (sinfully good)

 

From the Jacket:

“I am Catalia Fisa, and I do not break.

“Deep breath in. Long breath out. The Gods are telling me I’m some sort of new Origin, which apparently means it’s my job to give Thalyria a fresh start. Griffin crowned me with the symbols of the three realms.

“If I’m supposed to be not just a queen but The Queen, I’d better start acting like it.

Review

Breath of Fire continues Amanda Bouchet’s tale launching from Greek mythology, an earth-like world where they still hold sway, and populated with beasts from Greek mythology plus ones that I’ve never heard of and assume to be Bouchet’s creations, like the Ipotane who seem to be centaurs with horse ears, but centaurs also exist. The Ipotane call the brutal Ice Plains home.

The book begins hot on the heels of the conclusion of book one—the next day. It begins lazily enough, Cat in bed thinking through a synopsis of book one, and no Griffin. When Griffin arrives, the conflict begins. I question everything I thought I knew, and part of me is ready to be angry with Bouchet if she makes this a dream, and on the edge of my seat as I suspect it won’t be a dream. Yep, I’m hooked, desperate to see how Bouchet will get Cat and Griffin out of this conflict.

The pace slows nicely for some family time, then thunders into action once the characters decide their next steps. Cat spends plenty of time in that first-person self-doubt about her fate, her upbringing, her own choices. As a female reader, I enjoy characters with a complex head-space, intent on making the world a better place. Cat may be destined to be the harbinger, but that doesn’t mean she’ll toe the line the Fates have set, or the one the gods push her towards.

Artemis aiming her bow

Clay catch-all, purchased from the annual Greek Festival held in Columbus, Ohio

Tension lets up now and again, only for Bouchet to ratchet it up with a new danger or challenge. Stakes increase through the book. When Cat and Delta Team get themselves out of danger, I applaud it. When one of the gods step in to help them out of it, my emotions tangle. This is, after all, an author steeped in Greek mythology, writing her own Greek mythology. And I well remember from the Greek tales I love, the gods are famous for meddling with humans. Thus, it’s a convention I grudgingly accept if it fits the plot. At the same time, it’s an easy out for the author and the characters on at least one occasion.

For the most part, the complications grew organically from the plot. The exception occurred around page 230 of the US printing. That felt like Bouchet needed Cat to have a turning point, and the event is engineered to bring that turn. It’s a small disappointment in context of the whole book. I’d have read it faster, but participation in a writing contest meant I didn’t have much reading time until I turned in my piece.

Just as in the first book, I enjoyed how Bouchet worked in Cat’s backstory as needed, often in context of a conflict, with Cat’s emotions leaning one way, and her history pushing her the other. I don’t know which path she’ll take, which makes the conflict all the more tense for me. Each time her mother, Andromeda, made a psychic appearance, I couldn’t know what price Cat or the team would pay.

The sex scenes seemed to burn hotter and longer than the first book. As a more conservative reader, I tend to skate past them, except Bouchet does weave in the emotional connections, and she sometimes weaves in character development. At the very least, I won’t read her books at work, or standing in line in a store.

Artemis holding bow with falcon

Clay urn, another year’s purchase at the annual Greek Festival in Columbus, Ohio

By the time Buchet brings the book to the final two big events of the book, something like sixty pages, the tension ratcheted, ratcheted, ratcheted up. I had expected to find a breathing room point to put the book down and head to bed, but found myself forced to read until the last page. You’ve been forewarned!

I’ll give the same warning I did in the first book: If you are sensitive to rape culture, this may not be the book for you. Bouchet will once more put Cat in the role of a victim—both early in the book, and in the last act. For a woman of immense power, she’s at the mercy of males—and it’s at these spots that I warred with myself—rape culture/woman as victim/not tapping the power she has until…. Be forewarned. I’m still trying to learn to call out places when I see it, so it’s possible more sensitive readers will find it in other places.

Just as in the first book, I once more have to “accept” some seeming slips of phrases, like the concept of minutes in an ancient society, once more tachycardia, once more nerves. Again, maybe they’re not anachronisms, but they jump out at me. It’s a handful of times at most.

If you read book one and enjoyed Cat’s personality, her call-it-like-she-sees-it leadership style, and her tendency to leap in to help first, worry about herself later, her introspection, curly up in your recliner, throw on a blanket, and settle in for hours of reading enjoyment. Bouchet weaves this book out of the same cloth as book one.

Yep, I loved this book. Too bad I’ll have to wait until January 2018 for the final installment of this trilogy.

 

More about the Author

Learn more about the next volume of Cat and Griffin’s story, Heart on Fire, at the author’s webpage or the book page; or buy the book, as it contains a chapter of Heart on Fire. Find other reviews of Breath of Fire at Amazon or your favorite book-review site. Find the author also on Facebook and Twitter.

Bouchet is now a USA Today Bestselling author for this book. Here are the other awards it’s won, and it’s still in the first month and change of printing:

  • A USA Today Bestseller
  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month
  • Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
  • Kirkus, Starred Review
  • Booklist, Starred Review
  • RT Book Reviews, Top Pick

Keep Reading

Have you read Breath of Fire? What elements of it did you enjoy? Are you new to reading romances, like me, or have you been a long-time fan of the genre? What are some of the traits that call to you?

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