The Concord has been broken, and a war of magic engulfs the world.
In France, the brilliant young battle-mage Napoleon Bonaparte has summoned a kraken from the depths, and under his command the Army of the Dead have all but conquered Europe. Britain fights back, protected by the gulf of the channel and powerful fire-magic, but Wilberforce’s own battle to bring about free magic and abolition has met a dead end in the face of an increasingly fearful and repressive government. In Saint Domingue, Fina watches as Toussaint Louverture navigates these opposing forces to liberate the country.
But there is another, even darker war being fought beneath the surface: the first vampire war in hundreds of years. The enemy blood magician who orchestrated Robespierre’s downfall is using the Revolutionary Wars to bring about a return to dark magic to claim all of Europe. Across the world, only a few know of his existence and the choices they make will shape the new age of magic.
Thank you to Orbit Books for the review copy. I can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.
When I say I love this series, I mean I LOVE it. As a huge history buff this series sings to my soul, I’ve never read anything quite so historically accurate whilst also giving me the fantasy vibes that I long for. After reading A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians last year I couldn’t wait to start this, and it met every expectation I had and more.
England is at war with France. After the death of Robespierre, the Stranger has set his sights and his magic on Napoleon Bonaparte, a young battle mage whose mesmerism magic, though small, is perfect for what he has planned. Across the sea Wilberforce is still fighting for abolition as well as the free use of magic by the commoners, something the government can agree with as long as it is on their terms. In Saint Domingue, Fina and Toussaint work together to expel the British and French troupes still occupying, but the Stranger doesn’t want them to succeed. He has other plans, and his sights are set much higher than simply England or France. This is a battle years in the making, but if the Stranger has one fault, it’s underestimating those around him, something that could cause his downfall.
Parry has a knack for writing characters that you can’t help but adore, even when you don’t wholly agree with their actions or beliefs. None are perfect, they all have their faults but the fact they are based on true historical figures adds an extra depth and realness to the story. In France, the Stranger now has his magic set on Napoleon Bonaparte, he knows that his magic will come in useful in the battle to come, especially his animal mesmerism. But Bonaparte does not like to be used, he fights the Strangers influence and is not quite so easily bowed as Robespierre was.
In England, Pitt and Wilberforce are still at odds after their argument in the first book, they both want the same things but feel that they need to go about it differently. Wilberforce believes that the abolition of the slave trade should happen, no matter the cost. But Pitt is struggling with a Country at war and knows that nobody will agree to abolition if it means weakening England at a time it cannot afford to show weakness. They are stronger when working together, but their differences are setting them further and further apart.
In Saint Domingue, Fina and Toussaint are working to expel the English and French troupes that are still attempting to occupy. Fina knows the Stranger has moved on from Robespierre, but she cannot see his endgame no matter how much she digs. Her power is rare, and she quickly finds herself on the Strangers radar and though that scares her, it seems to scare him as well, though Fina does not realise why. Through Fina we realise that the Stranger isn’t quite as strong as we believe, he has a chink in his armour, one that Fina herself may have the power to break.
My favourite characters by far were Wilberforce and Fina. Wilberforce has an almost childlike view of the world, he knows the Slave trade is wrong and so it should be abolished, and you can’t help but be endeared to him because, even after failure after failure, he still fights for what he knows to be right. His relationship with Pitt is one of my favourites of the whole series, they have a depth of knowledge of each other that only comes from years spent together, and though they don’t always see eye to eye, you know they care deeply for each other and their banter is just hilarious.
Fina really comes into herself in this book. Her time spent with Toussaint has honed her magic, made it, and Fina herself stronger. I can’t talk about her journey in this book too much because it would give away huge spoilers, but suffice to say it is my favourite arc of the whole book, and some of her scenes gave me chills. Parry also excels at giving us side characters that we know almost as well as our MC’s. There are some that carry over from the first book, but my favourite by far was Hester, Pitt’s niece, who we meet in this book. Based on a real historical figure she is strong and witty and unafraid of a fight, something rare for a Lady of that time, but I just loved the scenes she was in.
You know that feeling when you think all hope is lost, and then something happens, something small or big, but it changes the playing field and the hairs on your arm stand on end? Well that how I felt reading this book, which considering I knew how it would end just shows Parry’s talent in writing. You are glued to the pages until the very last line and her mixture of action/fighting scenes, banter and historical moments ensures that the story flows without any lags. With the addition of magic, Parry can give us the history we all know whilst still ensuring we can be shocked by events… I mean, the French have a Kraken!
Parry’s use of the Stranger and magic in this series is just *chefs kiss.* She doesn’t want to take away from the atrocities caused by the British and French, but she instead uses him as a plot device to highlight this fact. The Stranger may be manipulating people behind the scenes, but he cannot make people do things they disagree with, he simply expands on their beliefs, making them stronger, harsher and slightly more deadly. She makes sure we all know who the true villain is, not someone pulling the strings but the people who started a war, who created laws, who fought to keep the slave trade alive. We see this most through the use of the bracelets the British commoners wear to stifle their magic, as well as the spellbinding used on the slaves, something that the Stranger uses to strengthen his own position, but did not cause.
As I read the last line I was just thinking ‘what’s next?’, whats happens after… and I genuinely think if Parry decided to re-write all of history including her fantasy elements that I would pick up every. single. book. Her descriptive writing ensures you are there, right alongside the characters as they enter battle, and even in the quieter moments. Some may find the story a little slow, but the build up just made the ending that much more spectacular and made certain that you were invested in every single character mentioned and their outcomes. I can safely say this is now an all time favourite series and Parry has become and insta buy author for me. One of the easiest 5 star’s I’ve given.