Review: Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet (Kingmaker Chronicles #2)

Genre: Fantasy-Romance

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca on January 3, 2017

Source: Publisher

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

SHE’S DESTINED TO DESTROY THE WORLD… 

While I still enjoyed BREATH OF FIRE, there were a couple problematic issues with the representation of healthy relationships and sexual assault that prevented me from loving it – and made me deeply uncomfortable the more I thought about it.

Cat Fisa, extraordinarily gifted magic user and favourite of the gods, is back at the forefront of the action when her lover Griffin brings her into his plans to unite the three kingdoms in hopes that they will establish a new, effective, and fair ruler. Of course, Cat has to confront her own dark personal history before any of that can happen…starting with mother dearest. When Griffin finds out what Cat’s been hiding about her family he completely loses his head by screaming, damaging things, and even roughly grabbing Cat. This scene really unsettled me, especially since when the couple makes up Griffin states that his behaviour was unacceptable and Cat just explains it away. It was unacceptable, and I don’t find mantrums attractive. 

To unite the kingdoms, Cat and Griffin need to overthrow corrupt rulers while protecting the borders of Sinta. This requires quite a bit of travel across the lands, and provided readers with a deeper look into Bouchet’s ancient Greece inspired world building. This was a welcome development, since I loved the world building in the first book, and in BREATH OF FIRE we get even more twists on Greek mythology, including an appearance by the Hydra and even a herd of ipotane. It was especially fun to watch the guys from Beta Team, Griffin’s right hand men and Cat’s new friends, navigate the Ice Plains and all the magic they hold. These guys aren’t exactly familiar with the capriciousness of the gods and their gifts, so it made for some pretty hilarious moments.

Unfortunately, just like in classic mythology, the gods in BREATH OF FIRE can be cruel…and one character in particular suffers the consequences. He is drugged and raped by the handmaiden of a goddess (off page), and his trauma is only briefly commented on. Cat was clearly disturbed by the event (and obviously the survivor was too) but only only a few scenes later, there’s an explicit love scene between Cat and Griffin. The whole thing just felt really sloppy and it left a bad tasted in my mouth. In my opinion, Bouchet didn’t treat the topic with the seriousness and respect it deserves. Hopefully this will be further addressed in the third book.

From my review it probably sounds like I thought this was a bad book, but I think it’s the opposite: it’s a good book that was dragged down by the poor handling of sensitive issues. BREATH OF FIRE has everything that fans liked about the first book: great world building, a compelling main character, amazing dialogue, and a romance worth rooting for. However, the problematic representation of relationships and sexual assault really soured it for me and I just couldn’t get into this one the same way that I could with A PROMISE OF FIRE. If you’re someone who’s sensitive to these issues, then you will most likely struggle with this book.

I’m excited to see where Cat and Griffin’s story goes, but these issues have definitely cooled my love for the series.

How do you respond when an otherwise good book has problematic representation? Have you read Breath of Fire? Let me know in the comments!

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  • Oh no Danya 🙁 I’m sorry those issues brought it down so much for you. I have to admit they didn’t bother me… I’m not a bad person, I swear! I can see exactly where you are coming from – just like I could see where people had problems with the first book and how the romance developed when he was her kidnapper – but for me both were 5 stars/almost 5 stars.

    I guess the characterisation, the world building and the non stop action kept it right up there for me.

    Again, sorry this one didn’t really work out for you but I hope that the next book brings it back!

    • LOL! I definitely don’t think you’re a bad person, Di. I think it’s totally okay to enjoy books that have problematic elements in them — I certainly have! And if it makes you feel any better, I didn’t really have an issue with the whole kidnapped/kidnapper thing going on in the first book; I think my problem with this one is that I thought the sketchy things in the first book were handled much better than they were here.

      I agree though, love the characters! I’m definitely hoping that book 3 is more solid for me.

  • I think it is quite ok to enjoy problematic books. Knowing what is problematic is the important part and not being the person who covers their ears and sings while people point out that they don’t like the book for said reasons. At least that is my take.

    Not a fan of that cover. The woman looks almost real but not real enough and it comes off a bit creepy.

    • I agree! I’ve enjoyed lots of problematic things in the past (and still do), but I think it’s good to call things out when you see them. I guess the reality is that some problematic elements will bother certain readers more than others, and the issues in this one just didn’t sit well with me.

