[A quick note: This book releases September 22nd. I read it back to back after the first book. It ends on a bit of a cliff hanger so now I must wait. ARGG. Waiting is so hard. But I did enjoy it so I’m okay with that. After reading the ebook version of the first book Beasts of the Frozen Sun, which I reviewed here, I HAD to buy the physical copy. The cover was just too stunning. This cover is also so gorgeous. I wish I had a physical copy to go with it. Ebook photos are always harder to capture.]
(4.5/5⭐️) “I dropped into his soul, light as a petal, steady as a root. His essence was a mosaic: loves and losses, victories and sins, memories, thoughts—everything that made him who he was. I drew it toward me, calling his soul as if it was a creature, and it bowed to me, its mistress. His soul was mine to control. I commanded it to shatter.”
What an absolute transformation our hero takes from the woman she is in book one, to now. Lira has lost everything, including Reyker. She watched her home burn and her family slaughtered at the hands of the Beasts of the Frozen sun. She wants vengence. Filled with the essence of the Fallen Gods, she embarks on a quest into enemy territory, to the frozen mountain of fire. But the Dragon is waiting for her, and no matter how hard she fights, he is always one step ahead. He is determined to claim her, to take her as his consort, and she must give everything to resist him. Reyker is fighting too, living under the false belief that Lira is dead. Only their love has the power to bring them back together. Even that might not be enough.
Wow! What a wild ride! The amount of suspense Jill Criswell employed by flipping between Lira and Reyker kept me turning pages at an insane speed. The story was FAR from predictable, so I was constantly trying to chart a path through the plot each time I set it down, ever unsatisfied by my own theories, which drove me to pick it right back up again.
Jill’s writing paints a portrait of a Viking inspired society that is both beautiful and brutal. I love the realism she brings to the pages. These warriors are deadly and flawed. Most of the characters are morally gray. Yet, the depth to which she has constructed them is outstanding. Case in point: I found myself relating to the Dragon in more than one instance. I still hate him, but I hope there might be some redemption for him in the third book. This is just an example of Jill’s talent with his character.
“...just as desire and morality do not exist on the same plane, neither does hate live alone in its castle.” (Spoken by the Dragon)
This quote really resonated with me. It was one of my favorite lines from Draki. He made a difficult but valid statement when he said this. I liked it.
Regarding the plot, Reyker and Lira are frequently crossing paths, but just a second too late. That frustrated me in a good way. I found myself practically yelling at them. No! Wait just a moment longer and you’ll see her! But they always barely missed each other. This technique kept me on the edge of my seat for the first half of the book. Then, when Lira comes to the Dragon’s lair, I was eager to learn more about her magic, and thrilled by the powers she developed.
“Just like that, I made my choice. Damn the god of death and his serpent-bitch sister. Damn the twisted monsters Veronis and his brethren had become. Whatever choices I made from here on would be to right the wrongs that had been done to the first gifted girl of Glasnith, a girl who’d been betrayed by her family and her gods just as I had, whose life and love were stolen from her as mine were. The woman my mother named me after.”
As a character, Lira’s growth is insane. She goes from a helpless woman stuck in her father’s clan, controlled by his decisions, to a woman who takes matters into her own hands. And there are times that she makes brutal decisions to kill. This is NOT this same woman we saw in Glasnith. I loved the changes. I loved the morally gray decisions she made. Her character thrilled me.
Reyker was...well, Reyker. He does the best he can, but when the battle sickness takes him, there’s not much he can do to stop it. He makes one questionable decision in the second half of the book that really challenges his morality. I liked that. No one is perfect, and he’s been thrust from one extreme circumstance to the next.
The love between Reyker and Lira endures. It drives each of them throughout the plot. I was sad that they got so little time together. But the moments were beautiful.
“These scars tell the story of our love. What we fought through and sacrificed to be together. If you erase them, you erase us.”
My only qualm with this story was the ending. I felt like after two books of hunting the dragon, there should have been more closure. Lira and Reyker are no closer to defeating him. If anything, their plight seems more hopeless than it did at the end of book one. I felt as if I was being dangled at the end of a string. The cliff hanger was great, but I’m mildly frustrated at this point. So I’ll have to trust Jill. Book three had better bring things to a resolution or I’m going to have trouble continuing after that. My patience will certainly run out. That being said, I can’t wait to see how Jill handles Lira’s character and the change we witness at the end of the second book.
I can’t wait for book three! A big thank you to Netgalley and Blackstone Publishing for gifting me a copy in exchange for an honest review.