The final novel in the KINGDOM ON FIRE series offers up big triumphs and a massive source of frustration.
Have you ever read a series that simultaneously thrills you and frustrates the life out of you? Alas, that’s me and Jessica Cluess’ Kingdom on Fire series, particularly with the release of its conclusion, A Sorrow Fierce and Falling.
Henrietta Howel is a magician among sorcerers, a young woman believed to be the prophesied chosen one who will win the great war against malicious beings known as Ancients– even though she knows she’s not the chosen one. The third novel finds Henrietta living at Lord Blackwood’s magically protected estate in the faerie lands, Sorrow-Fell, where the two are about to be married. As she prepares to become a Blackwood bride, Henrietta discovers a secret at Sorrow-Fell that could be a game-changer in the war against the Ancients. But to use it, she’ll have to unite the three branches of magic before the Ancients find a way to unleash their dark ruler upon them, destroying the whole world in the process.
A Sorrow Fierce and Falling is by far the fastest moving of the series, which is a very good thing. Henrietta is no longer in training. She’s done being doubted. She’s in the thick of the action, battling alongside her friends and heading out into the world to get things done. There are plenty of characters, new and old, that she interacts with along the way, but we don’t spend too much time sitting around talking. She has a solid, powerful ally in Maria. There are dramatic encounters, skirmishes, tensions, and a big final battle scene that will stuck you right in. The moments of action and clever bouts of wit are Henrietta and her companions at their best, what I cling to and adore in these novels.
However, I think I’ve also pinpointed my biggest problem with the series: It constantly tries to define Henrietta through her romantic relationships. They’re a huge part of this novel and I wish they just weren’t. It was overwhelming and it hampered Henrietta’s character development rather than helping it. No matter how successful or oh so very wrong she was in any situation, she was always worried about how the latest guy she’s with will react. There are too many love interests in the series to begin with, but as we move toward the endgame, none of them have been truly narrowed down. In the rush to make everyone but the endgame suitor unfavorable, the author just starts assassinating the personalities she’s built for the spare suitors so far.
One of these characters I really enjoyed, but he went from steadfast and very caring, though a little too uptight and stolid for his own good, to a wildly prejudiced slut-shamer who can’t handle anything over a very short time frame. It started at the very end of the last book so I saw it coming, but it still felt cheap. Hell, the other character involved in this mess didn’t interest me and I feel even he was brushed aside with little due diligence, rolling over and giving up at the first available chance. Meanwhile, endgame boy is forgiven of all sins without hesitation and exalted as Henrietta’s true equal because he’s suddenly nothing but strength and compassion while every other love interest loses their damn mind. Yes, you can probably guess who I’m talking about in all of these cases, but I’m not namin’ names. If this all sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is.
It may sound like I don’t like the series, but that’s completely untrue. Overall, I enjoyed Henrietta’s adventures in this wild Victorian war with dark creatures and magical twists around every corner. The resolution of the main conflict was satisfying and it will give readers plenty to cheer and plenty of mourn. I had a lot of emotions coursing through my veins during the final chapters, even though I struggled with how neatly everything wraps up in Henrietta’s favor. If you’re here for the magic, you’re going to get magic. If you’re here for friendships and battles, you’re gonna get friendships and battles. If you’re here for boatloads of Jane Eyre vibes (apparently, I’m kinda not,) you’re gonna get those too. It’s the perfect time for an eerie magical story, so pick this one up and decide for yourself!
RATING: 3.5 OUT OF 5 STARS
It’s time for war.
After suffering terrible losses, Henrietta and Lord Blackwood have led their warriors to Sorrow-Fell, a vast estate where only those invited by a Blackwood may enter–and the ideal place to plan a final assault against the Ancients.
It’s time for a wedding.
Henrietta nervously awaits her marriage to Blackwood, but when the ritual to become his bride reveals a dark secret, she realizes that Sorrow-Fell is not a safe haven; it’s a trap. Convincing the sorcerers of this, however, is not easy. So with Maria, the true chosen one, and Magnus, the young man who once stole her heart, at her side, Henrietta plots a dangerous journey straight into the enemy’s lair. Some will live. Some will die. All will be tested.
In this stunning conclusion to the Kingdom on Fire series, Henrietta must choose between the love from her past, the love from her present, and a love that could define her future. While battles rage, the fate of the kingdom rests on her decision: Will she fall or rise up to become the woman who saves the realm?
It’s time for Henrietta to make her stand.