A blend of Greek myth and original fantasy romance makes this series a tasty treat. The Kingmaker Chronicles launched hard and fast with the first book and I had high hopes for more gritty adventure and sparkling character interactions with Breath of Fire, the second leg of the story and I indeed got that.
At this point, I would caution anyone who wishes to read the series that it might be best to skip my review until after reading the first book as there will be some series spoilers involved in discussing this second installment which really shouldn’t be read out of order.
Breath of Fire leaps right back into the fray of Cat and Griffin’s tempestuous courtship when Griffin discovers the truth about Cat’s identity as the Lost Princess. She fears her dishonesty might have pushed him too far on top of learning that the neighboring kingdom of Tarva has designs on conquering their own. Cat and Griffin decide on a bold plan to defend Sinta so their Beta patrol group heads out on a quest to acquire the perfect border defense. Their journey is fraught with danger as is the test the gods put to them. Even more truths become known as the group learns more about themselves and each other. Cat is terrified that each new revelation will be enough to drive Griffin away and he is strained, but mostly trying to keep her impulsiveness and lack of trust in check.
And then the real danger confronts them…
Wow, this one did not let up. The action was palpable and had me holding my breath and flying through the pages as did the tension caused by Cat and Griffin’s circumstances and relationship. More reveals and I could see how this one was like a chess game moving players into position for the end of the game. The gods favor Cat and their group, but yet even their interference barely keeps them alive and pushing forward with the goal of uniting the warring kingdoms.
Those who read my review of book one, A Promise of Fire, know that I was somewhat on the fence about Cat because her behavior and personality felt younger than she really was. This feeling continued and even grew stronger which made the abundance of sexy time feel weird to a certain extent. Cat is more impulsive and pulls a lot of stubborn-stupids in this one. She’s lucky more than right which I guess isn’t a big deal except others are affected by her choices, too. The redeeming factor is that Cat is self-aware and learns from her mistakes. There is also a reveal at the end that shows there is a valid reason for a great deal of Cat’s behavior and forced me to re-assess and lose some of my ambivalence toward her character.
As to Griffin and the others of their family and friends group, they are solid secondary characters. Each has their own backstory and ongoing plot thread that weaves around Cat who is the focal point. I love the cast of characters the author has assembled to go on adventures and journeys with Cat. They work together as a team and they work as a motley crew of underdog friends.
The villains and conflict set against Cat and the others is powerful and tough so that there were no easy wins. This series relies on the Deus Ex Machina literary device (a god or god figure introduced into a story to resolve the conflict) which generally is a no-no, but I actually thought it worked fabulously with this story in particular. I think this is because the author doesn’t try to sneak it in just to cover a weak moment in the plot, but the reader knows all along as does Cat that she’s got big-time back-up when things go awry. I grew to highly anticipate the danger moments just to see what the watching gods would do to aid Cat.
Cat and Griffin’s tested and tried relationship deepens. I felt that there were probably more sex scenes than necessary particularly under the circumstances, but there were also pivotal moments when they make the choice to hold together and be a couple. Cat wants to pull away and spare Griffin just as he wants to keep her out of danger, but both know deep down that they must push forward together. There are changes in this one and I appreciated how strong and courageous Griffin had to be to not just fight, but sometimes to stand strong and let Cat fight and go it without him. He stood beside her when the time came for her call the shots.
In the end, I am left well-satisfied with this installment and waiting (im)patiently for the next part of the Kingmaker Chronicles story. Fantasy Romance fans who like spice and strong action really need to pick up this book/series.
My thanks to Sourcebooks Casablanca for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.