Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews – Review

Book Jacket:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrew comes an enthralling new trilogy set in the Hidden Legacy world, where magic means power, and family bloodlines are the new currency of society.

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.

You can read an excerpt here.


The Hidden Legacy series continues, with a new narrator stepping into the spotlight – Catalina Baylor, the eldest of Nevada’s younger sisters. Now I’ll admit, I’m always a bit wary when it comes to narrator shifts, but in Ilona Andrews I trust – and as always, they delivered. It also helped that they released a novella, Diamond Fire, to serve as an introduction to Catalina’s POV, which helped ease me in. And while it’s not strictly necessary to read Diamond Fire before Sapphire Flames, I would highly recommend it, both just for a general primer on the characters/situation, and also so you can appreciate how far Catalina has come, over the three year gap between the end of that story and the start of this one, as she matures from an insecure teenager to powerful, self-aware adult (and frankly, given I was a tad, a hair, worried that Catalina’s insecurities would be a bit grating at novel-length, I was vastly reassured by that evolution). And Sapphire Flames rip-roars into action, with the signature Ilona Andrews blend of world-building, kinetic battles, and argumentative romance with a cocky Alpha male type – so really, what’s not to like? I was happy to return to this world, happy to see Catalina step up, and enjoyed reading this book very much.

Also, can I just say how much I loved that Catalina was a smart nerd – one of those people whose brain never stops going. I do so love a blatantly smart female protagonist.

But admittedly, with this book, I did have a few quibbles.

Such as how, at times, I found myself wondering if this series was getting just a tad over-powered. Frankly, Alessandro’s power set, while wildly original and visually very fun to imagine, felt at times, well, just a bit too much. Like, mecha-magical-anime-too-much, much. Now don’t get me wrong, I adore anime/manga, and yes, I fully realize that on some level it’s totally ridiculous, in a series chock full of people leveling buildings and summoning chains and creating killer storms and magically animating objects, to have this particular set of powers feel like it was stretching my credulity a bit, but, well, that was just how I felt. As I was reading, I would just kind of feel one of my eyebrows start to creep up. I also had a similar reaction to Linus’ power set, once it was revealed, which all in all makes me wonder if Team Andrews is feeling some kind of, level-up, bigger-badder-bolder, pressure, where they feel like they need to keep topping themselves with the power sets each book. But as a repeat reader, and one with very high mileage in comics/manga/the superhero genre, I found myself wishing everyone was a bit less powered up. Honestly, if Alessandro had shown up in this book packing no more magical heat than revealed in the last book, I would have been totally down with that. For me, the ride is more than enough fun. I don’t need the supreme razzle-dazzle.

As for my second big overall quibble, I did find I had a sense of, coming-back-around-again, with this story, that itched me a bit. Now admittedly, I’m a big re-reader, and die-hard Ilona Andrews fan, so it makes sense that I’d catch some echoes of familiarity across their oeuvre, but with this book, and particularly within the Hidden Legacy series itself, I just felt like we were passing some familiar mile markers. The friend with nowhere else to turn, the law enforcement run-in, the running-solo attack, the Cinderella moment to attend the big ole richy-rich shindig, the attack on the warehouse, the storming of a compound at the end – even the 90’s cop show jokes (which I do love, but…). And again, look, I do totally get the genre paradigms – I read romance and UF, I’m totally down with well-done tropes and well-loved patterns of stories, and I even enjoy a comfortable sense of familiarity, but it’s just that here, I noticed it more than I wanted to. And like I said, I did still enjoy the story very much, I just found it a bit, for lack of a better word, itchy.

But in the end, Ilona Andrews is Ilona Anrews, and you really can’t go wrong with their unique style of wild magical danger-adventure. And I am very much looking forward to the next book.

Byrt Grade: A-