Book two of the Everealm trilogy, Wildfire has everything I look for in a perfect read; magic, far away kingdoms, old school wardrobes, sex, romance, scheming courts, faeries, knights, strong female characters who don't come across as a cliched mixed of other book heroines ... check, check and check! I read Wildfire for the promo post, and immediately went back and read Everealm. A little - alright totally - backwards I'll admit, but despite seeing a few things coming, it didn't spoil my enjoyment at all. Almost two months later (because I am the worst), I'm finally fulfilling my promise to the lovely author J.D.Wright and reviewing both books properly.
Quick note before I start. I received free copies of both books as part of the tour, however this has in no way influenced my review. That's not how I roll.
This is how I roll. Badly!
Without further ado, on to the reviews!
I've tried to start this review so many times, only to think of something I liked even more and start all over again, so I'll keep it simple. I freaking loved this book! It all kicks off in the land of Everealm, where 23 year old Bree has just been crowned Queen of Junacave after her father's death. Desperately in love with her childhood friend Rowan who is the son of a knight and so not a suitable husband, she struggles to reconcile her head and her heart as she inherits a throne now under threat from her uncle Silas.
First off, the world building is spectacular! I felt like I was walking through castle courts, wearing one of those ludicrously impractical velvet dresses. Throw in a little magic and I'm there! I don't normal like books to be too overly descriptive so that I'm a little more free to let my imagination run wild, but it seems like J.D.Wright has got more than enough imagination for the both of us and it didn't hinder my enjoyment at all. In fact everything was so vividly described and told it made for an easy and far more enjoyable read (I think I like making things difficult for myself!). The subtle female empowerment angle is nicely done too. This is a world where females are undoubtedly seen as weaker. Case in point, when Silas comes to steal the throne from his niece, but the female characters (even Silas' hideous wife, the Lady Macbeth-esque Vallica) hold their own. The partnerships are just that in this book, not the big strong man coming to rescue the damsel in distress, nor the insultingly 2D "strong" female characters that you never believe for a minute.
Then there are the characters. I adore Bree! She's not a perfect character, but she's a very real one. And her relationship with Rowan is beautifully written as two people who make that sometimes painfully awkward transition from friends to lovers. Their first scene together is geuninely adorable. Rowan was a little bit blank slate for me at time, a bit of a cookie-cutter good guy doing his duty at the expense of his happiness. But the scenes between him and Bree are what bring him to life as a character. I'm only a little disappointed there weren't more of them. But I can't complain, because this paved the way for scenes between my ship; Bree's magic-possessing friend Sidonie and the powerful wizard Dagan that Bree is enlisted to help save the throne. I don't use this phrase as often as I'd like to, but be still my beating heart! This pair were my utter faves. More of your fiery lovers who lock eyes and that's it. The book blurb warns about mature content, but I much prefer books to go there rather than fade to black which happens in my usual YA fare. If that's your preference, then this series might not be your cup of tea. Steamy without being excessive, the sex and romance scenes are so organic to the story that they never once feel like they've been crowbarred in for a cheap thrill or so that the book can be marketed a certain way. Swoon!
Another plus point; an awesome bad guy. Antagonist Silas - and his put upon but equally vile wife Vallica - means that Everealm has this covered in spades! Urgh! Honestly, I rarely feel a physical reaction to a book character but this guy made my skin crawl! This was the only thing that made me wish I hadn't read book first, so I kind of knew where they were going to end up.
In case I hadn't made it clear enough, I fell head over heels in love with this book! It has just the right blend of fantasy and believable characters, magic and peril with a bit more bite than your average romance and it's all set in a kingdom I want to live in!
Picking up where book one left off, Wildfire is much more fast paced than Everealm, with a greatly expanded world and even more characters in the mix. I especially loved the addition of the faeries as Bree and Rowan were forced to search further afield for allies. I especially loved the faery Rhea. She's such a cute character - although perhaps kissing everyone she crossed paths with isn't the best way to find the Prince Charming she still believes in!
I can't even with the characters! There are so many fantastic newbies, alongside Bree and Rowan and my beloved Sidonie and Dagan, and you really get a sense of this enormous and incredible world. Now that the characters have been established there's sense of loyalty and friendship that permeates the novel. Bree is growing into her role as Queen, and although I'd like to see her let her hair down a bit, she's comfortable in who she is and her place in her kingdom with Rowan. Sidonie gets fleshed out more in this book too, learning more about who she is and coming to terms with her abilities alongside her wizard lover Dagan. They are still just as great a pairing as they were in book one, with chemistry that could melt the hardest heart! I really liked the fact that the sex/love/romance/whatever you want to call then scenes maintained the edge they had in Everealm. I find sometimes with sequels that authors will either dial up or down a certain aspect of their writing to recapture their earlier success with what proved popular, but J.D.Wright still gets a good balance of hot and heavy without it seeming contrived.
One thing that let this book down ever so slightly, and the reason I give it four stars instead of five, was the big bad in this story. Silas was such a brilliant villain, I felt that he had left impossibly big shoes to fill. There's plenty at stake, even more so this time around as more and more kingdoms, families and characters have a stake in the outcome, but there's no "Silas" to be found this time out.
That ending though! I almost wish I hadn't started this series until book three was out. I won't spoil it but suffice to say, the word "cliffhanger" is fitting!
All I can say is bring on book three!