Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca on January 3, 2017
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…
“Cat” Catalia Fisa has been running from her destiny since she could crawl. But now, her newfound loved ones are caught between the shadow of Cat’s tortured past and the threat of her world-shattering future. So what’s a girl to do when she knows it’s her fate to be the harbinger of doom? Everything in her power.
BUT NOT IF SHE CAN HELP IT
Griffin knows Cat is destined to change the world—for the better. As the realms are descending into all-out war, Cat and Griffin must embrace their fate together. Gods willing, they will emerge side-by-side in the heart of their future kingdom…or not at all.
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.