MY RATING: 2 OUT OF 5 STARS. A ROLLER-COASTER OF QUALITY. RECOMMENDED, FOR THE SAKE OF THE OVERALL SERIES.
Librarian turned sorcerer. Sorcerer turned hero. Hero turned puppet.
The Solaris Empire found victory in the North and, at the cost of her heart and her innocence, Vhalla Yarl has earned her freedom. But the true fight is only beginning as the secret forces that have been lurking in the shadows, tugging at the strings of Vhalla’s fate, finally come to light. Nowhere is safe, and Vhalla must tread carefully or else she’ll fall into the waiting arms of her greatest foe. Or former lover.
~ My Thoughts (+Minor Spoilers)~
I don’t know how to write this review without being overly critical, so I’m just going to have to ask fans of the series to forgive me instead.
I found the first third of Water’s Wrath incredibly clunky. The tension felt forced, the plot arc was rushed and poorly executed, and Jax’s presence felt kind of ridiculous. I appreciated the first few chapters, and I like that I can see Elise Kova’s writing style improving with each novel she writes. Unfortunately, that is not enough to save the beginning of Water’s Wrath. I didn’t like it, I didn’t understand it, it didn’t feel compelling, the stakes didn’t feel real, and I found it’s conclusion utterly unsatisfying in almost every way.
The second third of the narrative was the saving grace of the book. Without it, I honestly don’t know what the story would have been. I loved the return of Aldrick as the dark prince, and I loved the intimacy between him and Vhalla while they were both forced to keep each other at arm’s length. And I will always love Baldair and Daniel, regardless of what they do.
As for the last third, it started strong but quickly fell apart. The death was actually unexpected, for once, but as always, it functioned only as a plot device and lost all relevance in about three chapters. The surprise villain of this book was also not a surprise in any way, and I honestly think it really (dare I say it?) lazy that the series makes absolutely no effort to hide Vhalla’s antagonists. For once, it would be nice to see someone Vhalla completely trusts reveal themselves as a villain, as opposed to it always being someone the reader is very aware either ‘looks evil’ or ‘acts suspiciously’. As a plus, I did appreciated the epic atmosphere of the only battle in the book between Vhalla and the surprise villain, but it was greatly overshadowed by my confusion, disbelief, and my complete lack of surprise. For the book with the highest stakes thus far (and easily the worst villain?), it lacked any tension or suspense whatsoever. And don’t even get me started on how difficult it is not to laugh when the evil villain takes the time to explain his evil plan to Vhalla rather than just killing her (both of the main villains in the book do this).
Also, the magic system of Air Awakens has finally stopped making sense. Either I don’t understand the magic of crystals very well, or it wasn’t explained very well–either way, things just started happening that didn’t make any sense with the previously defined magic system, and even the elemental magic started doing things I didn’t find plausible or believable at all. In a nutshell, I just feel like sorcerers have been reduced to nothing but deus-ex-machinas (and the crystals are literally this anyway), as they can do pretty much whatever the plot needs them to do, regardless of how loose the ties are with their actual elemental power.
The character development in this novel was also really spotty, which is surprising, since the strongest aspect of this series has always been the characters. Aldrick makes a wickedly strong return, and Baldair and Daniel are always amazing, but everyone else–including Vhalla–feels lackluster, and I am repeatedly disappointed by the characterization of Elecia, who literally serves exactly two purposes: she either heals people, or causes Vhalla unnecessary drama.
The biggest disappointment of this book, however, is the ending. For one thing, Vhalla is literally never in any real danger. Maybe that’s because the story is narrated by her; maybe it’s because the series literally depends on her. I don’t know. The point is, why should I be afraid for Vhalla if I know, full well, that she will always be fine? This doesn’t even have to relate to this book in particular–it’s just a comment about the series in general. There’s no sense of fear, so Vhalla’s pain always packs very little emotional punch. Also, I cannot express the deep, deep disappointment I felt with the deaths hurriedly shoved into literally the last 1% of this book. Not only did these deaths feel cheap, they were also so incredibly convenient that it took my breath away. Don’t worry Vhalla, you don’t know how you’re going to solve the biggest overarching problem of the series? Surprise, you don’t have to, because everything was conveniently solved for you in three lines of off-hand dialogue. And even if these deaths turn out to be a lie, for believing they’re real, Vhalla (and friends) are (forgive me) idiots. There’s no way to win here: either they’re really dead and it’s horrible, or they’re not and it’s horrible.
It’s just a mess.