      I’ve always liked the covers in this series, but now I see what you mean…thanks a lot Nathan! Hahaha.

  • I can see why you wouldn’t like some of the negative aspects of this story. I personally tend to give the author some slack if that element is important in moving the story forward, but if it’s gratuitous, then I am NOT OK with it.

    • Oh yeah, I totally agree! The example that always comes to mind for me is Daughter of the Forest, which has a semi-graphic rape scene in it. In that story, hundreds of pages are dedicated to showing how the survivor deals with the aftermath and its really important for her journey as a character. Honestly, it felt gratuitous in this book — there are other ways that the author could’ve given this particular character a tragic backstory.

  • I am afraid the Greek mythology killed it for me, it was lazy

    • Oh no, sorry to hear! I think that the Greek mythology was actually one of my favourite parts.

  • Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    Oh, no. Sorry the mantrum and poor handling of other sensitive things brought down this book that sounds like it could be good otherwise.

    • Me too, Lisa! Here’s hoping that the next book in the series will address these issues!

  • Greek mythology is always interesting, but the mantrums but the clumsy handling of the relationships and sexual assault …. nope. Frustrating!

    • So frustrating! Especially since I get the feeling that Amanda Bouchet is a talented enough writer to do the topics justice…they just seemed shoe-horned in for some reason.

  • Dude… that scene with Cat and the almost sexual assault bothered me. And then Kato’s thing… that hurt my heart. That was a big reason why I didn’t give the book five stars – that didn’t sit well with me. I want to believe that the author will do more to address it, in book three (like it didn’t feel all that resolved, in book two), so I’m waiting and giving her a chance. But I was definitely bothered by those things. I didn’t really mention them in my review (well, I sort of mentioned the Kato thing) because of spoilers.

    Overall though, this was an excellent sequel for me. Not as good as book one, but good. Hopefully book three does a good job with wrapping up the story!

    Great review, Danya! Have a wonderful week. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    • YES oh my goodness, I can’t believe I forgot to mention Cat’s almost sexual assault! That was totally crammed in there for no reason, and literally the next scene she’s talking about sex with Griffin…something doesn’t add up there. I completely agree about Kato, that storyline didn’t feel resolved at all. I have a bad feeling that it’s going to be used to make him a more “broken” character so his inevitable romance will “fix” him. Of course, I could be reading into it, but if that happens I’m going to be pissed!

      I’m hoping that the third book will bring it back for me! I do quite like Bouchet’s style. Thanks Alyssa! 😊

  • I haven’t really started this series yet because of all the mixed reviews I’ve been seeing around Goodreads and the blogsphere! I’ve read a lot of books that are pretty much awesome except for a the fact that they have problematic representation. I mostly knock off stars for wrong/problematic representation. And sexual assaults can’t just be a plot device. If there is sexual assault in the book, the author has to properly handle it. And also, explaining away mantrums? not cool! But great review Danya!

    • You know, maybe it’s because I read the first book as an ARC, but I actually didn’t know that there were mixed feelings on this series until I read book 2 and had my own mixed feelings, haha. I know what you mean, I’ve enjoyed problematic books too but I feel compelled to point out the problematic things so people can decide for themselves whether that’s something they want to read about.

      I couldn’t agree more, sexual assault should never be used as a plot device! WHY are authors still doing this?? Ugh. Haha. Thanks Uma!

  • Greg Hill

    The worldbuilding does sound fantastic (Greek inspired? Yay!!) but yeah the Griffin freakout sounds… ugh. And the sexual assault too- that HAS to be treated properly not just blown through. And even if it addressed in the next one you can make a case that it should have been addressed HERE- why wait for a whole other book? So yeah that’s a problem.

    Sorry these had to bring down an otherwise pretty good book!

    • Right?! I LOVE Greek mythology and could honestly read 100 books inspired by it, haha. Griffin was a huge jerkoff in that scene, and the fact that it was explained away bothered me SO much. Ugh indeed!

      I completely agree with you. And good point — the sexual assault should have been addressed in this book! It took place around the mid-way point, so there was definitely time.

  • If I enjoy a book but it has problematic issues, I do the same as you and let everyone know I enjoyed the book but still point out those issues in my review. It’s totally ok to like a book, as long as you recognize that some of the stuff in it wasn’t handled well.

