So, before we get into this review, I have a disclosure to make. I was a beta reader for Embers of Fate, and therefore technically a part of the process that brought it out into the world. Some may see that as a reason for bias and that’s totally cool. Take what I say with a grain of salt. That said, I freaking love this book and let’s get into the review.
If you’d like to read my review for the first book in the series, you can do that by clicking here.
At the time of this writing, you can pick up the book on Amazon for $12.00 in paperback, or $3.99 for Kindle. The book is also available in Kindle Unlimited. The physical book is 406 pages.
About the Author
Michele is an up and coming historical fiction author. She currently lives near Seattle, WA with her husband, son and their cat, Link. (This is all straight from the back of the book.)
She is also a very active personality on Twitter. She’s just great to interact with. I would highly suggest following her there. @MicheleQuirke
I much prefer the cover for Embers of Fate to its predecessor. One of my bigger complaints with the cover for The Fires of Treason was that Elizabeth seemed too old, too mature in that illustration. Her appearance on Embers of Fate better fits the character.
Also appreciated is the consistency of branding, with the fonts from the previous cover being pulled through to this one. I did get to see the full wrap of the cover, and I’m pleased to note that the back text is easier to read than on The Fires of Treason, which suffered from a lack of contrast. 4/5
What I have seen of the print edition is the formatted PDF. And the chapter headers are beautiful. I’m very impressed with the interior art and the general formatting. My only nitpick would be the font on the title page. I’m just not feeling it. 4/5
Embers of Fate is a direct sequel to The Fires of Treason and picks up almost right where it left off. If you haven’t read the first book go do that and come back. Ready? Good.
Embers of Fate sees Elizabeth and Greg having to deal with the fallout of the events of book one and their continued exile. After a chance encounter, the protestant siblings find themselves wintering in a pagan village. Elizabeth and Greg must overcome their own biases as they find their places among the villagers. Unfortunately for Elizabeth, many believe prophecy places her at the side of their arrogant chief. Will Elizabeth marry Eric? Or will her building love for Matthias, the cursed village outcast, be too strong to resist?
I love this premise and the way it plays with the fated love trope. 5/5.
The development of Elizabeth and Greg is strong. They are still recognizably themselves and consistent with the people we met in The Fires of Treason, yet they grow so much over the course of the story. Each has well-defined character arcs. And while they are still connected as siblings, each has more room to grow as an individual in this second installment.
Ah, Matt. What can we say about Matt? First of all, love the name. My own beloved hubby is a Matt (although he is a Matthew, not a Matthias). I was really disappointed when I got to the end of The Fires of Treason and there was no Matt. Because I follow the author on Twitter, I was well aware of him as a character before I’d ever read the books. I had a literary crush on him before ever picking up The Fires of Treason, so imagine my dismay when he wasn’t even in the book! But Embers of Fate rights this injustice. Matt is a kind-hearted young man and perfect for our headstrong Bess. He’s also surprisingly well adjusted for someone who suffered the sort of abuse and social ostracization that he has.
A discussion of characters is of course not complete without cover Chief Mother Thyra and her boorish son, Eric. I enjoyed the dynamics within the dysfunctional first family of Balmoral. Thyra is terrible, of course, with her treatment of her nephew. I can’t say too much about that without major spoilers, but Thyra is definitely in the running for worst aunt of the century. Meanwhile, Eric is boorish and self-absorbed. He can’t even conceive of the idea that Elizabeth wouldn’t want to be with him. He’s perfectly annoying.
I didn’t feel any intense dislike for any of these characters (except where you’re supposed to) like I did for Clara in the first book. I’m so. damn. glad. Clara wasn’t in this one. 5/5
The world in which Elizabeth and Greg reside is an alternate medieval Europe and specifically the fictional kingdom of Caracalla. In The Fires of Treason, Quirke did an excellent job of introducing us to the religious strife of the time period, particularly between the Catholics and the Protestants. Now, in Embers of Fate, we’re introduced to a group only hinted at in the previous story–the pagans.
Now, in the real world, paganism, as we tend to think of it (ie polytheism, animism), was by and large eradicated in Europe by the late 1500s when our story is set (though there was certainly a lot of Christo-paganism going on then). However, this is an alternate timeline in which Caracalla exists, so we can set that aside. Quirke does not try to represent a specific historical tradition. However, I find her depictions of the pagans of Balmoral to be somewhat refreshing.
In my opinion, Quirke does a great job of giving the people of Balmoral their own set of religious beliefs without being offensive or appropriative (as far as I am aware as someone who is not a member of any closed traditions). Often in media, we get a false primitivization of the non-Christian peoples of early medieval Europe. For more on that from a modern heathen perspective, here’s a great podcast discussing how this presents in music. Worse, it is not uncommon for media to appropriate things from other un-related cultures for aesthetic reasons. Quirke’s characters do hold to a polytheistic tradition with some magic belief, but otherwise, the characters seem to live lives appropriate to the time and place. One of the main characters even notes that their temple is more impressive than the palace’s great hall.
The only possibly objectional thing I noticed in this portrayal is that the villagers are maybe a tad over the top in their superstition regarding Matt’s curse. There are valid plot reasons for that, though, and I give it a pass.
All in all, I think Quirke did a wonderful job in building out this hidden culture in the Skurg forest. 5/5
While it does not slack on character development, I find Embers of Fate is much more plot-driven than the previous book. I found the story to be more exciting and engaging than The Fires of Treason, which did more to introduce us to the main characters, plus the kingdom and politics of Caracalla.
I guessed the big twist for the book pretty early on, but that didn’t make me enjoy the plot any less. I couldn’t wait to see how the characters unraveled everything. The story also wrapped up in such a satisfying way while still hitting us with one hell of a hook for the next book. 5/5
If anything, Quirke’s writing has improved with her sophomore effort. I still find her style enjoyable and easy to read. 5/5
Final Thoughts: 5/5
No sophomore slump for Michele Quirke. Embers of Fate is a fantastic follow-up, and in my opinion a stronger book than The Fires of Treason. And that ending! Arg! I need book three stat.