White Hot (5/30/2017)
This ongoing post has been revised and updated to include a review of Wildfire, the third and FINAL novel in the trilogy. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building, and my reviews of the first two novels.
NOVEL 3: Wildfire
From Ilona Andrews, the thrilling conclusion to her Hidden Legacy series, as Nevada and Rogan grapple with a power beyond event their imagination.
Nevada Baylor can’t decide which is more frustrating—harnessing her truthseeker abilities or dealing with Connor “Mad” Rogan and their evolving relationship. Yes, the billionaire Prime is helping her navigate the complex magical world in which she’s become a crucial player—and sometimes a pawn—but she also has to deal with his ex-fiancée, whose husband has disappeared, and whose damsel-in-distress act is wearing very, very thin.
Rogan faces his own challenges, too, as Nevada’s magical rank has made her a desirable match for other Primes. Controlling his immense powers is child’s play next to controlling his conflicting emotions. And now he and Nevada are confronted by a new threat within her own family. Can they face this together? Or is their world about to go up in smoke.
As the series comes to an end, Nevada, Rogan, and their allies have a number of problems to resolve. Here are the primary story lines:
> 1. Brian Charles, husband of Rogan's ex-fiancée, Rynda, has gone missing, and Rynda—a gorgeous, clingy, seemingly helpless redhead—wants Rogan's help in finding him. Even though Rynda hires Nevada to find Brian, she doesn't like Nevada very much, partly because of the part Nevada played in the death of Rynda's mother (Olivia Charles—in the previous book) and partly because she wants Rogan's attention all to herself. For the first time in her life, Nevada experiences jealousy and she hates it. This story line, which is related to the primary series story arc, weaves among the other story lines until it is resolved with a major twist near the end.
> 2. Victoria Tremaine, Nevada's paternal grandmother is determined to kidnap Nevada so that she can maintain the strength and longevity of the Tremaine House. She begins sending teams of goons after Nevada to drag her away from the rest of her family and threatens both financial and physical harm to the Baylor family if Nevada doesn't succumb to her demands. In this story thread, we learn much more about the relationship between Nevada's father and grandmother and why Nevada's parents have kept their children hidden from Victoria. When Nevada meets Victoria for the first time, she describes her as looking "hard and vicious, like a velociraptor in human skin."
> 3. The only way to keep Victoria at bay is for Nevada to start her own house—the Baylor House—which means that she will be stepping directly into the dirty, backstabbing politics that she has always successfully avoided. It also means that she will have to publicly declare that she is a truthseeker. A new House must have at least two Primes, so Catalina and Nevada will have to be tested to ensure that they do indeed possess Prime-level magic. Penelope is totally against becoming a House. She warns Nevada that, "Primes won't care that you are young. They won't be kind. They will try to use us, manipulate us, or destroy us. You could be standing in the middle of the Assembly, and if a Prime summoned a pack of wild wolves to rip you to pieces, I'm not sure anyone would help. This would be our life."
> 4. Once the magic world learns about Nevada's magical abilities and that she will soon be the leader of her own House, she becomes a desirable mate in the eyes of some of Houston's Primes. When a handsome truthseeker Prime makes a play for Nevada, Rogan also feels stabs of jealousy for the first time in his life, and his reaction is not pretty. Rogan has made it clear to Nevada that he doesn't believe that their magic is compatible, meaning that their children would probably not be Primes. He keeps trying to edge away from Nevada, giving her a chance to pull away from him and marry someone with compatible magic. Nevada, of course, is having none of this, so she keeps trying to convince Rogan that the two of them are destined to be together and that magical compatibility doesn't matter to her (even though she secretly worries about it a lot).As part of the interweaving of these story lines, a number of side effects occur for many of the characters:
> Leon, Arabella, and Catalina are forced to publicly use their very scary magic under harrowing circumstances, thus changing their lives forever.
> Nevada, who is now killing people with some regularity, constantly worries that she is losing her humanity.
> Both Nevada and Rogan worry about whether it is possible for them to make a life together in this world of Primes and magic compatibility. Will they begin to hate one another if their children are not Primes? Would Rogan be better off marrying someone like Rynda? Would Nevada be better off marrying her truthseeker suitor? Nevada wonders, "If Rogan and I ever married and our children weren't Primes, would he resent me? My heart squeezed itself into a tiny painful ball."The Epilogue is a masterpiece that depicts the suspense of Nevada and Catalina's Prime trials and the hilarity of Arabella's mathematics fiasco (which made me laugh out loud). But the Epilogue also points out several loose ends, which means that another chapter in this series may surface at some future time. (We can only hope!) (NOTE: If you are a reader who habitually skips to the end and reads the final pages of a book first, please don't do that with this one because you'll ruin the story for yourself.)
