Monday, November 24, 2014

Review: Fire in the Blood by Erin M. Evans

Having survived the Shade's internment camps and come to grips with the missing years in their life, Farideh and Havilar travel to Suzail, capital city of Cormyr.  There, they hope to give Brin time to work out the problem of his engagement to the Princess of Cormyr, Raedra Obarskyr.  At the same time, Farideh must wrestle with the recent discovery that she is a Chosen of Asmodeus, and the terrible power that comes with such an arrangement.  Dahl and Vercaras also are in the city, and hope to investigate the disappearance of one of their Harper operatives in the city.  But hoping for any respite to get one's bearings proves impossible, for Cormyr is at war with the Shade, and life in a country at war is anything but predictable.

Fire in the Blood is my second Erin Evans book.  I began reading with The Adversary, which I thought was excellent.  This book, however, was another step forward.  The challenge in the Adversary was largely one of isolation.  This book, however, puts Fari and Havi at the center of a vast conflicts that erupt not just among political factions within Cormyr, but also between the nations of Cormyr and Netheril.  

All of the major characters undergo a great deal of development in this book.  Havilar must wrestle with the strains that reality place on her now-adult relationship with Brin, who is pulled between duty to his country and his love of Havilar.  Farideh must continue to struggle with her relationship with Lorcan, the half-devil, and the question of whether to pursue it as a romance or write it off as nothing more than the pact.  The character, however, who really surprised me in this book was Dahl.  After returning, unexpectedly, to field operations in the Adversary, Dahl is back in full action in this book--and proves time and again to be exceptionally good at his job.  He continues to be plagued by his fall from paladin-hood with Oghma, but his regrets over his past no longer smother him.  In fact, he often thrives, and may be the most effective character in the book.  We are also treated to a full development of Princess Raedra, who proves to be a nuanced, powerful figure in her own right, with no shortage of humanity.  In many ways, this book is her story, and it's worth every page turn.

As with the Adversary, all of this goodness is rooted firmly to Forgotten Realms lore, both on Toril itself, as well on other planes, including the nine hells.  There are nods to current events in the realms, including the current Tyranny of Dragons storyline.  There are also references to events in other recent Realms books, such as the siege of Marsember in Troy Denning's The Sentinel and the future massing of armies to attack Myth Drannor, as told in Ed Greenwood's The Herald.  I also found neat connections to other Realms stories that I'm reading.  For example, Raedra made mention of Alusair Obarskyr, the Steel Regent, a prominent figure in Cormyr's history.  She also made an appearance in Tiberius's Neverwinter Nights module, Saleron's Gambit, which I was playing as a read this book.  It is these kinds of connections that makes reading and playing in the Forgotten Realms so much fun.

This was the best book I've read all year long, and I've had a lot of fun reading this year.  Highly recommended to everyone.

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