Genre: Fantasy (political!) Age Range: Adult (but easily could by YA as well) Star Rating: 4/5 stars Series: yes - book 1 of Swords and Fire
Amalia isn’t the heir her mother wants – she’d much rather study her books and work on intricate artifice designs than attend council meetings. But one day, Amalia will have to take her place on the Council one day.
Searching for a book, Amalia is enlisted to stop fire warlock Zaira burning the city down, slipping a jess on Zaira’s wrist. Once on, the jess contains Zaira’s fire, and only Amalia can release it. Fire warlocks are rare, a terrifying weapon in the Raverran Empire’s arsenal – a weapon that might be used to burn a city if it won’t bend the knee. Someone wants war to explode across the empire, and the Doge is losing patience.
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I’ve always loved the political side of fantasy, but this is the book that really hooked me into scouring for other similar books. (Recommendations PLEASE!)
I love this book, particularly the twisty ins and outs of all the political scheming. It was impossible to predict and made me race through to find out exactly who was behind the schemes – and what their overall plan was. This is my second read, and it was so much fun to go ‘ah, s/he said/did that because [major end spoiler]!”
The Venetian-esque setting suits the story perfectly. Venice with its masks and waterways has always seeped intrigue to me – and splendour.
Amalia is an interesting character, who has to juggle all the expectations of her position with the new duty laid on her as an accidental Falconer. I love that her strength is her mind, not her fighting skills (which Zaira constantly points out are terrible).
The first time I read this book, I thought she lacked flaws (though she was a solid, believable character). However, on this read, I saw them far more – they’re just subtle flaws which make her more realistic. She’s afraid of failing/disappointing her mother but is also afraid of the expectations her mother has.
The blurb of the copy I read had Zaira mentioned first, when she isn’t the MC, but a supporting cast member. The story is told from Amalia’s perspective, following her and the intrigues around her. Zaira is very important, but not first-person-on-the-blurb important. She’s fiery (with the BEST curses) and watching her speak her mind, very bluntly, to all the rich nobles is amazing.
Marcello is so shipable, sweet and learning to step back from overprotective-soldier mode to trusting that Amalia has things under control.
This book series has capable women front and centre, where physical strength is a minor mark on the metric. It was wonderful to have a fantasy world where women aren’t doubted, but accepted easily into the inner circles of power. La Contessa is terrifying (in a good way) and I was always on edge to know exactly what she’d do. Istrella is every geek’s inner self – her enthusiasm reaching off the page to infect me. I want to learn artifice now! I’m so glad I found this book.
Read my reviews of other books by Melissa Caruso
Swords and Fire (this series):
Rooks and Ruin: