Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Siren's Fury

Siren's Fury by Mary Weber
Nym has saved Faelen only to discover that Draewulf stole everything she valued. Now he’s destroyed her Elemental storm-summoning ability as well.

When Nym sneaks off with a host of delegates to Bron, Lord Myles offers her the chance for a new kind of power and the whispered hope that it may do more than simply defeat the monster she loathes. But the secrets the Bron people have kept concealed, along with the horrors Draewulf has developed, may require more than simply harnessing a darker ability. They may require who she is.

Set against the stark metallic backdrop of the Bron kingdom, Nym is faced with the chance to change the future. Or was that Draewulf’s plan for her all along?

First off...oh my god! Just...oh my god! I am completely and utterly, head over heels, madly in love with these books! If you're in a bit of a reading slump, pick them up because I guarantee they will bring you out of it!

I've had this book sat on my shelf for well over a year now. Buried behind a load of other books so I couldn't see it and be tempted to read it. After the ending to Storm Siren, I didn't want to read this book until I had the sequel, and final book in the series in my hands. With Siren's Song locked and loaded on my Kindle, I finally began.

This book is intense! I was completely gripped from page one and despite the story leaning heavily on slow burn scheming and political machinations - something which I'm often tempted to skim read - over battles and character driven plot, I just couldn't put it down! On first glance it seems like nothing much is going to happen. After defeating Bron's armies and saving Faelen, Nym stows away on an airship to Bron to save Eogan and stop Draewulf. Much of the story takes place on said airship of in the castle of Bron. Oh, and Draewulf has stolen her elemental powers.

But despite all this, Siren's Fury is just as gripping and exciting as its predecessor. We got a glimpse of the Hidden Lands last time around, but everything is expanded, while still leaving plenty to be revealed in the final book without the reader feeling like they've been short changed. I love a good fantasy world, and we learn more about the different kingdoms and the powers that the people of them possess. The steampunk-esque Bron was beautifully described and the fleeting glimpse of the earth kingdom of Tulla as its under siege from Bron tantalising, and the sprinkling of political scheming is the topping on this sundae of awesome.

Given that Nym loses her powers and gains new ones, there could have been a lot of retreading old ground here. Stripped of her elemental abilities, a desperate Nym turns to a dark power offered by Lord Myles that could help her save Eogan, and then has to learn to control it. There were a few moments where I got flashbacks to Storm Siren and the similar plot point there, but thankfully her powers are so different and the stakes so much higher that it was nice to see this go in a subtley different direction. I've read a few books that use multiple povs or the same storylines that just end up rehashing what you've already read or basically copying and pasting in huge chunks of text and perhaps changing the odd word here and there, so while I was initially dubious, my fears were unfounded. I firmly believe that Mary Weber is too good an author for that to fly. The idea that people could obtain magic abilities from potions, in this case via a witch, was intriguing, and I'm dying to know where this goes in the next book.

Once again, I loved Nym! Gone is the scared, often stroppy girl of Storm, replaced by a strong, battle-scarred fighter still driven by the urge to protect others. After possessing so much power and no control in the first book, it was interesting to read the flip side of that as she starts off with control but now power. Her decision to take the other abilities doesn't come across as stupid, the first person pov letting you see why she does something that on the surface would seem downright idiotic. Normally the kind of plot contrivance that propels these twists has me rolling my eyes to the ceiling, but Nym's justifications and desperation to save the one person she may well love had me practically screaming "what are you waiting for!?", even if it was a terrible idea. Character growth is a big part of YA series' and the journey Nym has already been on in just two books is astounding, and her character has changed enough to reflect this, without losing any of the charm that made her so special. I couldn't help but smile to myself when she was cursing like a sailor - I love a good swear! - although as this was in fantasyland speak and maybe a tad excessive/repetitive. I'll happily never read the word "litches" again for the rest of my life!

It was nice to see Princes Rasha play a bigger part in this story, even though she is a bit of a best friend/ally princess cliche that is prevalent in a lot of fantasy YA. I really hope she gets plenty of book time in Siren's Song. Of all the characters, she's probably the one who most deserves a happy ending. Elsewhere, the deliciously slimey Lord Myles, who barely registered with me in Storm, ends up being integral to the story. There's never a dull moment when he's on the page, his questionable morals and fuzzy alliance making for either a bad guy you love to hate, or compromised good guy with a questionable moral compass depending on your pov. Nym and Rasha are very black and white in what they see as right and wrong - even if Nym does waiver a little on this, it's always a means to a justifyable end - whereas Lord Myles is more fluid. And at times you find yourself agreeing with him. It's remarkable that he's gone from such a seemingly bit-player in the first book to such an integral part and driver of the story in book two.

I missed my beloved Eogan in this one though. MIA for much of the book, Lord Myles just cannot measure up as a trainer/mentor! Eogan's presence looms large over the book courtesy of Nym's desperation to free him and the things he taught her still resonating. He is the grounding for the story when it threatens to go floating off on a tangent like a Bron airship and at times seems the only thing from keeping Nym from going completely dark. It would be interesting, if heartbreaking, to see where she'd be without him.

Maybe like Draewulf perhaps? The big bad of the story becomes so much more in this book. As Nym discovers his plans for the kingdoms and more about his past, his character turns from what could easily be a run of the mill, 2D villain to something better. I actually found myself feeling sorry for him at a few points! One of the themes that I absolutely love about Storm Siren that Mary Weber has done a brilliant job of weaving through the series so far is the idea of choice and where the paths you choose to take can lead you, of staying true to yourself and your beliefs in the face of insurmountable odds. The idea that Draewulf simply cannot understand and deal with Nym's love and compassion is truly heartbreaking. His daughter Lady Isobel gets fleshed out too, even though she's still an utter bitch! She may be a young woman desperate for her father's love and approval, but surrounded by her wraith armies she throws any sympathy back in people's faces. Warped, misguided and dressed to kill - sometimes literally - there's a glimpse of humanity offered beneath her cold exterior, but a glimpse is all it is. Airships, shapeshifters, witches, wraiths, the idea of the Elegy - using the blood of each of the kingdom's rulers to fulfill a prophecy promising untold power and immortality -, all of this has me chomping at the bit to start the next book!

Siren's Fury doesn't suffer the mid-trilogy slump that I was half-fearing. While it may not be a better book than Storm Siren - because that book was freaking amazing - it's just as good. Storm Siren sets the bar high and Siren's Fury more than matches it. It's rich, intense, gripping and above all never dull for even a single moment, elevating the story to another level and setting the scene to absolute perfection for Siren's Song. Bring it on!

One thing that really bothers me about this book though - it's nothing to do with the story so not part of the review, I just needed to get it out there after the recent #ukyachat discussion on feminism - Nym is described in the book blurb on the dust jacket as "the beautiful elemental". I mean...really? Not determined, not strong-willed, not resourceful...beautiful. Of all the fantastic characteristics and qualities that Nym possesses that could have been picked as a selling point, that was the one the publishers went for. A few characters make mention of her beauty so we already know it, but it's irrelevant. And it's especially irrelevant in that sentence. YAs already have enough of that crap to deal with, so I was disappointed to see another "don't forget; the main character is gorgeous!" crammed in so blatantly and so unnecessarily. Not cool Thomas Nelson!

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