published by Sourcebooks in August 2016
Catalia "Cat" Fisa is a powerful clairvoyant known as the Kingmaker. This smart-mouthed soothsayer has no interest in her powers and would much rather fly under the radar, far from the clutches of her homicidal mother. But when an ambitious warlord captures her, she may not have a choice…Genre: Fantasy romance
Griffin is intent on bringing peace to his newly conquered realm in the magic-deprived south. When he discovers Cat is the Kingmaker, he abducts her. But Cat will do everything in her power to avoid her dangerous destiny and battle her captor at every turn. Although up for the battle, Griffin would prefer for Cat to help his people willingly, and he's ready to do whatever it takes to coax her…even if that means falling in love with her.
Series: Kingmaker Chronicles, Book #1
The Story: In A Promise of Fire, magic exists and Greek gods are real. The world is divided into three countries - Fisa, Tarva and Sinta - and magic is strongest the closer you are to the North, the Ice Plains, the Frozen Lakes and the ocean. The Magoi - humans with magic - are the ones in power and rule the world... except for Sinta which has just been overtaken by the Hoi Polloi - humans without magic.
Catalia "Cat" doesn't care about the future of Fisa, Tarva and Sinta and its rulers. All that matters is that they do not find her. Cat possesses the rare magic talent of discerning truths from lies - a talent that appears every 200 years - and makes her invaluable to those in power since she knows who can be trusted, etc. Tortured as a child by her own family to "develop" her gift, Cat ran away when she was 15 years old and has spent the past 8 years hiding in a circus... but her days of hiding are over.
Griffin's family has recently overtaken Sinta and become the new royal family. They are Hoi Polloi... but Griffin is not naive. He knows that in order to consolidate their power, he will need to work with Magoi, especially with the Power Bid coming up. What his family wants is to change the way society is. However, he won't ally with anyone. But never in his wildest dream did he expect to find the Kingmaker...
My Opinion: I picked up A Promise of Fire because of the positive buzz it was getting in blogland. Also, it's been a while since I last read a true fantasy romance and was really in the mood for it. Unfortunately, once again, my opinion seems to differ from everyone else :(
My main issue with A Promise of Fire is that I found Cat annoying ^_^;; First, I felt she didn't really fit the fantasy feel of the story. Take away her magic and the swears based on the Greek gods and she would have fit perfectly in a contemporary romance book. So that was jarring for me. Also, the whole book was written in her 1st person POV and seriously, it was tiring to follow all her thoughts. Especially since she rarely said what she really thought or felt. For example, she would tell Griffin she wasn't attracted to him... but of course, she was. Then, there was all the little discussions with herself... It was just too much for me - I wanted out of her head. I think it would have been better if it had been in the 3rd person POV or having Griffin's POV. Many reactions of hers were very immature and in a lot of instances, I found her bratty. Personally, I think Ms Bouchet tried too hard to create the perfect strong, kick-ass heroine à la Kate Daniels that readers would fall in love with. Sure, it resulted in a heroine that ticked all the right boxes, but also that felt forced and was a pale copy of all the strong heroines in urban fantasy series that we love so much.
Other than Cat, A Promise of Fire had potential. While not original, the story was interesting and intriguing enough for me to want to at least try the next book. Then again, I do love power struggles LOL. Especially since near the end, Ms Bouchet introduces a bunch of interesting characters and dangle the Power Bid - which I'm guessing is a competition between the three countries for power - as bait sequel and it works :) The world building was also well done, the information peppered throughout the story instead of an info dump. It was also logical enough that Ms Bouchet only had to give us a few tidbits and the rest could be figured out. I'm not huge on maps, but this time, I think one would have helped. One thing that I found unfortunate though is that the whole plot lacked the subtlety that makes a book stand out. Unless I'm completely wrong about Cat's secret, the foreshadowing was painted with a huge brush and red paint... and it makes you question Griffin's intelligence for not figuring it out yet ^_^;
For me, the best aspect of the book was the secondary characters. I really enjoyed them - they made the story fun and appealing. I hope Ms Bouchet is able to develop them, but I'm not sure I would want whole books about them. Those who enjoy sexual tension will also be pleased because there is ton in A Promise of Fire. The romance was okay... I'm not totally sure I buy it, but I can see Griffin and Cat being together.
One last thing that bothered me is Griffin's ex-lover. I don't think that part was necessary at all - it was there just to create conflict in the romance and it felt really superfluous. Plus, I don't think it painted women in a really good light. Why go down that path then?
My Grade: C. This book definitively had potential, it's just too bad it didn't deliver and the heroine got on my nerve :( While reading A Promise of Fire, I kept thinking I wanted to re-read Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughan ^_^; Still, it had enough though to pique my interest and make me want to check out the next book to see what happens.