> The brand new Baylor House will have immunity from attacks by the other Houses for three years, but after that...look out, Nevada!
> Nevada owes a favor to the Keeper, and he can call it in at the time and place of his choice.
> Simmering along in the background is the unresolved mystery of the identity of the leader of the "Romans," "an organization of Primes that's trying to destabilize Houston so they can put their leader in power. They call him Caesar." Although the bulk of the insurrection is (predictably) crushed in the final showdown scene, Nevada and Rogan never learn the identity of "Caesar." That identity, however, is revealed subtly to the reader on the last page of the novel. You'll only realize this if you have been paying close attention to some earlier dialogue. Outing Caesar in this manner is a neat trick that leaves the door open for further adventures in this world.
> And finally, we all want to know what will happen if and when Nevada and Rogan have children.As always, the story has plenty of sexy romance, subtle wit, and snarky humor to temper the blood-and-guts action scenes, which—by the way—include battles with huge, scary, otherworldly monsters summoned from unknown realms. Nevada and Rogan are terrific lead characters—intelligent, courageous, and resourceful while, at the same time, sexy and (at times) emotionally insecure. All of the characters are multi-layered, even the villains (a rarity in current urban fantasy).
HIDDEN LEGACY is another top-notch series by the Andrews duo, and this is a fine finale that you won't want to miss. Click HERE to read or listen to an excerpt from Wildfire on the novel's Amazon.com page where you can click on the cover art for print or the "Listen" icon for audio.
The action plot revolves around a pyrokinetic Prime named Adam Pierce, who is the black-sheep son of a powerful House. For years, he has been estranged from his family, declaring himself a radical and spending his time getting into trouble. His doting mother spends much of her time and money doling out compensation to pay off the families of the people Adam maims or kills with his fire. Adam's latest crime is huge: He and another magic user blew up a bank, killing a security guard and severely burning three others. Now, he is in hiding, and his family wants him brought in before the police shoot him down.
Unfortunately for Nevada, the family company is mortgaged to House Montgomery, which runs Montgomery International Investigations. Nevada knows that trouble lies ahead when she gets called into Augustine Montgomery's office. Augustine explains to her that she will be hunting down Adam Pierce and returning him to his family, and if she refuses, he will call in their loan. That would mean that they would lose the warehouse, their electronic equipment, their cars, and their company name—basically everything but the clothes on their backs. Nevada realizes what Augustine is doing: He is trying to appease the Pierce family by sending a competent, but expendable, investigative team after Adam, knowing that Nevada has little or no chance of succeeding because her magic pales in comparison to Adam's fiery power. Augustine is pretty sure that Nevada will die in her attempt to capture Adam, but he has no qualms about using her to get himself out of a sticky situation with the Pierce family.
This story line forms the main plot, providing all of the action and leading into the romance plot. The man who soon takes the lead in the romance story line is Connor Rogan (aka Mad Rogan, the Butcher, the Scourge), a seemingly heartless, extremely powerful telekinetic Prime who is able to move/destroy huge buildings with just a thought. In addition to his telekinesis, Rogan is a tactile, which means that he can make a person feel physically touched with just a thought—which turns out to be a very sexy skill when he uses it to seduce Nevada. Rogan spent time in the military during a recent war, where he built his reputation to the point that everyone fears him and his powers. Now, he leads a very private life, surrounded by his personal army of magic users who are military veterans he has rescued them from post-war lives in which they were treated badly by both the government and the private sector (not unlike the treatment that real-life vets suffer through in our own world). Rogan earns their complete loyalty by giving them well-paying jobs, health care benefits, fair treatment, and respect. Rogan gets involved in finding Adam Pierce because Adam's accomplice, Gavin Waller, is his cousin's son. Gavin's mother, Kelly, begs Rogan to find him, and—quite unexpectedly—Mad Rogan agrees to help.
As the plot begins to unwind, Nevada starts searching for Adam. When she finds him, he refuses to surrender, but he becomes infatuated with her because she turns down all his efforts to charm her—one of the very few women on whom his sexy persona has failed to work. After their first meeting, Adam jumps in and out of Nevada's life, nearly always putting her and her family in danger. Nevada knows that Adam is working for someone who has mapped out the destruction that he is wreaking, but she has no idea who it is.
