The Memory of Fire by Callie Bates
My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars
The Waking Land, first book in this series introduced us to Elanna Valtai, a teenage heroine who was enjoyable to read, and Jahan, a character who, as can be seen in my review of the previous book, I had reservations about. Whereas The Waking Land was all told from Elanna's POV, The Memory of Fire is Jahan's POV, a brave change of course for a second book. (Audiobook listeners who recall Erin Spencer's narration as Elanna in the first book will have Andrew Eiden narrating this book as Jahan.)
As the book opens, Elanna has exhausted herself and her powers trying to wake the land and restore agricultural fertility to villages in Eren. Jahan is called back to Paladis and we are introduced, through his painful memories and intrusive communique from a witch by the name Madiya (I kept thinking of Medea), to his painful history. Jahan and his younger brothers Rayka and Lathiel have all had their minds and their magic manipulated by Madiya. The damage done to their family has resulted in Jahan suffering lasting trauma and self-doubt. Madiya, using a combination of drugs and what can only be seen a coercion and torture, has sought to make Jahan resistant to the witch hunters, who use bells to see out those with magic. The tone of the bells disables the magician and from the opening scenes of the book we know that from early childhood, Jahan is as familiar with their use as he is with his own struggles to use magic in his homeland. (In contrast how to his magical ability flows when he is with Elanna in Eren.)
While I was interested in finding out more about Jahan's history, I found that I missed Elanna's bright voice. (I have to say that overall, Bates' prowess at the first person POV writing has improved since the first book.) This is a much darker book than the first entry in the series, because Jahan has had a much darker life. The political intrigue that awaits Jahan back in Ida is fast and thick, as he finds Lathiel addicted to opium, Rayka missing, his friend Prince Leontius on the outs, and all the usual fear of discovery should he or his brothers be revealed as sorcerers. Add to that Emperor Alakseus, who was less than thrilled with a Caveadear magically waking the land in Eren, having Elanna captured and dragged before him for draining of her power and execution. (He doesn't give a damn about kidnapping a subject from another country, dragging them before his throne and sentencing them to death for something that was legal in the country they were kidnapped from.) In attempting to protect her, Jahan himself is revealed as a sorcerer.
Some of the lackluster manner of Jahan that I felt in the first book is now clearly understandable after reading his history in this second book. His tendency to despair (in contrast to Elanna's resilience) made the middle portion of the book drag a bit but the last third of the book is full of action, as things must be put aright in Paladis. It is also full of Elanna and Jahan working in synchrony and ultimately I have decided I like them together. Jahan is a different character when Elanna is around.
This book's final chapter and epilogue provide a clear opening for a third book in the series. Bates has created a world that is fresh and characters who have plenty more life in them. I will definitely pick up the next book to see what trouble Elanna and Jahan get into next. I do have to say that I hope it will be Elanna telling us about it, however. The comparative vivacity of her POV just makes for an easier read.
I received a Digital Review Copy of this Book from Del Rey and NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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