It’s time for the Tournament of Blades, the annual celebration where all the magical families of Cloudburst Falls send champions to compete for the hefty cash prize (and, more importantly to the families but not for Lila, the prestige). It’s a major tourist event and there’s no way it can’t go ahead
Even if one of the competitors seems to be trying to kill the competition.
Both Lila and Devon are competing for the Sinclair family, giving them a double motive to win – and to stay alive and find out who is behind it.
This is the second book in the series and I think it is an excellent next step. This book took the storyabove and beyond the first and helped banish some of the parallels with the Elemental Assassins Seriesthat I found so strong before. This book took the excellent foundation of the first and expanded it and cemented this book as its own.
I’m honestly kind of frustrated with this review because all I really have is a lot of well deserved but somewhat vague praise.
I love the world building, it’s very original with the combination of noble houses who run this town, each of them controlled by magical people all vying against each other, a modern setting and a range of monsters lurking around the fringes of a tourist trap. I like the combination of both the dark danger hiding behind every corner and the bright, shiny exterior which is all welcoming and kitsch for the tourists. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition, the pageantry with the lethal politics lurking just under the surface.
I love the protagonist Lila, with her endless love of bacon and her complicated relationship with the family. Her conflict about being both part of the Sinclair family and outside of it is excellent. Her conflict over whether she can trust the head of the family, whether she can really get invested in it and whether she can really establish any connections there. Her conflict is very real as she both wants to protect and help the family but still feels she needs to be ready to leave at any time and all of this is linked to her complicated memories of her mother who was both loyal to the Sinclairs – and died because of that loyalty. On top this we have her life as a thief, her habit of keeping her head low and hiding and now she’s very much thrust into the lime light, drawing lots of attention and being really uncomfortable about it. This past also comes with an experience of being poor – so even when in two minds about the Sinclairs, their wealth and the comfort she lives in now are not things she can step aside from. I like how well this is down, Lila never feels like she’s greedy or grasping – she feels exactly like what she is, a character who knows poverty and is unwilling to dismiss the security of wealth. She’s a character with a lot of interesting and very real conflicts about her.
The one element I didn’t like about her was her romance with Devon. It feels very forced – along with the whole “I can’t possibly fall in love with him for REASONS!” It’s like we have this whole excellent story and then someone’s looked up some checklist and announced “this needs a romance. A female protagonist must have a rocky romance. It is known. It is in the rules” so Devon and Lila became a thing – only not a thing because there has to be some barrier (Lila is reluctant… for… reasons).
Other romances in the book I liked, especially the romance between Felix and Deah. Not because I especially like the romance and Romeo and Juliet has been done so often, but I appreciated an attempt to make some members of the Draconi family redeemable (unfortunately the general characterisation of the bad guys is terribad people who are bad. Nuanced it is not but, at the same time, while they’re terribad they’re not necessarily cartoonishly so). Even better, while Deah is showed as redeemable and complex and not just one of the evil Draconi, she is also shown as such through avenues other than her relationship with Felix. Her love interest isn’t what makes her good or her avenue for redemption or anything like that.
I can’t say the same about Felix and Katia – I don’t think that the romance really added anything since Katia Already had the excellent conflict with Deah and the characterisation of her father (though, I have to say, I’m not entirely thrilled with Katia’s alcoholic father being presented as the ultimate source of all that is wrong in her life especially since we saw little about him other than being a drunk). Again, it felt like romantic conflict was squeezed in because it must be!