Joint Review – Flamebound (Lone Star Witch #2) by Tessa Adams

cover_flamebound

Publisher: Signet
Publish Date: December 3, 2013
How we got this book: eARC from publisher via Netgalley

After Xandra’s nasty run in with the Arcadian Council of Witches—where she was almost killed and her boyfriend, Declan, was almost framed for it—her plan is to lay low and figure out why its members would torment the people they are supposed to protect. Declan, temperamental and protective warlock that he is, doesn’t feel so reticent. And when violence erupts again, there’s no stopping him from pursuing revenge…

When a council member is murdered in a fashion that screams dark magic, Declan claims someone else beat him to it. Xandra doesn’t want to believe he could commit such a brutal act, but she knows he has a dark side—one that his former love interest Tsura understands better than she ever will. With Tsura back in town, Xandra doesn’t know whom to trust. And a killer targeting witches and wizards is still at large…

*blurb from Goodreads

MiscJoy: I read Soulbound (Lone Star Witch #1) a year ago and left that story quite conflicted. When Flamebound came up for review, I hoped that some of the issues I had with the first story would smooth out within a now established world. It didn’t quite work out that way for me. For the most part, I enjoyed the story. The action kept moving at a brisk pace and the relationship dynamics between Xandra and Declan lead to some realistic give-and-take growth on both their parts. However, some of the key plot elements didn’t work well for me and in the end, I was left feeling like I’d been cheated out of what could have been a really great storyline.

Cass: I didn’t leave Soulbound feeling conflicted – I rather liked it. Though my main takeaway from it a year later was the glorious lack of a love triangle. (Come, MiscJoy! Bask in the wondrous absence of the genre’s obligatory love triangle!) Well, that and the high chance of political intrigue. Are Xandra’s family evil despots? Or mindless figureheads backed by a murderous clandestine agency?

Sadly, Flamebound failed to deliver the dynamic plot I wanted. It was an engaging enough read, but ultimately unsatisfying. Like Chinese food. Though it was delicious while it lasted, I was hungry again as soon as I finished. AND they forgot my fortune cookie!

MiscJoy: LOL! What a perfect description! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Soulbound but I felt a lack of cohesion in some of the basic storytelling elements which seemed to present again in Flamebound. Ultimately, for me, it comes down to the fact that I enjoy Adams’ writing style and I can forgive a weak plot when I like how a writer writes. Adams sets a blazing pace with the narrative and doesn’t shy away from dragging her characters through hell. I mean, hello? As a magical empath, Xandra is inexplicably drawn to murder scenes that take place within some proximity to her whereby she then psychically experiences the victim’s violent death. That makes for some tough scenes. In the first book, she experienced multiple psychic rapes and various other forms of torture. Although Flamebound doesn’t have more of the psychic rapes, given Xandra’s magical ability, you gotta know there will be violent murder and you’re gonna read about it as Xandra experiences it.

I think Adams is great at creating some dynamic primary characters and exploring relationship dynamics. My favorite aspect to this series is the relationship between Xandra and Declan. Here we have two very powerful characters. Declan, who is the most powerful warlock ever and knows it and has the alpha-male personality to go with it. Xandra, who is likely going to be the most powerful witch ever and doesn’t have a clue but is catching on fast. Do you know what I liked even more than the glorious absence of a love triangle? The absence of relationship melodrama and angst. These two characters wanted to be together, and so they were together. None of that wishy-washy, back-and-forth game playing. They actually communicated and worked their issues out. I found it refreshing. On the other end, I still don’t feel like Xandra’s family or the location of Ipswitch have been fully integrated into the series. The connections to these important secondary characters and locations just don’t feel complete and instead come across as rather one dimensional.

Cass: I agree that Adams’ strengths are in the romance. The relationship between Declan and Xandra is handled perfectly from start to finish. Didn’t set off any of my “this is a DV relationship” alarm bells! Which is tragically rare in the genre.

In what universe am I more invested in the relationship than the story? I do not ship people. I am not a shipper! And yet I found myself shipping the hell out of Xandra and Declan (Xanlan? Decdra?), while being utterly bored with the alleged “plot.”

There were just too many balls in the air, and none of them were addressed with any kind of depth. Punishing Evil Doer From Previous Book, Running Business Enterprises, Missing Child, Murders, Advancing Xandra’s Powers, Kidnapping, Magic Politics, Family Drama…. after a while you just stop giving a shit about all the subplots. No one seems to be really following up on them. Though we are treated to random info-dumps at periodic intervals. “Oh right so I did all this off page stuff to advance that Super Important Issue that’s been ignored for the last several chapters…”

Gee thanks. Would have been nice to see some of that actually play out on the page… Ooo, shiny, look, new catastrophe! What were we talking about again?

Speaking of underdeveloped secondary characters and ignored plots – MiscJoy, have you figured out what the rules of succession for the Ipswitch Throne are? I’m at a complete loss. It’s not primogeniture, there’s clearly no gender component, and it doesn’t appear to be tied to specific magical skills.