Then, Mad Rogan inserts himself into the case. He discovers that Nevada is somehow involved with Adam, so he kidnaps her, chains her to his basement floor, and tries to force her to give him all the information she has about Adam. Both of them are astonished when Nevada is able to summon enough magic to resist Rogan's interrogation. Like Adam, Mad Rogan is fascinated with and attracted to Nevada's beauty, intelligence, and stubbornness, something that has never happened to him before. After the kidnapping, Nevada is so afraid of Rogan that she has a taser-like magical implant inserted in her body to protect herself against his powers. But soon, the two grudgingly form a shaky partnership and begin to work together to track down Adam, who leads them on a violent, fiery trail of death and destruction. Eventually, the inventive twists and turns of the plot take Nevada and Rogan on a desperate search for a magical artifact that has a connection to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. (In this world, contrary to legend, it wasn't Mrs. O'Leary's cow that started that disastrous fire—it was pyrokinetic magic.)
Here's how Nevada summarizes her situation about a quarter of the way into the book: "Let's see, I had blackmailed a mechanic; called my employer, who was probably a Prime a terrible person—again; met with a pyrokinetic Prime and gotten kidnapped by a telekinetic Prime; gotten into a fight with my mother; and made the decision to have a weapon that could possibly kill me implanted in my arms...Too many Primes all around."
This is a great start to a promising series. The authors have created a fresh and inventive world led by two fascinating characters. Nevada is (most of the time) a strong, courageous, independent woman, confidant in her investigative abilities and willing to experiment with her newly blossoming magical powers. Unfortunately, the authors have bought into the trope of lust at first sight, particularly for Nevada, which means that whenever she is in Rogan's company, her brain melts into a puddle of lust that interferes with her ability to think straight. Of course, Rogan is also falling for Nevada, but he has much more control over his lusty emotions. Still, the romance is filled with unresolved sexual tension (UST) from the moment they meet. By the end of the book, the two have exchanged a few kisses and Rogan has made his feelings clear, but their romantic situation is still to be resolved—if that is even possible.
The most entertaining characters in the novel are the members of Nevada's family, particularly Grandma Frida, who is happiest when she is covered in axle grease while working on the undercarriage of an armored car. The two cousins are computer geniuses (due to their magical talents), and they form an interesting supportive team for Nevada. We haven't yet heard the entire sad story about Penelope and her tragic wartime experiences, but I'm sure that the authors will reveal more of her back story in the next two books. Nevada tells the story in her straightforward first-person voice, and her narrative includes lots of snarky, humorous dialogue, both with her family and with Rogan.
This is a great book, one that I could not put down until I read it from cover to cover. The second book is due in May, and I can't wait to read it. Click HERE to read or listen to an excerpt from Burn for Me on the novel's Amazon.com page where you can click on the cover art for print or the "Listen" icon for audio.
NOVEL 2: White Hot
Nevada Baylor has a unique and secret skill—she knows when people are lying—and she's used that magic (along with plain, hard work) to keep her colorful and close-knit family's detective agency afloat. But her new case pits her against the shadowy forces that almost destroyed the city of Houston once before, bringing Nevada back into contact with Connor "Mad" Rogan.
Rogan is a billionaire Prime—the highest rank of magic user—and as unreadable as ever, despite Nevada’s “talent.” But there’s no hiding the sparks between them. Now that the stakes are even higher, both professionally and personally, and their foes are unimaginably powerful, Rogan and Nevada will find that nothing burns like ice.
Nevada has always kept her truthseeker abilities carefully hidden from all but a few trusted friends, family members, and allies. She knows that if her talent becomes public knowledge that her life (and her family's lives) would be in danger because powerful people would stop at nothing to force her to become their personal lie detector. Nevertheless, Nevada's conscience won't let her ignore the fate of a kidnapped girl who will die if her kidnapper does not tell police where he has hidden her away. Just as she decides to give up her anonymity and help the police find the child, her frenemy, Augustine Montgomery offers her a deal. He will assist her in hiding her identity while she interrogates the kidnapper if she will investigate the mysterious murder of the wife of one of his clients, Cornelius Harrison. When Nevada first meets Cornelius and his daughter's dog, Bunny, she realizes that Cornelius is "an animal mage, a rare brand of magic, which meant Bunny wasn't a dog. He was the equivalent of a loaded assault rifle pointed in my direction."