Sapphire Flames is the fourth Hidden Legacy novel by Ilona Andrews and the first in a new trilogy. So completionists, be warned: the main plot of this book is solved, but neither the romance nor the overarching plot will reach a conclusion until the end of the current trilogy.
I had not read the previous three Hidden Legacy books. While I was a bit overwhelmed by the various unique terminology at first, everything was explained well enough, and naturally enough, throughout the course of Sapphire Flames that someone new to the series would feel just as welcome as a returning reader.
In a world where magic is the key to power and wealth, Catalina Baylor is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, and the Head of her House. Catalina has always been afraid to use her unique powers, but when her friend’s mother and sister are murdered, Catalina risks her reputation and safety to unravel the mystery.
But behind the scenes powerful forces are at work, and one of them is Alessandro Sagredo, the Italian Prime who was once Catalina’s teenage crush. Dangerous and unpredictable, Alessandro’s true motives are unclear, but he’s drawn to Catalina like a moth to a flame.
To help her friend, Catalina must test the limits of her extraordinary powers, but doing so may cost her both her House–and her heart.
Catalina was an interesting character who is aware of her responsibilities to her House. She is guided by her morals and struggles with rationalizing putting her family in danger and doing the right thing by helping a friend. She could do with a bit less of letting “Victoria Tremaine’s granddaughter rise to the surface,” but I do like Catalina’s strength and goals. However, soon she’s in too deep, and that’s where Alessandro enters the picture.
Alessandro is still a mystery to me—and not in a good way. My urban fantasy reading experience is minimal compared to other genres I read, but it’s obvious that Sapphire Flames falls into a trap that I’ve noticed in this genre: a single first-person point-of-view narration in a book/series that introduces a romance. In comparison, Annie Bellet’s Twenty-Sided Sorceress series was one that started the same way but eventually gave side characters that were important to the plot or to the main character an occasional third-person point-of-view chapter, which has kept the series strong and the characters engaging.
The reason I pick on this writing style, especially when there’s a romance involved, is because all the information and insight and emotions involved is completely one-sided. By shutting out that other character’s point of view, the reader is disconnected from a part of the story and a part of the main character’s life.
Which brings me back to Alessandro. His background is still too much of a mystery, and while that’s fine for it to be a mystery to Catalina, it’s not fine to leave the readers that much in the dark. I don’t know if he’s genuine. I don’t know who he is. I don’t understand why he was hired. I don’t understand his motivations. There’s too much I don’t know, and because of this, I don’t care about him.
Maybe by the end of this trilogy, I’ll feel like Alessandro is finally a person deserving of Catalina’s affection. However, he has a long way to go to get there.
The actual plot—uncovering a murderer and discovering the reasons and atrocities that led to that death—is exciting and action-packed. I enjoyed learning about this world and its problems. Discovering how the magical society lives with the mundane, and when magical crimes cross the line. If you set the romance aside, Sapphire Flames is a lot of fun and a great lead-in to the trilogy.
Sapphire Flames released on August 27, 2019 and is available now.
I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.