When word that Yelena is a Soulfinder—able to capture and release souls—spreads like wildfire, people grow uneasy. Already Yelena’s unusual abilities and past have set her apart. As the Council debates Yelena’s fate, she receives a disturbing message: a plot is rising against her homeland, led by a murderous sorcerer she has defeated before.…
Honor sets Yelena on a path that will test the limits of her skills, and the hope of reuniting with her beloved spurs her onward. Her journey is fraught with allies, enemies, lovers and would-be assassins, each of questionable loyalty. Yelena will have but one chance to prove herself—and save the land she holds dear.
Executive Summary: chaotic
I actually liked this book least of the three. It wasn’t by any means terrible, but it was just like wandering around with a lot of unconnected activities, quick wrap up and all the questions answered. I found that to be different than the previous books. (I was pleased that my fear of it turning into a political novel was unfounded though.)
We left the previous book with Yelena agreeing to be the liaison between Ixia and Sitia, and the mass murderer Ferde had been released by Cahil, the previously thought nephew of the King of Ixia (turned out he was a soldier’s son).
This book starts with Yelena trying to create a fire using her magic (the book is named Fire Study after all). She can’t figure out how. As she’s staring at a fire, a vision of her is created out of the fire. In this vision, Yelena is sucking the souls out of bodies and creating a soulless army. As Yelena wonders why she cannot control fire, an answer is told to her “because we need a way to kill you” and is covered by fire which she pulls away from just in time. She automatically thinks that it might be Roze (First Magician who hates her).
Yelena receives a message from Moon Man that he has located Cahil and Ferde. She and Leif go to meet him, much to the dismay of Roze (foreshadowing much?) who thinks they are wasting their time because Cahil and Ferde likely went a different direction. They find Marrok in the stable and agree to take him with them. They travel and meet Moon Man and another Sandseed named Tauno then head to find Cahil and Ferde. With the help of the Sandseed army, they attack the camp, but it is abandoned with the exception of one warper who poisons himself when they attack.
They track the Daviians to a hole (yes, seriously) which leads into a cave. They travel arduously through the cave, and when they exit into the jungle, they are attacked. (Why couldn’t they find the jungle without going through the cave? I don’t know.) They fake capture and find that Yelena is to be taken to Jal (who is presumably their leader). They attack, capture one prisoner and kill the rest. Moon Man explains that the Davaiians are performing Kirakawa which is using the life source of others to increase their own magical power and therefore becoming a Warper. (This is slightly different than the Efe ritual that Ferde was performing and although the difference was explained, it seemed the same to me…) From the prisoner, they know that Cahil and Ferde are moving towards the Zaltana clan with 12 Daviians.
Yelena goes up in the trees to track and is attacked by a necklace snake. She is saved by her cousin Chestnut who is a snake charmer. She goes back to the Zaltana homestead and finds that her father is missing. The others rejoin her and go to speak to the Zaltana elders. Yelena uses bats to “see” where the Daviians have taken her father and the two others. The Zaltanas set up an attack plan which involves using the necklace snakes as a distraction. During the attack, Yelena is again visited by the fire warper and uses the snake scent to attract a snake to help her escape. (an odd, risky maneuver if you ask me. Honestly the snakes in general were kind of an odd insert into the book…) She’s saved by Chestnut and the missing Zaltanas are rescued.
She and Leif head to the market to meet the horses and the Sandseeds (who tracked the fleeing Daviians). They only find the horses. As they are camping, Moon Man appears as he can travel via moonlight apparently. They set off to meet Marrok and Tauno. On the way, Moon Man tries to teach Yelena some things about ghosts and she brushes him off and becomes annoyed with his manner of description. (I found this a really dislikeable character trait for her because I really enjoyed Moon Man. I also found the tidbit about the unmarried couple staying in a hotel room together really awkward and unnecessary.) Outside the inn, Yelena sees these glass figurines that look like they are radiating fire and they remind her of Tula and Opal. And then, Opal appears. She invites them to dinner with her family. Opal shows Yelena her glass animals and apparently only certain people (Yelena suspects magicians) can see the fire inside them. Opal sells her one to test out the theory.
When they return to the inn, Marrok is gone (he left willingly with Cahil) and Tauno is hurt. Yelena takes her watch that night and has another fire issue. This time she sees trapped souls in the fire but is rescued by Moon Man before it’s too late. As they are discussing tactics the following morning, Marrok appears. He tries to get the group to leave but Cahil and the rest immediately appear (obviously Marrok didn’t lose them as well as he thought that he did…) Yelena controls Ferde’s mind to force him to shoot Curare laced darts at the other Daviians. Citadel guards come to pick up the prisoners. Yelena, Leif, Moon Man, Tauno and Marrok head that direction, stopping off at the Sandseed’s main camp. They are caught in a trap when the Daviians are hiding in the tents of the Sandseeds. They run, and Moon Man teaches Yelena how to make a magic protective net for them. In the morning, Moon Man goes to the shadow world and comes back with the dark reality that the Story Weavers and Sandseeds were killed in the attack. (He saw their souls in the shadow world apparently.) Moon Man is frustrated with Yelena for not being interested in her Soulfinder powers (and honestly I agree. She has totally missed the bigger picture.) and tells her that she will become “a slave to another”.
