Review: From Unseen Fire by Cass Morris

From Unseen Fire by Cass Morris (Aven Cycle #1)

Genre: Fantasy, Historical

Publisher: Daw Books on April 17, 2018

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.

The Dictator is dead; long live the Republic.

  

Cass Morris’ debut novel FROM UNSEEN FIRE is an accomplished epic fantasy novel that introduces complex characters, politics, and magic.

The Republic of Aven, an alternate ancient Rome, has been smothered under the tyrannical rule of the Dictator Ocella. With the Dictator dead, there is a power vacuum in Aven…one that many people are eager to fill, and not all of them with the best intentions. Who will be the next leader of the Republic, and what will become of Aven?

It’s impossible to do justice to all the characters in review format since they’re all well developed and fascinating. There are at least a dozen POV characters and I was interested in each and every one of them — not once was I tempted to skim a character’s POV chapter. But of course, some characters are more compelling than others, and protagonists Latona and Sempronius stole the show.

Latona is a daughter of the Vitelliae, an important and well-respected patrician family that suffered greatly under Ocella’s rule. Latona suffered more than most, forced to use her magical gifts given by Venus to please the Dictator lest he kill her family. Now that Ocella is gone, Latona is finally free to live the life she chooses. The only trouble is finding out what exactly it is that she wants… Latona is the perfect example of a strong heroine who isn’t physically tough: her Fire and Spirit magic is incredibly powerful, and she’s committed to helping the women of Aven escape the sexual exploitation she herself was forced to endure. She’s sassy and passionate, but she also knows how to play the political game. Latona’s clearly just coming into her own in FROM UNSEEN FIRE and I can’t wait to see where her storyline goes in the sequel.

Sempronius, while just as likable as Latona, is considerably more devious…and much more prone to operate from a place best described as “morally grey.” He’s just as ruthless – and frankly, criminal – as the politicians jockeying for position, but his actions stem from a genuine desire to protect Aven and her people. To make his ambitions reality, Sempronius hides his magic from all but a close few…for a mage were discovered in the Senate, the fury of Aven would fall upon him. But Sempronius’ passion for Latona, a married woman, may lead to his downfall long before his magic does…

FROM UNSEEN FIRE’s magic system is impeccably crafted, with the power of the Aventine mage bestowed by gods like Jupiter and Minerva and their gifts directly linked to that god’s dominion. Mages harness their power in unique ways; for instance, Sempronius, a mage of Shadow, uses actual smoke and mirrors to accomplish his ends. Latona uses Spirit to influence people, and her sister Alhena uses Time to see the future (with admittedly spotty results). There are also other cultures, gods, and magics in FROM UNSEEN FIRE, most notably the blood magic used by the Lusetani, a group who begin rising up against Aven’s colonial efforts. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of them as the series progresses!

Some readers may struggle with the book’s overarching plot, as its less of an action-packed story and more of a slow simmer. But never fear, what with all the political scheming, personal backstabbing, and greedy warmongering, there’s plenty to keep you interested! Those of you who enjoy quiet genre books like THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE will be more than satisfied with all the goings-on in FROM UNSEEN FIRE. It’s one of the most impressive debuts I’ve read in ages, and I’m very eager to see what Cass Morris comes up with next.

Have you read FROM UNSEEN FIRE? What’s the most impressive or unique magic system you’ve come across lately? Let me know in the comments!

22 thoughts on “Review: From Unseen Fire by Cass Morris

    1. Me too, I think I saw this on a B&N genre round up and actually screen shotted it on my phone! 🤣This one is a sleeper hit, I wish more people had read it. I do think you’d really like it if you end up picking it up, Tammy.

  1. Let’s start off with that amazing cover, shall we? Love it! And an alternate Rome… with a dozen POV’s… and it works? Nice! I totally did not know about this one, though I’ve seen the cover a few times, but now I think I want to get it! Interesting too that it sounds like it’s using the Roman gods to power the magic system, or at least part of it?

    1. Isn’t it so beautiful! When I first saw it in a “new deals” post a few months ago I immediately added it to the TBR based on the cover alone. Seriously, Cass Morris is one to watch! There are very few authors who can pull off the multi-POV historical fantasy epic. Yes! Roman gods are a major part of the primary magic system. I think you’d love this one, Greg!

  2. I’m totally intrigued by this one. I’m pretty sure I’ll go either way with it when it comes to it because it’s a slower paced book and unless I’m in the right frame of mind I will get bored but if I’m in the right mood I’ll be hoked and enjoy it as much as you did. Unfortunately after my quick google unless I’m prepared to shell out I won’t be able to get a hold of this because it’s so expensive over here! I’m putting this on my radar, though, because it does sound good and your review has me all kinds of interested in reading it.

    1. I know what you mean, Becky. Usually I’m all about the slower paced stories so long as they’ve got solid characters and they’re well-written, but the occasional one will flop for me. Hopefully when you get a chance to read this one it works for you and you’re hooked from the get-go! I’ve got a really good feeling about Cass Morris, I think she’s one to watch for sure.

  3. I got this book from the pub but have not read it yet! It sounded awesome and I couldn’t resist requesting but didn’t think they would fulfill my request. LOL. In any case. A dozen POVs? That’s… a lot. 😱 But hey, as long as it works for the story. Latona sounds wonderful. I’m glad you enjoyed this book, Danya!

    Have a great day. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    1. Oooooh Alyssa! I think you might like this one if you’re in the mood for a slower-paced, political story. The nice thing about all the POVs is that they aren’t all equally as long or as present; Latona and Sempronius definitely have the most POV chapters by far! I think FROM UNSEEN FIRE is quite different from your usual reads but I really hope you enjoy it if you get the chance to pick it up!

      I hope you have a good week. 😊

  4. Alternate Ancient Rome, how interesting! And wow! Normally when there are lots of POV characters, it’s easy to end up not liking some, so that’s impressive you liked them all. And yay, it’s good to see strong characters who aren’t physically tough since physical strength is not what determines a person’s inner strength or how well-written a character is. The morally grey character sounds interesting too.

    1. I know, right? Now I’m dying for more ancient Roman inspired fantasy, haha. I agree Kristen, normally there are one or two POVs you’re tempted to skip but that definitely wasn’t the case here. I think that’s at least partially due to the fact that all the POV chapters varied in length and frequency, so I didn’t get tired of anyone. 🤣Latona is an amazing example of a strong female character who isn’t physically tough, and Sempronius’ scheming was so cool to read about!

    1. Honestly, I was worried this wouldn’t live up to its epic premise. But it more than exceeded my expectations, and made me fall in love with so many characters! Especially Latona. Her sisters (and all the women in this book, actually) are also awesome.

  5. Wow – that’s a lot of POV characters but it sounds like the author has done incredibly well with them. I’m glad you enjoyed this one so much and it’s really come through in your review. From a great magic system to a slow build plot – it sounds like something that I would absolutely love. TBATN is up soon on my TBR so if I like that one I’m definitely coming back here to get the details from you for this one!

    1. It is, but Morris totally pulls it off! Of course, the two characters whose POV chapters were the most frequent ended up being my faves, but I liked all of them. Ooooooh yay for TBATN, I can’t wait to hear your take on it! If you end up loving it, then this story is definitely for you, Di.

  6. I don’t mind a slow simmer and I’ve been eyeballing this one for some time. 5/5 is very encouraging indeed!
    Lynn 😀

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