Review: A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

A Promise of Fire

A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet (Kingmaker Chronicles #1)

Genre: Fantasy romance

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca on August 2, 2016

Source: Publisher

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My thanks to Sourcebooks Casablanca for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.

Catalia “Cat” Fisa is a powerful clairvoyant known as the Kingmaker. This smart-mouthed soothsayer has no interest in her powers and would much rather fly under the radar, far from the clutches of her homicidal mother.

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Catalia Fisa is a powerful mage and clairvoyant hiding out from her murderous mother. What’s a girl to do when she runs away from home? Why, she joins the circus of course! Posing as a fraudulent soothsayer and going by the name of Cat the Great, Cat’s been able to stay off the radar for years. Too bad for her that mommy dearest isn’t the only person interested in dragging Cat back home, kicking and screaming …

This really shouldn’t come as a surprise, since Cat’s more than just your average mage or clairvoyant (of course). She’s the Kingmaker, a type of clairvoyant born every few hundred years with the power to detect any lies or disloyalty, and thus she can make kings rise – or fall. And the brilliant strategist and former warlord Griffin, known as Beta Sinta, wants Cat to ensure that his family’s reign will be long-lasting. Griffin’s sister is Alpha Sinta, the supreme authority in the Sintan territory, and she needs Cat’s abilities. And Griffin’s not going to take no for an answer.

We get to know Cat, Griffin, and Griffin’s most loyal men very well as the ragtag group makes their way – some more willingly than others – across the country to the capital. Cat doesn’t make it easy on Griffin and co., which I loved because I can’t enjoy a fantasy romance where the heroine meekly goes along with being abducted. Cat’s hostility begins to wane when the group proves that they mean her no harm, and in fact regret the circumstances that led them to capture her.

This being a fantasy-romance, the relationship between Cat and Griffin plays a huge role in the story. It was refreshing to read about these two because although Griffin can be high-handed and controlling, Cat never once lets him forget how powerful she is. She refuses to be controlled or to obey his commands – even when they make a lot of sense – because she values her independence so highly. I definitely ship it!

As fun as the romance was, I thought the world building in A PROMISE OF FIRE was the strongest part of the book. Inspired by the concept of ancient city-states controlled predominantly by those who use magic, there are constantly battles and assassination attempts from enemy territories to try and take control. The strict ruling hierarchy is inspired by ancient Greece (alpha, beta, gamma, and so on) and of course, the Greek gods are butting their heads in and causing chaos for their human devotees. Depending on who you ask, Cat is either terribly lucky or unbelievably unfortunate to have come to the attention of not one but three gods. Sometimes they help her out in dire situations with a power boost, but usually they seem to just saddle her with ominous prophecies and a seriously pressure-filled destiny. Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guards the Underworld, also makes a few grumpy, slobbery appearances.

The one aspect of the book that I didn’t enjoy is the prolonged emotional subterfuge that so often accompanies romance novels; however, the convention is that in a traditional romance novel, the protagonists come clean and unburden themselves by the books’ end. Maybe it’s because this is a fantasy-romance and a planned trilogy, but Cat is harbouring some pretty major secrets and although she agonizes over whether to tell Griffin for almost half the novel, she never actually does. That’s going to carry over into the sequel and cause some unnecessary drama, I’m sure.

Overall though, A PROMISE OF FIRE is one of the best fantasy-romance novels I’ve ever read. Amanda Bouchet’s writing is tight, and her dialogue is snappy – the banter (and bickering) between Cat and Griffin is especially hilarious. If you’re looking for a fun, interesting book that’s a bit meatier than your average beach read, then A PROMISE OF FIRE is for you.

Have you read any good fantasy romance books lately? Do you plan to read A PROMISE OF FIRE? Let me know in the comments!

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  • This REALLY was a fun book, wasn’t it? I’m so pleased that you liked it too! I shipped the romance pretty hard too. I love what you had to say about Cat not letting Griffin control her even though she is being kidnapped and held against her will. And yessss to everything you said about the world building! It was phenomenal and I love how she blended the fantasy elements with the Greek mythology. I’m worried about how Cat’s secret-keeping is going to affect their relationship in the future books too. Let’s hope it’s not too stretched out and that she comes clean in book 2.
    Ooh did you know the author has plans to write spin-off books for Griff’s team and his sisters? How exciting is that?
    Wonderful review!

    • Thanks, Nick! I loved this one sooo much! I recently saw the cover artwork for book 2 and now I’m desperate to read it, haha.

      Cat is exactly the right amount of independent to make me root for her – it’d just be too easy for Griffin otherwise. 😉 Bouchet’s world building was so on point, I was actually really impressed with it. Fingers crossed that the sequel expands the world and resolves Cat’s secret!

      OMG I didn’t know that! I’m really excited to hear it though, because spinoff books/series are one of my favourite things about traditional romance books!

  • Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    I don’t read much Fantasy Romance, but may have to give this one a shot when the mood strikes.

