Book Review: RISE UP FROM THE EMBERS by Sara Raasch and Kristen Simmons

Title in white on grey-blue sea with two figures surrounded by water magic
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: yes - second book of duology

*SPOILER ALERT: contains SPOILERS for SET FIRE TO THE GODS*

Synopsis:

Book cover for RISE UP FROM THE EMBERS: title in orange below two figures with water powers on blue

Two gods are dead. The Mother Goddess has returned. War is rising.

Fleeing war-ravaged Deimos, Ash and Madoc sail across the ocean to their only possible allies: the water and plant gods. But when Anathrasa attacks on the way, Ash leaps to the defense—by using a power she didn’t know she had.

When Madoc made the fire and earth gods mortal, he inadvertently transferred their magic to Ash. Now, if Ash can get energeias from the other four gods, she would be powerful enough to end Anathrasa once and for all. But not all the gods want the Mother Goddess defeated. To stop her, Madoc will have to become the obedient son his mother always wanted, and Ash will have to take a merciless place among the gods.

To defeat an immortal, Ash and Madoc must fight like gods—even if it means sacrificing their humanity.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

Often, sequels are longer than the preceding books, but RISE UP FROM THE EMBERS is ~80 pages shorter than SET FIRE TO THE GODS without feeling rushed. There are some epic fight sequences with all the magic types (yay! The last book was basically just earth and fire!) and the gladiator style was still retained, just altered because of the new purpose and barbarity of it – expect this time, a lot of it was observed until the bigger battles.

Antheara’s power is really not nice, and seeing that explored was pretty horrifying. It’s nice when a villain is very over-powered, but not enough that it feels like they can’t be defeated reasonably. Instead, you know she can – if Ash and Madoc can team up. So she’s trying to stop them – and is pretty effective at that. That is where the stakes and danger come in.

We only really see one new place (the ice/water land) and a little bit of another (the plant land) but a lot of the book is in the earth-country again, so there’s less time needing to be spent on world building. Would it have been nice to see the other countries? Yes. Would that have probably bloated the book with side-trips? Probably. Instead, the focus on existing locations lets the story stay in tight to the main story line and conflict.

There was a point in the romance arc that really annoyed me, because as soon as the scene happened, I could tell exactly what would happen – and how it would cause drama. So I spent 1.5 chapters waiting for the disaster to play out. The problem I have with these events is that the drama feels manufactured, not based on any sort of deep character wound or growth, or fundamental difference in mindset or values. This makes it feel flimsy and contrived, as it’s not affecting the characters beyond “make them fight.”

I was, however, pleasantly surprised that they get over it so quickly. Usually, in the books (predominantly YA) that I read with this sort of contrived romantic “drama”, it’s chapters and chapters or nonsense non-talking or sullenness. That’s the sort of thing that makes me toss books, because it’s so fake – designed for that purpose without forcing characters to actually grow. But here, they actually talk and get over it in short order – which was, frankly, a relief.

Overall, it’s a fun duology, perfect for those who like elemental magic and a slightly Roman-esque world.


Read my reviews of other books by Sara Raasch and Kristen Simmons:

Together

Set Fire to the Gods (this series):

By Sara Raasch

Stream Raiders:

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