MiscJoy: You mean it’s not primogeniture? I thought (maybe assumed?) that her brother was the eldest. Well, hold on. Now I gotta go check…

*wanders off to go look it up*

Ah, yes. Here it is in Soulbound at the bottom of kindle location 410. Donovan is both the eldest sibling as well as the only boy. The narrative states that “both of which means he will one day take over the throne.” So I guess that means there is birth order and gender involved. Humph. Not sure how I feel about that. *shrugs*

To be honest, I didn’t really mind all the subplot balls tossed in the air and I enjoyed the ride for most of the story. Until Ipswitch happened. That’s where things all fell apart for me. I think that’s because I expected all those dangling strings from Austin and the ACW to be pulled together before the end, which sadly didn’t happen. And I can’t ignore just how disappointed I was in the ending. I felt like we had been set up for a scrumptious politically driven intrigue involving the ACW and maybe some other craziness as yet undiscovered. But then it all just veered off course into cliché country with poorly constructed motivation. But before all that came unraveled, I’d been pulled through a lot of non-stop action that kept me glued to my eReader for the entire day. Yes, I read this book in one sitting which is rare for me because it takes me 16 hours to finish a standard paperback…so for me, that’s saying something. (And what it’s saying is “oh, my aching backside” from sitting on the sofa for 16 hours straight, lol *grins*)

But back to Xanlan. Despite the issues I had with some aspects to the plot, I think this series is worth reading just for these two alone. I really enjoyed how these two worked together to build a relationship. Adams did an excellent job at giving us insights into both of these characters even though the POV stays with Xandra. I liked that Xandra took the time for introspection and had a willingness to see both her strengths and weaknesses and course correct as needed. It’s not about being perfect or always doing the “right” thing (whatever that means), but taking time to reflect on life’s experiences and acknowledging the ways we could do better/be better and then strive to do that. And Declan. Goodness. He respected Xandra as an individual and didn’t shy away from matters of the heart. Although he wanted to protect her from all harm, he realized that he wouldn’t always be able to do that and sometimes Xandra would have to take care of Xandra. He knew when to step aside and let her come into her own power and when to lend a hand. I got the sense that these two are in the process of developing a true partnership.

I give Flamebound a B- purely because of Xanlan and their relationship dynamic despite how this particular installment ended. I hope that this series continues to mature and solidify because this world and these characters have tremendous potential. This series is so close to an A+ world for me, I just want so much for that to happen. And I think Adams has the writing chops to bring it!

Cass: See, that’s what I thought too, but then how is it that Xandra, the baby of the family, is second in line for the throne? Wouldn’t her older sisters all be ahead in line (so to speak)? I was even more confused when they talked here in Flamebound about how her mom became Queen because she was the youngest twin. That is definitely not primogeniture.

I want to believe that Adams has some kind of detailed witchy succession law that she’s teasing out as it becomes necessary. Unfortunately, her utter failure to follow-through on the political angle makes me think the succession rules will twist and turn as convenient. Why is Xandra the baby of a large family and second in line to the throne? Because! Why is the Queen the youngest twin? Drama! Who inherits after the oldest and youngest die? Who knows!


MiscJoy here: Uh, I think we kinda forgot about the whole “7th daughter of a 7th daughter” connection and the power ranking. Donovan is not only the eldest sibling, but also the most powerful. Power also seems to play a role somehow, although it’s not explained. Xandra must be second in line to the throne because she is a 7th daughter of a 7th daughter. So I’m guessing that Xandra’s mother became queen because a) there were no eldest sons, b) because she is a 7th daughter of a 7th daughter and c) she is also very powerful. But regardless of any of that, I so agree with you that there is still a lot of confusion regarding the Ipswitch side of things and there’s a whole issue we’re dancing around and can’t discuss in a review due to its spoilery nature. Frustrating. /MiscJoy


Back to Cass’ closing statements…

The opening chapter of Flamebound led me to believe this would be all about the sociopathic ACW vs the soap operatics of the Ipswitch royal clan. Then we diverted into the Austin storylines, which were smaller in scale, but equally fun. Nothing wrong with putting your series-long Big Bad on the back burner….and back to Ipswitch. I ended up with whiplash! Along with the sinking feeling that Adams jammed two books together because she wasn’t sure how to fully develop either of them. In doing so, she did herself, and her world, a disservice.

MiscJoy, I agree with everything you said about Xanlan (much better than Decdra) and Xandra’s honest assessments of herself and the people around her. These two things push Flamebound from a tepid C+ (for aforementioned plotting issues) to a solid B-.

There is nothing I hate more than a Too Stupid To Live heroine in an abusive relationship whose only focus in life is if maybe she should be banging a differently abusive quasi-immortal. As long as the Lone Star Series keeps delivering on the protagonist, I’ll forgive the shaky plotting. Plenty of series take a few outings to really find their footing. Xandra definitely has the potential to get us there.

Comments

  1. says

    And now I have no idea if I would love this series or not. I love the cover, I love witches and warlocks in my books, you both love the relationship. But the story itself, well, that is usually the most important thing in a book for me. I guess I will just have to read it myself someday.

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  2. miscjoy says

    @xaurianx: There is a lot of good stuff in this series, but I understand your position. Since I’m already two books in, I know I’ll continue reading the series because I’ve got that itch where I need to know how the unresolved issues get settled. I don’t want to leave this world hanging, lol!

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  3. draconismoi says

    @xaurianx: I know, RIGHT?! The plot is supposed to be the VERY BEST PART and I am still hating on myself for rooting for romance over carnage. Very unlike me.

    But there is a lot of potential here, and I keep hoping the author will get an editor willing to tell her to either crank it to 11 on the soap opera theatrics, or rein it all in. Either option would work.

    ReplyReply

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