Tuesday 5 September 2017

Fireblood (Frostblood Saga #2), Elly Blake

"Should you pass," she said, "you will become a Fireblood master"

Against all odds, Ruby has defeated the villainous Frost King and melted his throne of ice. But the bloodthirsty Minax that was trapped inside is now haunting her kingdom and everyone she loves. 

Despite warnings from her beloved Arcus, Ruby accompanies a roguish Fireblood named Kai to Sudesia, where she must master her control of fire in a series of trials to gain the trust of the suspicious Fireblood queen. But as sparks fly in her moments alone with Kai, how can Ruby decide whom to trust? The fate of both kingdoms is now in her hands.

* * *
3 / 5

After my very disappointing encounter with Frostblood, I was reluctant to crack the metaphorical spine of Fireblood. But from the very first page of Fireblood I could tell that, as a writer, Blake had improved massively. The writing style was so much better! Whilst the plot was still bland and full of tropes, Ruby got a bit of spice and the writing was just so much more pleasant to read.  

"Well, what do you think?" I asked with forced lightness. "Prophecy or madness?"

If you recall, we left Ruby having destroyed the Frost Throne, setting loose the Frost Minax (evil shadow creature), and swooning into the arms of Arcus, new-to-be-King of Tempesia. We meet Ruby again as she attempts to navigate her unstable role in court: something of a Lady, favoured by King Arcus but despised by the court. Arcus, who initially appeared to be a touch more likeable than in Frostblood (I'll come back to him later), seems determined to make the court, and indeed the country, accept Firebloods whilst Ruby grows more miserable. This antagonism comes to a head at a court ball: Ruby is attacked by Frostbloods but is defended by a very attractive (of course) Fireblood who asks her to meet him at a harbour, where she could join him in his boat to Sudesia. 

As one might imagine, Arcus is not very happy about Ruby's intentions to voyage the high seas with a rogueish handsome lad. He returns to being the Arcus I knew and hated: angry, sulky, and basically a spoiled brat about Ruby's desires to do something he doesn't very much like. Never mind the fact that he's been keeping secrets from her... Ruby intends to go to Sudesia, destroy the Fireblood throne in order to free their Queen from the curse, and capture the Fire Minax to use to it to destroy the Frost Minax. 

I did think that the plot could have been more inspired. It parallels the plot of Fireblood a lot. We have: Ruby, uncertain of herself and her powers, goes to meet member of royalty with intention of destroying throne. Check. Cute romance-able boy in tow. Check. Some sort of trial that Ruby must go through to prove herself. Check. There's also a few cliched reveals that would be spoiler-y to share, so I'll keep a lid on those. Rest assured that Ruby remains a very special young lady, albeit a more likeable and confidently mature one.

"Some of us have to fight for the things that are offered so readily to others." 
"Stop wallowing. You're a blasted prince for Sud's sake."

There's a couple of new characters in Fireblood, but the main one is Kai. He's from Sudesia and thus represents a lot to Ruby: history, family, and a possible home. He's also rakish and funny and would have been so much better as a friend rather than a love interest. I wasn't actually initially opposed to the idea, due to my dislike of Arcus, but his romance with Ruby was so poorly developed, just used as a prop to provoke some tension between Ruby and Arcus. A certain event happens between Ruby and Kai (you'll know it when you read it) that is also so under-utilised and would have, I thought, been much more interesting if he really was just a friend. There's also the Queen of Sudesia who is thankfully a more developed character than the Frost King.

All in all, Fireblood is an impressive improvement on Frostblood, though it still didn't manage to wow me. Romance fans should like the addition of Kai, whilst action fans will like the fire-fighting sequences.

My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for an ARC of this book

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