Kingdom on Fire #2

A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess

Summary from Netgalley:

A Poison Dark and DrowningThe magicians want her to lead.
The sorcerers want her to lie.
The demons want her blood.
Henrietta wants to save the one she loves.
But will his dark magic be her undoing?
Henrietta doesn’t need a prophecy to know that she’s in danger. She came to London to be named the chosen one, the first female sorcerer in centuries, the one who would defeat the Ancients. Instead, she discovered a city ruled by secrets. And the biggest secret of all: Henrietta is not the chosen one.
Still, she must play the role in order to keep herself and Rook, her best friend and childhood love, safe. But can she truly save him? The poison in Rook’s system is transforming him into something monstrous as he begins to master dark powers of his own. So when Henrietta finds a clue to the Ancients’ past that could turn the tide of the war, she persuades Blackwood, the mysterious Earl of Sorrow-Fell, to travel up the coast to seek out strange new weapons. And Magnus, the brave, reckless flirt who wants to win back her favor, is assigned to their mission. Together, they will face monsters, meet powerful new allies, and uncover the most devastating weapon of all: the truth.


ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley for an honest review.

Don’t you just love that cover?  I’m not sure why there is purple blood flowing onto that flower, but what great imagery. 

It has been 9 months since I read the first book (see my review here) in this series and I have read over a hundred books since then, so the details of this alternative London fantasy is a little hazy.  This is historical fantasy, so most of the morals and society norms of late nineteenth century England are here, mixed with a magical world that has its own hierarchy.  I remember thinking as I read the first book that it was interesting that your magical ability is what established your class in society, sorcerers being at the top and magicians and witches being on the lower end, although the differences between these types of magic is not great.  The sorcerers use staves (wands) to help wield their magic and the magicians and witches do not. We do learn a bit more about the witches in this book, and their magic seems to be rooted in the earth and in healing.  I think the first book put a lot more emphasis on the different types and why their status was dependent on it, but I can’t quite remember the details.  But I do remember it being fascinating.  All of the other historical touches ring true to that era, which makes this a fascinating read.

Both books are told through Henrietta Howel’s point of view.  She is an interesting character with a nice mix of nineteenth century morals and what a woman’s place in society is, and a more modern perspective.  She is strong and strong willed, but also doesn’t always trust herself and her decisions.  I got a little frustrated with her in this book mostly because even though she professed to love Rook, she didn’t spend much time with him or really seem invested in his getting better.  Her relationship with ‘the boys’ (the men she trained with) was also a bit of a puzzle, especially with Blackwood.  But I put a lot of that up to the society of the times the story is set in.

There is a new female character that we meet in this story, Maria, and I really liked her.  She is also a strong character and a survivor.  I liked that when they first meet she is wearing trousers.  So much easier to fight demons in trousers than the outfits typical for women of that era.  Maria is a nice addition to the story and with her being a witch we get that part of the world fleshed out a bit more.

The plot of this second book was little bit slow moving and more predictable than the first book.  I was able to guess many of the reveals before they happened, but there were a couple that still surprised me.  The writing did not seem as tight this time around either.  I kept thinking that I missed something, and would go back a few pages to look, but no, there just wasn’t the smoothness in the plot that I usually look for.

Still, even though there were faults it was an enjoyable read.  The monsters and the world the author has created will keep me wanting to read the next one.  I am also interested in finding out what happens to many of the characters and how the whole evil vs. good works out. 

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