Genre fiction lover: Romance, Sci Fi, Fantasy, Mystery, Urban Fantasy
This book was on my MUST HAVE list from the moment I realized it was a thing. I loved the first book Troubled Waters (Ace Fantasy Book) - Sharon Shinn so much and was so happy to know there was going to be a sequel that I pretty much sat in wait for this one.
That said, when I was done with it, I wasn't completely thrilled which kind of baffles me actually. My two favorite genre fiction categories to read are epic/high fantasy and romance. So an author like Sharon Shinn who does an almost complete blend of these two things is perfect for me. Normally she is. I adored her Twelve Houses series with Mystic and Rider (The Twelve Houses, Book 1) - Sharon Shinn being a permanent resident of my favorites shelf.
And like I said the first book of this series was wonderful and the major strength of that book, the world building, carries on to this one. The people and the special magic that makes of the land of Welce is still very much present.
Everyone in Welce has blessings that are made up of the elements: air, water, fire, earth, and wood. Their personality traits and even the people who wield magic are all informed by their personal element. Each element has a person known as a Prime who can command that particular element with amazing power. In the first book the heroine was Zoe Ardelay who was the Coru (water) Prime and she was able to command the river with devastating results.
In this book, Welce is actually moving toward something of an industrial revolution. And in a bit of irony, the Prime who commands the most seemingly ethereal of elements, air, is the one who is leading the charge. He has already invented that world's version of cars which are a curiosity to the people. And in this book he is turning his inventive mind to airplanes.
The hero is Rafe, a gambler and a bit of a mystery man who comes to the rescue of one of the Princesses of Welce. The story follows Rafe and his romance with princess Josetta and his fascination with wanting to be the guy who pilots the first plane. It also continues a lot of the court intrigue that began in the previous book and ups the ante with newer, more dangerous court intrigue.
I largely enjoyed the parts that revisited the characters from the first book, Zoe, her husband Darien and the continuing fall-out from the events that surrounded the royal family. It was nice to see the princesses Josetta and Corene all grown up as well as to see Alys (a semi-vilain from the first book) morph into a full-blown villain in this one.
But the engine that drives this book -- namely Rafe, his romance with Josetta and the move to incorporate technology into the magical world was a bit ho hum. I also was not at all surprised by the revelations surrounding Rafe's identity. The clues were anvilicious from the start. Like I said, I was a bit baffled why i didn't love it more. The book should have worked. it was well written, the world building was still good and it did what a sequel is supposed to which is build upon what happened in the first book. But in the end it was just ok.
It definitely fills the need if you like a great blend of high fantasy and romance. But if you want something that just...you know...UMPH! It isn't this. However, if you liked the first book you should read this one, especially since the ending makes it very likely that we will get a third book. Which...yeah, once I know what it is will go on my MUST HAVE list.