When they finally get to the Citadel, they find that Cahil is not in prison. He apparently was on an undercover mission the whole time and blames Marrok for releasing Ferde. Moon Man finds that one other Story Weaver, Gede, survived. Gede is the one with knowledge about the fire warper. Gede and Moon Man meet with Bain, Irys, Yelena and Dax to discuss the fire warper. Gede is an awful person, full of himself and suspicious ideas. So it comes as a surprise when Yelena rejects Moon Man for him when he tells her that he can be a Soulfinder (um, wasn’t that what Moon Man has been trying to do the whole time?).
Valek appears for no apparent reason. Turns out he’s there to assassinate the Sitian Council. So Sitia is fighting Ixia and the Daviians (because they believe that Ixia is helping them). And Ixia is just bored and wants to actually give Sitia a reason to be suspicious?
Gede tries to “teach” Yelena and has Moon Man lead her into the fire. Leif (under Valek’s orders) saves her (but can’t save Moon Man) and they flee the Citadel. (Again, Gede sucks.) Yelena taps into Irys’s mind and finds that there is a warrant out for her and Leif’s arrest. Valek meets them and suggests that they go to Ixia. Near the border, they encounter Sitian soldiers and reconnect with Moon Man, Marrok and Tauno. They escape into Ixia where they are also stopped by soldiers. Marrok is unconscious and Yelena (again, idiot) suspects Moon Man. Why does she hate Moon Man so much?! When she looks into Marrok’s mind, she finds Roze.
Yelena’s old fighting partner, Maren, is part of the soldiers as she has become an Adviser after she, Janco and Ari beat Valek in a fight. She tells Yelena that they need to meet with the General but it is actually a guise for them to escape. Yelena meets with the Commander and explains the situation of Sitia. As she is getting something from her bag, her glass bat that Opal made her comes out. The Commander can see the fire glow (and therefore might be a magician)…
They plan their attack. The Commander does not want any magic to be used as he believes that it corrupts people and controls their will. Yelena tries to contact Irys and instead (again) encounters Roze who tells her that Irys and Bain are being held in the cells at the Keep. And Yelena unwillingly tells Roze of the Commander’s plan and that Valek is in Sitia. Yelena makes plans to meet with Porter (the dog person) as she determined that he has magic and there are others in Ixia like him.
Valek returns to Ixia but they make plans to return as a group to Sitia to regain control of the Council. Yelena meets with Porter who has two young girls who have just discovered their magical powers. He has been sending children who show magical powers through a sort of “underground railroad” to Sitia for many years. However the most recent 3 that he has sent never made it. Yelena agrees to disguise as a student and find what is happening in the break of the chain. As she leaves, she is poisoned by a dart by Star…
Yelena awakes in a crate in the back of a cart and finds she is being taken to Jal. She finds that one of the guards is Cahil. He tells her that Jal will perform the Kirakawa ritual on her, taking her powers, while the Fire Warper claims her soul. Yelena tells him that he is being played but he insists that Jal will rule Sitia and allow him to rule Ixia. Cahil stabs her with Curare which she uses her magic to prevent from entering her skin (should have learned that skill earlier) and fakes passing out. She learns that the two girls from Porter’s are there as well. She unties herself and then poisons the vermin who comes to sedate her with his own dart.
Valek appears and saves her from the Fire Warper who has appeared. She finds that Valek had (sort of) allowed her to be captured because he wanted to find out how the young magicians had been going missing (he didn’t think she would have walked into Star’s trap). Yelena and Kiki return to the camp to try to rescue the girls, however it was too late. Yelena inhales, and when save, releases their souls, preventing the Daviians from increasing their power. She returns and finds that Valek separately went to rescue the girls. He found that Cahil had left the camp and also brings her back her backpack.
While she goes through her items in her pack, she again stumbles upon her bat that Opal made. And as she is gazing at it, she mentally was able to connect with Opal despite the vast difference. She wonders if others have Opal’s creatures if it will be something like a magical telephone, allowing them to communicate over longer distances.
When she and Valek arrive at the Citadel, the Daviians are everywhere. Yelena finds Fisk and asks him to contact her clansman Bavol who agrees to meet her that night. She finds out that the Daviians have kidnapped the Councilors’ children to force the votes their way. He tells her of an emergency tunnel to get into the Keep. She sleeps on his roof (for reasons I don’t quite understand) and convinces a man in the market to organize the masses for a battle. She meets Fisk later that evening as Fisk’s uncle swaps places with Bavol to evade the guards. Yelena uses Bavol to find the missing children, releasing when she smells the stable on fire.
