Story Rating: 5 stars
Audio Rating: 5 stars

Narrator: Gary Furlong
Length: 16 hours, 34 minutes

Audiobook Buy Links: Amazon/Audible | iBooks
Book Buy Links: Amazon | iBooks

Politics, poison and pain, the gifts the star gods granted to the three heirs of the Rourke bloodline. Politics for Eimarille, who has deposed Bernard Iverson, taken his throne, and retaken her own name. Pain for Caris, whose lover has been turned into a rionetka, his mortal heart replaced with one of clockwork and alchemy. Poison for Soren, gifted to the Wardens as a child and who has been trained to endure, to survive, and to kill the undead who stalk across the world.

As the fires of Eimarille’s war begin to engulf the world, Caris will have to take up the mantle of Princess, rising to challenge her sister’s claim to the throne, and when the dead claw their way free from the vaults beneath the Solarian palace, Soren may have no choice but to reveal himself as Alasandair Rourke, prince of Ashion.

The dead walk. The living die.

The second book in the Infernal War Saga has everything that I loved in the first book — detailed world building, complex and grounded politics, and high-stakes conflicts with consequences and reactions to every action taken. With six primary points of view — the three heirs, two Solarian nobles, and Blaine — enough time is given to each one to shape the story from their point of view. Side characters, such as Terilyn, Eimarille’s blade, or Delani, the Warden governor, have occasional chapters to fill in side moments, but overall the story feels well balanced between every event.

And it’s quite a story and, in this book, it’s not a happy one. As the second book in the series, a series focused on a world-spanning war where the dead are raised in order to slaughter and consume anyone and everyone standing in Eimarille’s way, there are going to be losses. People, the innocent and the guilty, side characters and main characters, are going to suffer.

Eimarille is now the Queen of Daijal. Having lost everything during the Inferno, she has regained much of it now, all save her mother’s throne. With Terilyn at her side, both bodyguard and lover, and her son — stripped of her husband’s name, now Lisandro Rourke — she is free to seek vengeance for every slight (real and imagined) that the world gave her. Every house that conspired to kill her parents, to destroy her empire, her childhood, her life, will pay in blood. She is ruthless, clinical, and cruel. And she is an excellent antagonist. I love that I can both despise her and her methods, and admire her brilliance and spirit. She’s flawed, mortal, and understandable, sympathetic and horrific all at the same time.

Caris is the lost infant, saved from the fire before her name could be written in the royal genealogies — hence Blaine Westergard, a witness to her birth and her life, witness to her rank as a princess of the Rourke bloodline. She joined the resistance to fight against the empires built on debt slavery, the same empire that now holds her mother and father. They may not be Roarkes, but they raised her and loved her and are still her parents. The young man she was falling in love with has been tortured and turned into a walking puppet, one whose mind — even now — may never truly be his own. For him, for her parents, for every slave living or dead, Caris will claim her birthright and stand against her sister even as she … doesn’t want to. She’s scared, uncertain, and being pushed by everyone to make the ‘right’ choice. She makes it because she has to, but it’s a weakness that may yet break her.

Soren was old enough to know who he was and what he’d lost when he was tithed to the wardens. He’s given up on any dreams or aspirations from his past, focusing instead on the here and now, on his job to protect the living and kill the dead, and somehow along the way he has ended up falling in love with Vanya, the Emperor of Solaria. Vanya and Raiah, princess and heir to the Solarian throne, are as close as he will ever again have to family, and he will do anything and everything to protect them. Even forsaking his duty as a warden.

In this book, all the pieces carefully built in the first story, all the empires and alliances, begin to fall apart and, I have to say, it’s satisfying to see it all so well done. Everything is logical and rational, everything makes sense. However, it’s also rather grim to watch as domino after domino, lightly tapped by Eimarille’s hand, begins to fall …

As before, I was lucky enough to snag an audio copy of this book to review, narrated by the absolutely wonderful Gary Furlong, who has to navigate between a good five or so accents, multiple genders, and ages ranging from a whiny child princess not yet six to a woman whose voice was destroyed by poison. From dying moans to laughing and gossiping courtiers. It’s just amazing how distinct every character sounds, how clearly delineated they are even in scenes with multiple characters speaking together. I’ve said this before, and I’ll probably say it again, but he’s one of my absolutely favorite narrators (Just as Turner is one of my favorite authors) and I had a great time listening to this book.

Go buy it. Listen to it! Or, I suppose, you can just buy the ebook … which is just as good. (But the audio book is better.)