Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews
Urban fantasy released by Avon on August 25, 2020
As Prime magic users, Catalina Baylor and her sisters have extraordinary powers—powers their ruthless grandmother would love to control. Catalina can earn her family some protection working as deputy to the Warden of Texas, overseeing breaches of magic law in the state, but that has risks as well. When House Baylor is under attack and monsters haunt her every step, Catalina is forced to rely on handsome, dangerous Alessandro Sagredo, the Prime who crushed her heart.
The nightmare that Alessandro has fought since childhood has come roaring back to life, but now Catalina is under threat. Not even his lifelong quest for revenge will stop him from keeping her safe, even if every battle could be his last. Because Catalina won’t rest until she stops the use of the illicit, power-granting serum that’s tearing their world apart.
I really enjoy this series, and I really enjoyed this book. This book is the sequel to Sapphire Flames, and does a good job of not presuming the reader is familiar with the world or characters. However, things will make much more sense if you’ve read, at least, Sapphire Flames–you should definitely read all of the previous books, but you don’t have to. Also, there is a decent amount of on the page violence in this book, so if that makes you uncomfortable, this isn’t your book. Catalina is savvy, confident, ruthless, and loves her family deeply. She’s also trying not to become like her paternal grandmother, who does not have a good track record as a decent human being. The love interest is Alessandro, and while he doesn’t narrate any part of this book, we get a good sense of him from how Catalina describes their interactions and how the other characters react to him. In many ways, he is like Catalina, but without a supportive family or friends, and he’s changed from how he was in previous books. I keep mentioning Catalina’s family because they’re just as important as Catalina to the way the story unfolds, both in this book and over the course of the series. The only thing I didn’t like about this book is its ending, which is a bit of a cliffhanger.
[In case you aren’t familiar with this series, Catalina’s family runs a private investigative agency. Through a series of events, it is revealed that they are all fairly magically powerful, as such things are measured in this world. They form a House out of self-preservation, and after the dust settles, Catalina ends up as the head of House Baylor. Alessandro first met Catalina when she was proving her magic abilities. More recently, he worked–in a very flirtatious, not cooperative way–with her to stop some bad guys from reshaping the world. Because of the work she did in that case, Catalina ends up becoming the Deputy Warden of Texas, which means she is in charge of policing the magical community in Texas.]
After rescuing a cute monkey and being attacked by some monsters, Catalina is assigned a new case by the Warden of Texas. This is different from previous books, where the Baylors take on a client that comes to them with a tricky situation that might be over their heads (if you make the mistake of underestimating them). Before walking into the meeting with her new “client” and the three most likely suspects, Catalina has a plan for how she wants to handle the situation. She knows how she wants to appear to these people, and how that appearance might work to her advantage while investigating the case. Alessandro upends those plans, which makes her angry–angrier. This savviness is apparent throughout the book–in how she interacts with her younger cousin after a bad event, in how she handles her paternal grandmother, and in her observation of the people she interacts with. This observation is something she probably learned because she has been a private investigator since she was a teenager, basically, so even passing observation is incredibly detailed, but it has been honed. As head of the House, Catalina believes she is responsible for the safety and wellbeing of her family, even Nevada, her older sister who is married and no longer living with them anymore. Catalina doesn’t resent her family ties, and while she is better at delegating responsibilities to her family than Nevada, she doesn’t always tell them when she’s in trouble (be it emotional or otherwise).
Alessandro was a charming, superficial scion of a powerful family–as far as we’re concerned. However, things happened–things that would spoil the book–that shifted his priorities. That is why he came back to be near Catalina. This is where reading the previous book would be the most helpful. In that book, Alessandro repeatedly ducked questions from Catalina, even questions that would have made her job easier and probably would not have hurt him to answer. In this book, he answers all her questions, even questions that make him feel incredibly uncomfortable–mostly. There’s one big question that he avoided, but at the time, it didn’t seem to have anything to do with her job, and the answer was revealed by a different character. He has a somewhat adversarial relationship with Catalina’s friends and family. Runa, Catalina’s best friend, dramatically drives up just as Catalina and Alessandro are about to leave in order to express her opinion about Alessandro and support of Catalina. I expect this will work out in the end, just as it did for Nevada and Rogan.
Catalina’s family is great. We have Leon, her younger cousin, who is restless and funny and sharp. He shows up a lot in this book and it was interesting seeing how he grew from his first appearance in Burn for Me. There’s Arabella, Catalina’s younger sister, who is dramatic but always there for her family. Despite her dramatic way of interacting, she is very careful about actually losing her temper. There’s Catalina’s mom, who is mostly present in the background, but can ride herd on the family when they get a little carried away–she’s probably the most cautious Baylor. There’s Grandma Frida, who runs her own business, but is always there for her family, even if it’s with unwanted bridal magazines. Bernard is Leon’s older brother, steady, logical and constant, and able to find out almost anything if it involves computers. There’s also Nevada, Catalina’s older sister, who is loyal and loving and incredibly fierce. And there’s the evil grandmother (Victoria), who has done evil things and who is possibly still doing evil things. There relationships give this book a lot of depth you don’t always find in other urban fantasy/paranormal romance series, where sometimes it can feel like it’s the protagonist on their own forever and ever. It isn’t just the on the page conversations, but how Catalina feels about her family. For instance, she feels lonely and cut off from them in their current housing situation.
I’m really looking forward to the next book, and will probably re-read this one while I wait for it.
You can buy a copy here.