    • I’ve been doing a little fantasy romance reading experiment to prepare for series of posts on sub-genres, and this is far and away one of the strongest ones I’ve read so far. Really showcases the best the genre has to offer, in my opinion!

  • I will read it 😀

  • I am so glad you’ve said good thing because I am excited for this book and am continually searching for fantasy romance (I feel like this should be my genre, it combines the two genres I enjoy best into one, what could wrong?) so I want to read this.

    I mean, you’re grumbles about the typical romance drama that is only there to create problems for our couple is basically an inevitable but annoying thing I can put up with. Sure, I want to shout from the rooftops for people to just be honest but that is just a ridiculous expectation to have in any book which features romance.

    Also, Greek gods! Awesome. So totally awesome I am all over that and I know that will just make me enjoy the book more. I mean, Greek gods and a strong female character who stands up for herself even when she is sometimes just doing so to make a point (I am definitely someone who does that. I’ve discovered it’s because I am what you would call contrary and I like to not do something because people tell me to even when I know I’m being ridiculous and doing the opposite of what I wanted to do). I can relate to a character that decides to make things difficult for herself to prove a point.

    Basically, me and this book. It’s going to happen and it will be beautiful (I hope).

    • Completely agree on fantasy-romance, I feel like it should be my genre too. But sometimes they’re so cheesy! I think that’s why I like UF so much: they have that romance angle with less chance of cheese.

      OMG I know. Sometimes I wonder if any romance novels would have a single plot line if characters weren’t such shit communicators. Surely people aren’t this terrible at communicating in real life, are we??? A sobering thought.

      I loved the Greek mythology in this one! I especially liked the bits about oracles and trials (you’ll know what I mean when you read it). Hahaha yes, that’s Cat exactly! She’d cut off her nose to spite her face, which is something I’d do too. I think you’d love her! She’s snarky and impulsive and a bit rash, but really easy to root for.

      Ahhhh, I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this one Becky! I’m going to start reading The Shattered Court soon, which I know you loved, so we’ll have to swap thoughts on these books soon. Maybe we should pick another fantasy-romance and do a Twitter buddy read? I’ve been having such a good time with those!

      • I’ve not read enough to say they are cheesy but they can be quite hit or miss from what I have read. I feel like there is not decent middle ground. I either love or hate them. I do get UF is way less cheesy, you can just enjoy what you’re reading and not want to throw up when the romance happens.

        And I definitely think I am better at communicating than any romance character ever! I mean, I get being a bit reserved when you don’t know someone but it doesn’t take that long to decide to be honest. Well… unless I was waiting to say I’d murdered someone and then I totally get holding back on that one.

        Oracles and trials? That sounds interesting. I really want to read it now but I was trying to be good until pay day. I mean, what is one more book anyway?

        I hope you like The Shattered Court now. I loved it. I think I was so excited after hearing about it from a Smart Bitches podcast and I got it and it was amazing but what about if it was just because I was craving a good fantasy romance? You have to tell me your thoughts when you do read it. And yes, I would be all over a fantasy romance buddy read because some how buddy reads can make even the worst book fun to read. We just need to find a book which fits the bill 🙂

  • Lynn Williams

    Sounds interesting – not so sure it’s for me particularly although I like the sound of the world building. I wonder if I might find the romantic elements a bit tedious. I’m sitting on the fence for now.
    Lynn 😀

    • Yeah, I think it might be a bit too romance heavy for you Lynn. It definitely focuses on the romance just as much as the world building (it’s a true fantasy-romance in that way) so you might want to steer clear unless you’re in the mood to read a romance novel!

  • I’ve been seeing good reviews around for this book, and I’m glad to see another one! I’ll definitely put it on my list next time I’m in the mood for romance:-)

    • I’ve seen dozens of reviews for this book, and so far I’ve only seen one negative opinion on it. That’s pretty damn good, I think! This is the perfect read for a fantasy lover in the mood for something approaching a traditional romance novel. 🙂

  • Sara Letourneau

    I’m not sure how or when this book slipped onto my radar… and I tend to be wary of fantasy-romances. But based on your review, this actually sounds pretty good, especially if the world-building is strong. Thanks for telling us about it!

    Btw, I just found your site via The Speculative Herald and Bibliosanctum. It’s gorgeous! Looking forward to visiting more often to talk about fantasy novels. 🙂

    • Happy to spread the word! I know exactly what you mean about fantasy-romances, which is funny because I enjoy both fantasy novels and traditional romance novels alike (so long as they’re feminist…). I think that fantasy-romances often stumble with world building, but that’s definitely not a problem here!

      Ahhhh, thanks so much Sara! That’s awesome to hear. Welcome to the blog! 🙂

  • This sounds great! It’s been a while since I’ve read a fantasy romance, I’ll have add this one to my TBR pile. 🙂

    • I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect with this one, but I absolutely loved it. I hope you enjoy it too, Samantha! 😀