Once upon a time, a girl picked up a book about seraphim and chimaera.
And she couldn’t put it down.
The angels have won. The war is over.
Or is it? The world that Akiva and Madrigal dreamed of doesn’t exist. Eretz, while not plagued by war, is war-torn. Death is still rampant.
Karou now knows who she is and both she and Akiva have returned to their people in Eretz. They are now pitted against each other in the remains of hatred from the war.
And yet, they find themselves still in search of the same thing: hope.
I am astounded by the amount of story in this book. Absolutely blown away.
Taylor makes blatant parallels between Akiva and Karou’s stories, which I think is essential in novels about war. There isn’t one side that is obviously better than the other. Both sides are corrupted. Both sides are humanized. Both sides are destroyed.
What I enjoy about the plot even more is that Taylor makes Earth a very important place. Typically, fantasy ignores that the Earth exists, or implies that it can fall victim. Wizards in Harry Potter don’t fraternize with muggles. Shadowhunters don’t generally involve mundanes in their affairs (unless they turn out to be part of their world in one way or another). And we all know what the Mist is for in Percy Jackson.
Taylor doesn’t do that. Earth is very much involved in this story. It is a refuge. It is a weapon.
I also enjoy the fact that while the initial hook for the novel is the forbidden love, we’re not dealing with the lovers on a “Watch us conquer the world together and show them they were wrong” level. Not at all. Karou and Akiva are more like, “Everything is literally our fault, how could we be so stupid as to fall in love?”
And that’s the story I want to read.
This cast of characters is vast and complex. Which may be a slight downside.
In terms of recurring characters, Karou, Akiva, Mik, Zuzana, Liraz and Hazael were really great in this book. I’m particularly happy with the development of the seraphim characters because there wasn’t much of them in the first book, but they are central here. And we all know I love Mik and Zuzana.
Dare I say that Karou and Akiva aren’t the most engaging protagonists? Karou, I’m okay with. She’s got spunk, but she has limits. Her resilience is astonishing. I can identify with her on some level.
Akiva got better too. Is he still lovesick? Almost annoyingly so, but I don’t hate him for it. I like that he wants to make a change, he wants to do something. But I still don’t have a good hold of his character beyond loving Karou/Madrigal.
Thiago is an interesting character. There were points of dialogue where I couldn’t tell if he was sincere or not, which just defines his character so well. He’s a better antagonist that Joram, that’s for sure. He’s a charming scumbag and I hate him in the way you should hate any antagonist.
Ziri is probably my favourite addition. He’s honorable and hardened by war, and yet still growing out of that boyishness Madrigal knew him as.
Some people might bemoan Taylor for inserting Zuzana and Mik into the story; for inserting Sveva and Sarazal. Not me.
Every single scene in this book is important. If it doesn’t further plot, it adds character development. If it doesn’t add character development, it fills in the picture of Eretz. If it’s not painting the setting, then it is providing a much needed comedic relief.
Taylor knows how to distribute and pace these elements. Zuzana, Mik, and Hazael aren’t the only sources of light-hearted comedy. Kaoru and Akiva aren’t the only sources of despair.
The world building in this book is, once again, phenomenal. Every time I delve into this series I feel like I wandered into a dream world. It’s well constructed. It’s believable. It’s just so well done.
Where do I even begin? This is a war novel, no doubts there.
The book is largely about the mistreament of bodies. How war destroys everyone: mutilating victims, impersonalizing soldiers. How women are used for sex, how men are used for muscle.
And at the same time, the book spends a lot of time humanizing both sides of the war. Little sketches on the seraphim silverswords and the music loving chimaera show how they still enjoy simple pleasures, how they still have concern.
Which brings me to the last point: there is a lot about compassion in this story too. Sveva’s story line is really important to this. And Akiva’s.
I adore this book. It’s a raw depiction of war, it’s an epic. It’s stunning, it’s engaging, it’s absolutely phenomenal.
Recommendation: Buy. Buy, buy, buy, buy, buy. I don’t think I can recommend this book enough. Buy it.