Reign of Shadows & Rise of Fire by Sophie Jordan
Young adult high fantasy romance released by HarperCollins on February 9, 2016 and February 7, 2017
Destiny and darkness collide in this romantic, sweeping new fantasy series from New York Times bestselling author Sophie Jordan.
Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.
But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.
With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.
Luna and Fowler have escaped the kingdom of Relhok, but they haven’t escaped the darkness. When a battle against the dark dwellers mortally injures Fowler, Luna is faced with a choice: put their fate in the hands of mysterious strangers or risk losing Fowler forever.
Desperate to keep the one bright part of her life alive, Luna accepts the help of soldiers from a nearby kingdom. Lagonia’s castle offers reprieve from the dangerous outside world—until the King discovers both Fowler and Luna’s true ties to Relhok and their influence over the throne.
Now pawns in each kingdom’s political game, Luna and Fowler are more determined than ever to escape and build the life they’ve been dreaming of. But their own pasts have a tight hold on their hearts and their destinies. Luna must embrace the darkness and fire within her before she loses not only Fowler but the power she was destined to inherit.
The world is a fucking garbage fire, and it’s only gotten worse … which is why I’ve mostly been reading adult high fantasy romances. In fact it’s something I started more than a year ago, and the situation has only gotten more dire (in every sense). There is a lot more YA high fantasy romance than adult, and I think that’s a shame. In my opinion adult high fantasy romance is a huge untapped market I wish more authors would jump into. Anyway – I’ll read YA high fantasy romance when the characters are close to adult or act as if they are adults in their world. I’d say a 17 year old and a 19 year old traveling across a continent alone facing incredible danger counts. (Especially when they’re considered marriageable age and many others in that world their age already have children, etc.) I also figured, knowing Sophie Jordan wrote (writes?) romance, there would be something in there for me. And I was right.
I have a tendency to glom fantasy romance series – even more than other romance subgenres, so as soon as I finish one book I jump into the second, and oftentimes forgot where one ends and the other starts. (Which I don’t consider a real problem since so many are series …) I read both books in one day. I found the world building really interesting, and actually hope there will be some sort of novella, or vignette offering a follow up because I so want to know what else happens.
Luna is a princess that has essentially been raised in exile for her own protection by Sivo and Perla (who I couldn’t tell if they were … together in any sense but it doesn’t seem so?) and kept under strict supervision for numerous reasons. First of all, she’s blind – but incredibly sensitive and aware, and I loved that Ms. Jordan wrote Luna as being so capable – and in fact oftentimes more skilled than those around her. It was nice that while Luna almost had super powers, she still is written realistically in that basic sight issues hinder her a lot – silent expression, and so on. Unfamiliar settings and situations – she can “fake” her way through a log with her almost uncanny hearing and sensitivity, but food on her plate, crowded rooms etc, throw her. I liked that she’s headstrong and eager, but also willing to admit her mistakes. Luna grows a lot through both books, and quickly learns to appreciate what she had (when it had chafed her before) – and also see that what had been her “dream” isn’t all it’s cut out to be. She also has an incredible sense of responsibility … even while she’s rather immature. (Which, you know. 17.)
Fowler – it’s hard to discuss him without spoilers … so I’ll try to focus on book one. You just know from the start he’s a giant marshmallow – although there’s that slight edge that makes you question – is he really that hard? Will it be like running against a stone wall? Is he too broken? You also get the sense from the start his father is someone important, powerful, and dangerous. So. True. I like that Fowler is always so much better than even he thinks he is – and has been from the start. He doesn’t want to care, and has to work hard not to – which is sadly a necessity in their world. At the end of book one – when he tells Luna he loves her (oh come on, that is not a spoiler!) and then does what he does … I was practically screaming. Then in book two when they’re in the castle … how he acts and the internal arguments he has – I loved it. I loved that he respects Luna from the start. Not just her skills, but her choices. He listens to her, and is willing to concede he might not always know best. I will say that Fowler almost felt a bit too old for his age – not just the hard living, but that he had “already loved and lost” (I mean how the heck old was he then? 16? 17??)
Clearly I’m not saying both characters are perfect in any way. In fact sometimes I just wanted to shake Luna because she just wasn’t thinking (enough). Some of it likely is from being so sheltered … and a lot of it is her “heroic noble” complex – Perla and Sivo raised her as one wants a royal to be raised – to think of the good of the people over the good of oneself. (That hits really close to home in this current world, doesn’t it … us all wishing that’s what those in power would do …) I respect that, but at times she became blinded to reality she’s so focused on her mission and purpose. That, and the ending was a bit too pat how things work (I felt it was a bit rushed too …) but overall I was happy. She’s also so “good” herself – and unaware of the world that she doesn’t realize that what she plans to do will have no real impact and is fruitless. The characters don’t discuss enough.
The world building is great – the ways various people survive (or don’t) – all the death and danger. I mean essentially they’re … living in a world with no sun and monster zombies. The detail and description – I could totally see everything in my mind’s eye. The barren wasteland due to lack of sun, the desperation of people to survive- how the ugliness of human nature emerges and how people can be just as dangerous, if not more so than the monsters. The bat lunacy and other creatures were so nuanced while not anything major in the book really added a great edge to it. And Digger!!! I wish he had had a bigger part. (He’s a wolf/the dog character – every book always needs more dog(s)!) [If none of this makes sense, you should read the books 😀 then it’ll make sense and you’ll appreciate just how much is packed into each page.]
I quite enjoyed both books, and really my only complaints are that I wish there had been a bit more romance … or just more between Luna and Fowler (although I get it was YA and very “hint hint” – they do have sex though, but it’s “closed door”) – and the ending. The big “X saves the day” scene – why then and not before? How exactly? Why nobody else? But it was easy enough to suspend disbelief, considering everything else.
I can see this series becoming a movie – and like I said – I wouldn’t mind there being more, because I want the sun to come back. Or to see Fowler and Luna’s life “after.” (And that’s saying something, because I’m generally the one who is all “the end means THE END. JUST STOP.” In this case? … More please!)
Reign of Shadows Grade: B+
Rise of Fire Grade: B
Overall Grade: B
You can buy a copy of Reign of Shadows here and you can buy a copy of Rise of Fire here.
Nice dual-review! World building is a must, and I know Sophie Jordan can write because I’ve loved her previous books. Now I’m curious to check these books out…because, you know, I can’t just leave a high fantasy series out there and NOT check it out.
Thanks Alexia!!! I’d love to know what you think if you read it. I honestly hope she writes more – if not in this “series” more high fantasy. … And that more romance writers step into adult high fantasy. So many possibilities! <3