Freed by Flame and Storm by Becky Allen
Book Two of the Bound by Blood and Sand series
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: December 12, 2017
Rating: 3 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
Revolution is nigh, and one seventeen-year-old girl stands at the head of it all.
Jae used to be a slave, laboring with the rest of her people under a curse that forced her to obey any order she was given. At seventeen, she found the source of her people’s lost magic and became the only person to break free—ever. Now she wants to use her power to free the rest of her people, but the ruling class will do anything to stop her.
Jae knows that breaking the curse on her people would cause widespread chaos, even unimaginable violence between the castes, and her caste would likely see the worst of it. Many would die. But to let them remain shackled is to doom them to continue living without free will.
How is one girl, raised a slave and never taught to wield power, supposed to decide the fate of a nation?
What I Liked:
Bound by Blood and Sand was one of the most thought-provoking, brutal desert fantasy novels that I've read. I really enjoyed it, which was great because I'd had high expectations for the book. It was intriguing and complex, and there were cruel and heartbreaking aspects of the book that made it even more powerful and intense. I have been eagerly awaiting this book, as it is the sequel and conclusion of the series. Unfortunately I struggled with getting into the book, but overall, it is a good conclusion novel.
Freed by Flame and Storm picks up with Elan and Jae fleeing, trying to get to someplace safe so they can regroup and plan, in order to save the Closest. They run into expected allies - the Order, a group determined to topple the Highest. Their goals align, and so they accept the Order's help. The fate of the Closest rests on Jae and Elan's shoulders, and this means that difficult choices must be made. A former slave girl and a traitor boy with no last name - they will right wrongs, or send the world into chaos.
This book seemed to deal more with consequences - consequences of Jae obtaining so much magic, consequences of Elan defecting, consequences of trying to break the Curse that binds the Closest. It wasn't a brutal, cruel read like its predecessor, but it was harsh in a different light. There was a lot of subtle politics at play, as well as scheming and betrayal.
Jae has to be strong enough for hundreds and thousands of people, and she proves her strength over and over in this book. She isn't perfect and she has plenty of insecurities, but she does what she thinks is good for all, and her instincts are sure. Jae is an easy character to like and root for.
Elan as well. I liked him the most, of all of the characters of this book. He is so kind and compassionate, and very driven and selfless.
It was cool to read from Erra's POV, in addition to Elan's and Jae's. The entire book is written in third-person, but limited to specific POVs. Erra becomes a very important person in this book (both in a good way and bad), so it was neat to read her perspective.
Also, props for all of the diversity in this book. Jae is dark-skinned, Erra is gay, and Erra has a very cute but also star-crossed romance going on.
The plot meandered and honestly it took entirely too long to get to The Point of this book (I'll talk about that in the next section), but I will say that the ending was a good one. I half-expected a non-HEA but the ending works for the series. It's a good one for Jae, for Elan, for the Closest, and even for the Highest. Series ending should be more like this (in my opinion), with a good balance of "good" and "bad".
What I Did Not Like:
My biggest complaint about this book is that is sooooo boring. I had the hardest time reading it. I usually try and review books a month in advance. There are about two weeks left before this book publishes and I'm only now reading it and posting a review. It took me so long to get into the story. Every time I picked up the book, I couldn't get into it. Nothing was holding my attention. This book had a completely tone compared to its predecessor. I couldn't remember much from the ending of the previous book, so that was a drawback too.
It might have helped if this book was shorter. It felt like the plot wandered this way and that way and didn't get to the point. Halfway through the story, the Closest are released. I was like, shouldn't this be the ending? But in the second half of the book, the author tries to show us the consequences of releasing the Closest. Honestly I was so bored from the start, by the time I got to the Closest being freed from the Curse, I wasn't riveted or excited or anything. I started skimming fairly early on and kept flipping. Nothing was holding my attention, and so many pages were filled with useless drivel. I hate to say it but this book could have been condensed to maybe 100 pages or less. So much of it didn't seem to have a purpose (to me as a reader).
This was incredibly disappointing because I had no issues with getting through Bound by Blood and Sand. But this book really tried me. I fell asleep while reading it no fewer than five times, and it took me days to read it (whereas usually I'll read a book in one sitting, regardless of how "bad" or boring it is). This book wasn't "bad", but it was unfortunately very boring.
Would I Recommend It:
All of that being said, I'm half-in, half-out in terms of putting a recommendation out there. I loved book one but really didn't enjoy book two (mostly because the book is boring). I'd say don't bother with the series if you haven't started it. But if you've read the first book, definitely finish the series. But this series isn't an enjoyable one overall (with book two being so much weaker than book one). It's not a series I'd recommend a person binge-read.
2.5 stars -> rounded up to 3 stars. I wish I had enjoyed the book more, but the plot just didn't hold my attention. In general it wasn't a bad book and the story certainly did the job in terms of wrapping up the series, but the book could have been way shorter, based on what was presented. I struggled so hard with this book and it's a terrible feeling, so I'm going with this rating. I may try some of the author's new books in the future, but I'll definitely be more wary than before.
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