Last year I had so much fun reading The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas. By no means a perfect book, it still greatly entertained me. I loved Iolanthe and Titus, finding myself invested in their struggle against evil. I was naturally a little nervous going into The Perilous Sea because its the middle of a trilogy, and those books tend to be the most painful. I won't sugarcoat it folks, this book will cause pain for anyone who loves the two main characters as much as I. But it will also cause many squeals, smiles, and joy as it is just as much fun to read as its predecessor.
You should probably read The Burning Sky before reading this review.
After spending the summer away from each other, Titus and Iolanthe (still disguised as Archer Fairfax) are eager to return to Eton College to resume their training to fight the Bane. Although no longer bound to Titus by a blood oath, Iolanthe is more committed than ever to fulfilling her destiny—especially with the agents of Atlantis quickly closing in.
Soon after arriving at school, though, Titus makes a shocking discovery, one that makes him question everything he previously believed about their mission. Faced with this devastating realization, Iolanthe is forced to come to terms with her new role, while Titus must choose between following his mother's prophecies—and forging a divergent path to an unknowable future.
My admiration for Iolanthe grew by leaps and bounds in this volume. She is steadfast, honest, and implacable all the way through often in the face of Titus being a complete idiot. And let me tell you he had me wanting to reach into the book and smack him over the head so many times. Not that I didn't understand where his pain and tortured reasoning was coming from. I just had no patience for it. Nothing more infuriating than a mama's boy. Oh-except one who is letting his mama control him when she isn't even alive anymore. Fortunately he is able to work this out for himself in due time, but prepare for frustration aplenty before he does. Iolanthe turned slightly annoying during this phase too, but not nearly as bad or for as long. And in the end it is all worth it, because it does result in some great development of their relationship, solidifying it even more. And in an ingenious move of narrative cleverness, we also get plenty of the banter, flirting, and slow burn romance that was them falling for each other in the first place. Not really going to say much about that so as not to ruin anything, but LOVED what Thomas did there.
The secondary characters play a far more important role in this book. The Burning Sky concentrated on building the world and the characters of Iolanthe and Titus. With these firmly established, Thomas takes some time to develop other characters. Kashkari and Lady Wintervale are two of my favorites from this story, and I can't wait to see what the future holds for Kashkari especially. Errrr...as long as he survives the third book. (Please let him survive the third book!) There is a fascinatingly mysterious new character introduced that I can't wait to learn more about too.
We also learn more about the Bane and exactly how horribly villainous he is. Also creepy. While the main villain, Iolanthe and Titus didn't need to confront his evil as much in the first book, going up against his chief minion instead. But here the Bane is stalking them quietly himself, while they are discovering more of the hideous deeds he has carried out making him into a truly dangerous and creepy threa,t and not just a shadowy distant presence of evil.
The plot and narrative are broken in half and told in alternating chapters. As I said above, this narrative move was brilliant because it maintained a heightened mystery and gave me a break from Titus being stupid. In one narrative thread Iolanthe and Titus are at at Eton. Things are unraveling, dangerous stuff is afoot, and they are making discoveries that are horrifying them at every turn. The other narrative thread is really fascinating, taking place in the not too distant future from the Eton narrative. Through this narrative the full potential of Iolanthe's power in the real world and the strength of the team she and Titus are together is fully unveiled. There is so much danger, mystery, and intrigue in this part of the narrative. That's all I'm going to say about that.
The Perilous Sea is full of twists and intrigue. I liked it even more than the first one in the end. I'm grateful for Shae for reading it first and fully supporting me as I DMed her through my entire reading of the novel with complaints about Titus, excitement over reveals, suspicions, and general thoughts. My husband thanks her too as it spared him from lots of information and second-hand angst over something he knows and cares nothing about.
If you liked The Burning Sky, you need to read this. If you are haven't read The Burning Sky yet, but are a lover of fantasy, political intrigue, and romance, these are perfect books for you. You should get them. It's just so hard knowing we have a year to wait for the next one. Sigh.
I read an e-galley provided by the publisher, Balzer & Bray, via Edelweiss. The Perilous Sea is available for purchase on September 16th.