Format: Paperback, 560 pages
Release Date: April 24, 2018
Genre: Fantasy / Epic
Across the border, the Witch Lords of Vaskandar are preparing for war. But before an invasion can begin, they must call a rare gathering of all seventeen lords to decide a course of action. Lady Amalia Cornaro knows that this Conclave might be her only chance to stifle the growing flames of war, and she is ready to make any sacrifice if it means saving Raverra from destruction.
Amalia and Zaira must go behind enemy lines, using every ounce of wit and cunning they have, to sway Vaskandar from war. Or else it will all come down to swords and fire.
The Defiant Heir, by author Melissa Caruso, is the second installment in the Swords and Fire series. This is a series that is set in a world not unlike Renaissance Venice. Lady Amalia Cornaro was never meant to be a Falconer, but apparently fate had other ideas. Heiress and scholar of magical theory and a part-time inventor, she was born into a treacherous world of political machinations. Two months ago, nobody really knew who Amalia was. She was happy being a bookworm, and being overlooked by everyone.
Then came her eye opening actions in The Tethered Mage which opened the eyes of a whole lot of important people. Now, everyone is paying attention including her mother, La Contessa Lissandra Cornaro, the Council of Nine & Nico da Morante, dage of Raverra, who now considers Amalia to be a player in a game of a much grander scale. With war with neighboring Vaskandar growing increasingly possible after 30 years of peace, high value falcons like vivomancers and artificiers are disappearing at an alarming rate.
To make matters worse, Amalia and Zaira's names are found on an assassins list along with other high value targets of opportunity. Amalia finds herself given even more responsibilities by the dage. She has to assure her Grandmother, the Queen of Callamore, that the Serene Empire will stand with them no matter what happens. She travels to Vaskandar where she has been invited by Kathe, the Crow Lord, to attend a Conclave where all 17 Witch Lords will determine if there will be war or peace. She has to face adversaries that are beyond dangerous, including The Lady of the Thorns, and Skinwitch Prince Ruven.
The curious thing about Amalia is the fact that she is not only heir to La Contessa, but is also considered to be a Princess from Callamorne where her father was born and died. In fact, Amalia has the blood of three royal lines, including one in particular in Vaskandar, which makes her indispensable to the efforts to prevent a war. The most curious characters in this story are Crow Lord Kathe who seems intent on courting Amalia as well as other scheming along the way, and the Lady of Eagles, Amalia's great-great grandmother.
Lady Eagles can be a formidable foe or an unbreakable ally depending on how well Amalia is able to sway enough votes to continue the ongoing peace. I dare say that Amalia's life will never be the same after what she's had to deal with over the course of the past several novels. What is the price for power? Does power give one happiness, or does it come with the harsh reality of making hard choices? When Amalia has to make a life or death choice that will likely take the lives of thousands, she does so knowing that there will be severe fallout & consequences from her decision. And yet, this is what makes her human and a character who I can appreciate.
I am not really happy by the addition of Kathe to the love triangle, but perhaps it will resolve itself out when all is said and done. Perhaps it is just for political reasons that haven't been fully revealed as yet, perhaps it is a way for Amalia to prove that she has the power and scheming to be on the Council of Nine. I know Amalia has deep feelings for Marcello, but honor prevents her from grasping the brass ring and running with it. I think it is fair to say that Zaira has also come a very long way from the street urchin we met in The Tethered Mage. We see a different relationship between her and Amalia, and between her and Terika, another Falcon. I do hope that we haven't seen the last of cousin Bree who has had to hide who she was until she could no longer keep it a secret.