The Fire Warper drags her into the fire world where she sees no souls (because apparently she has chosen not to see them). The Fire Warper tells her that he wants to rule the sky and she is going to help him. He tells her a bunch of contradictory things (although in fairness, I couldn’t really follow along with what was “real” and what wasn’t because it was all pretty crazy) so she knows that she can’t trust him. She returns to “regular world” (why is there no name for it?) and to Valek. They talk (again) about Yelena’s bat. Valek cannot see the fire but he can sense that it has magic. He asks her whether the Commander can see it and when she hesitates, he reveals that he already knows that the commander is a magician. Yelena thinks that the Commander’s body contains two souls. Valek reveals that the Commander’s mother died during childbirth and that there was confusion about whether the baby was a boy or a girl…
They disguise themselves and find Ari and Janco who have brought Leif, Moon Man, Tauno and Marrok back from Ixia. When Yelena meets them to discuss the next step, Janco points out that she has a bat on her arm. (Uh, duh? did you not see that before??) Leif and Moon Man are to find out about the secret passage. Ari and Janco are to help activate the resistance movement while the others go to rescue the children. Tauno scouts for them and leads them into a trap (Turns out he’s the spy/traitor, not Moon Man…big shocker there). Giant fight ensues but most of the children are rescued however Valek has not come out of the barn fire that was set by the warper. The children are taken to a farm somewhere and left until it’s safe.
Marrok and Yelena conveniently detour to Opal’s and collect more of her figurines to use as the test for the magical telephone. They go to the meeting spot, finding Ari and Janco, and wait for Moon Man and Leif. While there, Yelena realizes that her creepy bat friend can help her find ghosts. She finds the ghost of a little boy and helps him return home. (She finally realized the purpose of being a Soulfinder.) Leif arrives with the news that Moon Man has been captured!
Yelena’s busy being completely depressed that Valek is gone and is intending to go into the Fire World permanently…and of course Valek appears. (Did anyone really think he was gone?) They make plans to sneak into the Citadel under the guise of traders but are met by Cahil. He assures them he is on their side and exactly what Yelena had said would happen has happened. And then he drops the big news that Roze is Jal. (not really that big of news, imo). There are six powerful warpers inside the castle including Roze and Gede who will be given the magicians who have been captured in the Kirakawa ritual. Yelena is supposed to be the big final prize. Cahil offers to take Yelena inside as his (fake) prisoner. She agrees.
Roze takes Yelena as planned while Ari and Janco break into the Keep to release the prisoners (and hand out the glass figurine communicators). Yelena points out to Roze that Roze is no different than the commander by killing Sitian prisoners to take over (however this point doesn’t really go anywhere). Roze threatens her and then kills Moon Man 😦 Yelena sucks in his soul and tells Roze that not everything is under Roze’s control. Yelena then jumps into the fire.
She tells the Fire Warper that she will not agree to his plan and finally starts to have some understanding of what a Soul Finder should do. She releases the souls from Roze, Gede and the other Warpers, reducing them to only their own original powers. Valek was there to ensure they were imprisoned. Yelena continues releasing all the souls trapped in the Fire World which reduces the Fire Warper’s power bit by bit. Then she moves to the Shadow World and releases the Sandseeds. Finally she remembers that she can communicate with home and contacts Leif. He tells her that she has been gone for weeks and that the Daviians are about to be killed and burned to death.
Yelena releases Moon Man to the sky 😦 and then has Leif contact Opal. As the Daviians are killed, Yelena captures their souls and releases them into the fire she portaled through. Opal turns each one into a glass figure which Valek then hides so they cannot be released and then Yelena returns to the “real world”.
She finds that she has become a Master magician (as she traveled to the spirit world and returned with a guide–the bat) but also is a full ambassador between the two countries. She returns the sword Cahil had to the Commander and tells him that she figured out that his mother’s soul has been hiding in his body since she died which led to his gender confusion (um, weird). After talking with the Commander, she goes back to Valek. She asks him how old he was when his family was killed. Since he was 13, Yelena realizes that is the age that magic first appears and that because of the trauma, Valek pulled enough power around himself that he created his own null shield causing his weird lack of magic. Two mysteries solved in two of the last three pages of the book! And then the book ends with Yelena and Valek in a happily ever after.
Verdict: 3.5 stars
The series was good as a whole but I did find this book to be the weakest one of the three. There were too many random pieces (using snakes as weapons, glass sculptures as telecommunicators) and seemed to just pull together too quickly. It might have been better to have had 4 books in the series instead of 3. On the plus side though, I did enjoy how well thought out it was. Everything seemed to fit together in one believable reality. I did appreciate that. I would definitely recommend this series to anyone who liked Twilight or Hunger Games (although I find it to be slightly more mature than true YA fiction).