Book Review: Blood and Ember by Isabel Cooper
This is the third in the Stormbringer series… I hesitate to say the third in a trilogy, but I think it is, because the story here reaches what seems to be a natural conclusion. While I’m sure Cooper could tell more stories set in this world, I’m not entirely sure how she could top the pretty epic conclusion of this one.
I’ve really enjoyed this epic fantasy romance series. Each book follows a different couple, and you can actually read them standalone because characters and events from the earlier books are only lightly referenced (more on that later). In this one, paladin knight Olvir discovers a terrible secret - he’s the vessel for part of a fallen god’s soul - and he must undertake a perilous journey with Vivian, leader of the Sentinels, to the Heart of the Battlefield, the cursed ground where two gods fought, to try and prevent a coming apocalypse.
I’ve loved Cooper’s worldbuilding through this series, and she does a great job of pulling in a bunch of little clues that were dropped through earlier books and bringing everything full circle to a resolution which feels earned. She doesn’t shy away from putting her characters through hardships, which makes their brief respite in an ancient magical cavern all the sweeter.
Now, back to the one thing that both worked and didn’t here. Keeping the romances each to their own book does mean that each book works as a standalone… but because this is a trilogy, there was a problem here in that Olvir and Vivian’s romance arc didn’t quite land in the same way as the others, where the characters from each couple met each other for the first time during the course of their book. We’re TOLD that Olvir and Vivian have known each other for years, that there’s mutual respect… but I would have bought into it so much more if we had SEEN them working together in both the previous books. And having enjoyed those books so much, I definitely wanted to see the major characters from them get more than a brief namechecking here, even if it was just in a sort of ‘celebratory epilogue’ where we got to see them all come back together and figure out what they’re going to do now the threat of apocalypse has passed.
This has been a great series I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, but looking back on it, we needed Olvir and Vivian to have been present more strongly throughout in order to make the conclusion land properly. The worldbuilding and storytelling is truly excellent, but the romance in this third installment missed the mark for me because the history wasn't quite there. I’ll give it four stars, but I know I’ll read all three of them again and I’ll definitely be looking forward to whatever Isabel Cooper writes next, in this world or another.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.