Title & Author: Steel and Fire Series — Duel of Fire (#1), King of Mist (#2), Dance of Steel (#3), Jordan Rivet
Genre & Publication Date: YA Fantasy, Duel of Fire – March 20, 2016, King of Mist – May 11, 2016, Dance of Steel – August 30, 2016
Book Description: From Book One: Duel of Fire: “Dara Ruminor is a serious young duelist in the mountaintop kingdom of Vertigon, a land of dramatic cliffs and misty peaks where mysterious Fire magic runs through the stones like blood. The secluded kingdom has been peaceful for a hundred years. Swords are used for sport, and successful athletes live like kings as long as the crowds love them.
Eighteen-year-old Dara needs to find a wealthy patron in order to duel professionally and avoid a lifetime working in her parents’ Fire Lantern shop. Her efforts are disrupted when her coach asks her to train with Prince Siv, an infuriating—if handsome—young man who refuses to take the sport as seriously as she does. But the prince’s life may be in danger, and soon Dara will discover that Vertigon isn’t as peaceful as she thought.
As threats emerge from the shadows, Dara will have to raise her sword to protect Siv—if he doesn’t irritate her so much that she decides to run him through herself.”
First Line: Dara struck the practice dummy with a precise hit.
My Take: Sooooooo torn on how I feel about this series. It has an awesome premise with royal intrigue, fire magic, and dueling all with some good humor and lovable characters that had me thinking a lot of “The Princess Bride” — totally different story but the fencing and quipping called that one to mind.
The two main characters, Dara and Siv, are a great contrast. Dara is strong and serious, determined, a tat rigid but with a caring, honorable soul. Siv is outgoing, flippant but in a charming way, brave when the chips are down and deeply loyal to his family. Their differences juxtapose brilliantly and bring some fun conflict, particularly those early scenes when they irritate the crap out of each other, and their similarities make them a great team. What I enjoyed about this relationship was how it evolved slowly: from animosity, to respect, to friendship. Siv admires Dara, her ability with a blade and her dedication, while Dara, for all that Siv’s teasing drives her crazy, can’t help but be drawn to his warmth and exuberance. This is all beautifully done against a backdrop of duels, monarchical turmoil, betrayal, and murder…at least, for the first two books.
What does that mean, you ask?
It means I hit book three and – CRASH! – the plot stopped moving forward altogether and headed off in different directions, adding totally new characters that I don’t care about and subplots I care even less about. There’s also another POV added which threw me off. It’s from a character we’ve been introduced to before but since books one and two are from Dara and Siv’s POV, I had a hard time not hating this new voice for interrupting the ones I’m more interested in hearing from (especially since I wasn’t all that excited about the new one). All the action and tension built up from the first two books felt utterly deflated. The entire time I’m thinking, “When are we going back to the main story???”, but that doesn’t seem to be the point of book three, almost as if the author got tired of writing that main plot line. But I wasn’t tired of reading about it! *cries*
This sort of thing has happened to me with other series (book two of An Ember in the Ashes, for example). Things are centered around two characters, then suddenly another point of view I DON’T CARE ABOUT is added on, taking me away from the story I signed up for. Why? Was it just to extend the length of the series? I think this one could’ve made an awesome trilogy but because it’s scheduled to be five books long when maybe it shouldn’t be, book three felt like a tacked on adventure, or a filler episode like in a TV series. You know the ones — like any of the Jordy La forge episodes we were subjected to in the Next Generation.
The Magical: The duels! Oh the duels were my favorite. Thrust and parry! I almost wanted to shout, “I am not left-handed!” while reading them.
The Mundane: Book three. The beginning and ending held true to the first books but that whole middle section, no.
Summary of Thoughts: A while back I asked whether readers thought the serial series was a writer’s gimmick or not. There were some strong opinions on the subject that I didn’t altogether agree with, but I think I’m starting to get the sentiment, especially after this recent experience. When it seems like a story is being stretched thin just to eke out another book and earn more money, it really kills the reading enjoyment. Offshoot stories, prequels, etc. are all acceptable in my view, mainly because they’re independent and don’t interfere with the core books. This series could’ve easily ranked as one of my favorites because book one and two are spectacular, but that third one just took the fun out of it for me and sadly, I won’t be reading the final installments.
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