April 15, 2021
“Sapphire Flames” is the fourth “Hidden Legacy” novel by Ilona Andrews and the first of its own trilogy. So completionists, be warned: the main plot of this book is solved, but neither the romance nor the overarching plot will reach a conclusion until the end of the current trilogy (the final book is due out in 2022).
I have not read the previous three “Hidden Legacy” books. While I was a bit overwhelmed by the various unique terminology at first, everything was explained well enough, and naturally enough, throughout the course of “Sapphire Flames” that someone new to the series would feel just as welcome as a returning reader.
The story follows Catalina Baylor, a Prime (the highest rank of magic users) who is also the head of House Baylor. Following the death of a friend’s mother and sister, Catalina works to put aside her fear of using her unique power (luring others to adore her beyond reason) to uncover the mystery behind their murders. Enter Alessandro Sagredo: a former figure in Catalina’s teenage life, he’s a Prime who teams up with Catalina once they realize that they’re both investigating the same murder case. Alessandro’s questionable motives behind his interest in the case adds more mystery to the events.
Catalina is an interesting character who is aware of her responsibilities to her House. Guided by her morals, she struggles with putting her family in danger and doing the right thing by helping a friend. She could do with a bit less of letting “Victoria Tremaine’s granddaughter rise to the surface,” but I do like Catalina’s strength and goals. However, soon she’s in too deep, and that’s when Alessandro starts to help out.
Alessandro is still a mystery to me—and not in a good way. My urban fantasy reading experience is minimal compared to other genres, but it’s obvious that “Sapphire Flames” falls into a trap that I’ve noticed in this genre: a single first-person point-of-view narration in a book/series that introduces a romance. In comparison, Annie Bellet’s “Twenty-Sided Sorceress” series started the same way but eventually gave important side characters an occasional third-person point-of-view chapter, which has kept the series strong and the characters engaging.
The reason I pick on this writing style, especially when there’s a romance involved, is because all the information and insight and emotions involved are completely one-sided. By shutting out that other character’s point of view, the reader is disconnected from a part of the story and a part of the main character’s life.
Which brings me back to Alessandro. His background is still too much of a mystery. While that’s fine for it to be a mystery to Catalina, it’s not fine to leave the readers that much in the dark. I don’t know if he’s genuine. I don’t know who he is. I don’t understand why he was hired. I don’t understand his motivations. There’s too much I don’t know, and because of this, I don’t care about him.
Maybe by the end of this trilogy, I’ll feel like Alessandro is finally a person deserving of Catalina’s affection. However, he has a long way to go to get there.
The actual plot—uncovering a murderer and discovering the reasons and atrocities that led to the deaths—is exciting and action-packed. I enjoyed learning about this world and its problems. Discovering how the magical society lives with the mundane, and what happens when magical crimes cross the line. If you set the romance aside, “Sapphire Flames” is a lot of fun and a great lead-in to the trilogy.