East and West. Humans and Spirits. Breccans and Tamerlaines. The Isle of Cadence has always held itself and its residents in a tenuous balance. But now Bane, the spirit of the North Wind, has pushed everyone and everything in his path off-kilter in a bid to claim dominion over all.
In the West, Adaira struggles to adjust to the more brutal, bitter ways of life among the Breccans. Striving to find her place in the clan, she swiftly realises that it just might be the last role she desires to hold. And while magic blooms effortlessly for the Breccans in the west, the spirits continue to suffer beneath Bane’s harsh power, felt in every gust of wind.
In the East, Jack is adrift without Adaira until he sings to the ember-weak fire spirits, acquiring a dangerous mission he never expected. One that is destined to lead him westward. Likewise, Torin and Sidra are consumed by a new mystery as sickness spreads first amongst the crops, and then to the people of the Tamerlaine clan. While Sidra desperately searches for a cure, Torin dares to strike a bargain with the spirits—a precarious folly anytime, but especially now as the days grow darker.
With the island falling further out of balance, humans and spirits alike will need to join together to face Bane, and Jack’s gift with the harp will be called upon once more. Yet no one can challenge the North Wind without paying a terrible price, and the sacrifice required this time may be more than Jack, Adaira, Torin, and Sidra can bear to pay.
After angering Bane, The North wind, Jack and Adaira find themselves on opposite sides of the Cadance. Adaira in the West, rediscovering the family she never knew she had in a place harsher and less forgiving than the one she left. Jack in the East, mourning the loss of his love and also fighting to learn all he can about Bane to help defeat him. But their’s are not the only drama unfolding across the Isle. Torin and Sidra have found a new sickness, one that spreads via touch and with no cure in sight. The island is falling out of balance, and to fix it it will take spirits and humans, east and west working together, but taking down The North Wind requires a sacrifice, one that Jack, Adaira, Torin, and Sidra might not be willing to pay.
A Fire Endless picks up after the ending of A River Enchanted. Adaira has found out she is a Breccan, spirited across the clan line as a babe and raised as a Tamerlaine, none the wiser to her heritage. Now residing in the West she learns that her true heritage is one of blood and poison and death, harsher and more brutal than how she was raised in the East. She wonders how she could come from the aloof Innes Breccan, the pair more different than similar, but the more time she spends there, the more she see’s a way to end their harsh lives and start afresh. Jack is lost without Adaira, he spends his time moping along the Isle looking for ways to spend time, until he gets visited by a Fire spirit who tells him that he is the only one who can defeat Bane, the only one who can end his reign and bring peace back to the Isle and the spirit world. A mighty task, but one Jack throws himself into with relish. I loved these two in the first book, but separating them added a whole extra depth and longing to the story, and I was desperate to see them re-united.
Alongside Adaira and Jack, we have Torin and Sidra, who get more of a main role in this story and I loved the progression of their relationship. After finding the blight that is affecting the spirit and mortal world, Sidra spends her days trying to find a cure, but it is Torin who enters a door to the spirit realm and finds himself whisked away with nothing but a riddle to help him save his people. I think what I loved most about this story was getting to spend more time in and learning about The west, something we got little of in the first book. The characters that inhabit the western part of the isle are harsher and less forgiving than their Eastern brethren, some I loved and others I hated, but they all added to the tension of the story and impacted it in one way or another.
As I said above, I loved learning more about The West in A Fire Endless. We already know from book one the differences in how the curse affected the different clans, The Eastern Tamerlaines given plentiful harvests, land that grows all the food they could need, whereas the working of magic effects a great and heavy toll on them. For The West however, the Breccans were forced to live on a land they struggled to live from, but they could work magic at no cost. Their histories play a large roll in the story, as well as being used for foreshadowing and I loved seeing the differences between the two clans, especially through Adaira’s eyes, someone who lead the Tamerlaine clan and now is in line to rule the Breccans.
Ross’ writing style is prosaic, lyrical and atmospheric. It’s easy, having visited the Scottish Isles numerous times, to feel as if you have been transported there whilst reading. Her descriptions of everything from the landscape to the weather and smells help to build the Isle of cadence up in your head, almost make it a living, breathing thing in it’s own right. I think what I love about this series, and what makes it so different from others are the fight scenes which aren’t shown through heavy blows, punches or sword fights, but rather through music and song, through wind and rain, a single bard versus the elements, and these scenes are some of my favourite in the book and so incredibly well written.
If I had one, minor issue with the story it was the pacing. I do feel like the author spent a little too much time on certain parts of the book, which then lead to the bigger scenes seemingly flying by. But that is minor in comparison to all the things I loved about it. It’s romantasy at it’s best. Filled with relationships that are steeped in intimacy, trust and belief, relationships based on the small steady things rather than large declarations of love. Ross has certainly cemented herself as one of my favourite authors and I already can’t wait to get my hands on her next book.