Roar of Sky: A solid conclusion to this magical alternate-history trilogy

Roar of Sky by Beth Cato fantasy book reviewsRoar of Sky by Beth Cato fantasy book reviewsRoar of Sky by Beth Cato

Beth Cato concludes her BLOOD OF EARTH trilogy with Roar of Sky (2018), bringing the story of clandestine geomancer Ingrid Carmichael, which began in Breath of Earth and continued in Call of Fire, to an action-packed close. This review will contain some spoilers for events in previous books, so proceed with caution.

Badly wounded and permanently debilitated after her desperate fight in Seattle against Ambassador Blum, Ingrid and her friends Cy Jennings and Fenris Braun flee to Hawaii aboard the Palmetto Bug, a small airship designed by Fenris, seeking information about Ingrid’s family history — which might include no less a personage than Madam Pele herself. Being descended from divinity would explain quite a lot about Ingrid’s uniquely powerful geomancy, but will clarification provide assistance in Ingrid’s search for her mentor Mr. Sakaguchi and her dear friend Lee Fong, or give her insight in how to stop Ambassador Blum’s plans to take over the world via the combined Unified Pacific forces of the Japanese and American militaries? After a very quick, but ultimately fruitful, layover in Hawaii, the Palmetto Bug returns to California and onward to Arizona, where Ingrid and Cy have reason to believe that they have a chance to throw a massive spanner into Blum’s machinations. It will require marshalling all their allies, including various humans, a growing population of pastry-loving sylphs, and the mysterious qilin, just to have a fighting chance.

Roar of Sky was definitely more on par with Breath of Earth in terms of plot continuity and focus than Call of Fire was, and character development is generally good as well, though I continue to object to Cy and Ingrid acting like a comfortable old married couple who understand each other perfectly after knowing each other for only a couple of months. As sweet as their interactions are, it was, essentially, love at first sight for them, with no appreciation for the possibility that their tumultuous and life-threatening circumstances might be contributing to an accelerated intensity of feelings or physical intimacy. A small nod toward that prospect would have gone a long way for me.

Blood of Earth (3 Book Series) by Beth CatoMy biggest complaint about BLOOD OF EARTH is its timeframe in general. Breath of Earth begins on April 15, 1906, and Roar of Sky’s final day (excluding the epilogue, which takes place “months later”) is on May 24, 1906. I needed a greater sense of time’s passage in order to understand how things/events/people have been maneuvered into place by Ambassador Blum, by the Japanese, and by the Chinese resistance fighters. Cato’s focus is so tightly on Ingrid that it’s sometimes hard to see what’s going on outside her bildungsroman. Ingrid has been such a sheltered person all her life that it feels like the series is constantly bumping up against the limits of her knowledge and experience, and I kept wanting to see events or people from other perspectives.

However, I do love everything about the magic system, and Cato’s exploration of geomancy and its potential uses for good and ill is thoughtful and feels sturdy, like it could actually exist. Madam Pele is literally awesome. The sylphs are fun without becoming twee. Captain Sutliffe’s return was a good touch, along with the qilin and its guandao blade, further establishing that there’s so much more to this world than Ingrid has an understanding for or any experience with. I like the contrast between the various settings, such as Hawaii and Arizona, and appreciated her respectful treatment of marginalized and downtrodden people. There’s a healthy amount of diversity overall, but it’s kept within the boundaries established by historical precedent. Historical details feel period-appropriate, and I noticed fewer anachronistic word choices and expressions this time around. Cato’s inclusion of a moving-pictures theatre and the New Jersey film studios was a nice touch. The alternate history of this world, going as far back as kermanite and geomancy use by the Roman Empire, felt so well-established and solid that the breakneck pace of the primary narrative felt much weaker by comparison.

Still, I enjoyed reading Roar of Sky, and was glad to see how the various plotlines and character arcs came together. Cato’s a writer with great imagination and an eye for history, and I’d recommend this series for fantasy readers who like their adventure stories leavened with a hearty palmful of romance.

Published in October 2018. In this stunning conclusion to the acclaimed Blood of Earth trilogy—a thrilling alternate history laced with earth magic, fantastic creatures, and steampunk elements—geomancer Ingrid must find a way to use her extraordinary abilities to save her world from the woman hell-bent on destroying it. Thanks to her geomantic magic, Ingrid has successfully eluded Ambassador Blum, the power-hungry kitsune who seeks to achieve world domination for the Unified Pacific. But using her abilities has taken its toll: Ingrid’s body has been left severely weakened, and she must remain on the run with her friends Cy and Fenris. Hoping to learn more about her magical roots and the strength her bloodline carries, Ingrid makes her way across the Pacific to Hawaii, home to the ancient volcano goddess Madam Pele. What she discovers in this paradise is not at all what she expects—and perhaps exactly what she needs. But Ambassador Blum comes from the same world of old magic and mythic power. And if Ingrid cannot defeat her once and for all, she knows Blum will use that power to take the lives of everyone she holds dear before escalating a war that will rip the world to pieces.

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JANA NYMAN, with us since January 2015, is a freelance copy-editor who has lived all over the United States, but recently settled in Colorado with her dog and a Wookiee. Jana was exposed to science fiction and fantasy at an early age, watching Star Wars and Star Trek movie marathons with her family and reading works by Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury WAY before she was old enough to understand them; thus began a lifelong fascination with what it means to be human. Jana enjoys reading all kinds of books, but her particular favorites are fairy- and folktales (old and new), fantasy involving dragons or other mythological beasties, contemporary science fiction, and superhero fiction. Some of her favorite authors are Bradbury, James Tiptree, Jr., Madeleine L'Engle, and Philip Pullman.

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