    I completely get what you were saying though because I once read a book in which the characters were in a relationship and it started out as consensual sex but turned into rape when the Char. A told Char. B to stop. One character in the book called Char. B out on it, but then Char. A just made excuses and brushed it off and it was never brought up again, and that unsettled me far more than all the murder and other terrible things that happened.

    • Thanks Kristen! I definitely think that people should feel more comfortable calling out the problematic issues in their favourite books (or any books they enjoyed) — liking something with issues or bad representation doesn’t make someone a bad reader or a bad person. But intentionally putting your head in the sand…that’s not good.

      Oh my god, that sounds horrible. That would freak me out so badly. At the very least, it’s good that Char. B. called Char. A out on it, but as a reader I would’ve been shaken for sure.

  • This series is definitely on my
    radar. I usually wait until all books in series are released and then binge
    read it. I’m not good with waiting for a year for next installment. Also this way
    I can see where the series goes and save my time by not starting series that
    have only one good book. So many series crushed and burn on their way.

    I personally think that if the author
    raises a serious topic he should deliver it tactfully and use it for some message, not just as plot devise. So I
    can understand your issues. As for the scene you described between Griffin and Cat,
    I think it would bother me too. Thanks for you thoughtful review, Danya!

    • I need to start binge reading series more, I feel like it’s something I’d really enjoy! The only problem is that I tend to read series with 5+ books in them, and by that time I get sick of them. Haha.

      The idea that authors are still using things like sexual assault as plot devices just makes me so disappointed and angry. We should really be beyond that at this point, I think. Thanks Ksenia!

      • I’m intimidated by series with
        more than 3 books. Lol. This is the reason I still haven’t read Kate Daniels
        series, though it was pushed my way many times. I think it’s time to meet my
        fear head on, I finished Edge series and now have serious cravings for more Ilona
        Andrews.

        NA especially is guilty in
        sexual assault as plot device, but lately I see the changes. I think we as
        readers influence authors, so I hope this is result of voicing our opinion on
        this matter.

  • This is a series I’m really excited about but that is really not good that domestic and sexual violence is not dealt with well. Relationships between people are complicated and it doesn’t sounds like the things she included are beyond the pale as far as things that would come up in a Greek mythology based story BUT there are ways to comment on these things realistically and within the story to make sure they are not normalized or treated too lightly. It’s a shame. I think I’m still interested in the series but will be aware. Thanks for calling these elements out!

    • I’m with ya, Stephanie. You know how much I loved the first book, so I’m sure you can imagine how disappointed I was when I came across those points! Ugh.

      Greek mythology is brutal, but I completely agree with you: there’s no need to normalize the violence that exists in those myths in contemporary literature, and I think authors who delve into serious topics like rape should take the time to treat them with care and respect. I’ll still be reading the third book and you can be sure that I’ll report back!

  • I enjoyed Promise of Fire and have been meaning to jump back into this world. I like that we get to explore more of the world and the Greek mythology. I’ve seen some people comment on the mantrum Griffin throws and it does have me wary. It’s such a shame that the book doesn’t explore the repercussions of the sexual assault in a sensitive manner. I will be reading this book because I do like the characters and the world.

    • I really like the world and the characters in this series too, Lois! If you’re reading for those elements then I think you’ll enjoy this sequel for sure. I agree, it’s a shame. I’m definitely interested to hear your thoughts on this one when you’ve finished it!

  • I just got the first one on audio from the library 🙂 I really hope to listen this week!

  • Lynn Williams

    I hope the next book is better for you and deals with sensitive issues a bit more – well, – sensitively! Please.
    Lynn 😀

  • I ended up liking this one a bit more than you I think, but I can totally see where you’re coming from and how it can put a damper on things. Hopefully book 3 will make up for it! Lovely review, Danya!

  • The more I think about this book, the more I realize how I should lower my rating for it. That first scene really bothered me and I was even more frustrated when I read a post by the author basically trying to defend it saying something like she did it to create tension. And yes to everything you said about the rape. It was very brushed upon. I did enjoy the story overall, but you’re right those aspects tainted it a bit. Hopefully the next book doesn’t have some of these issues.
    Great review, Danya!