As the sister of the Kjallan emperor, Celeste cannot choose where to bestow her heart….
The imperial princess has been offered in marriage to the Prince of Inya as part of an alliance needed to ensure Kjall’s military prowess. And despite having been hurt in the past by men using her to gain power, Celeste finds herself falling for the passionate fire mage.
Prince Rayn has no intention of allying his country with the militaristic Kjallans. But his political enemies at home may be the greater threat. The princess’s beauty and intelligence catch him off guard, throwing an unexpected and dangerous hurdle in the way of his plans.
As a deadly political plot threatens Rayn’s life, the attraction between Celeste and Rayn ignites into a sizzling affair. But to save her people and herself, Celeste will have to discover if Rayn’s intentions are true or risk having her love burn her yet again….
*Blurb taken from Goodreads*
1. Thoughts on the Hero
Has: I really liked Rayn, although he was pretty aloof in the beginning of the book, though he had good reasons for being stand-offish especially towards Celeste. Because of his doubts about the true intentions of the Kjallan empire he is wary of any allegiance. A royal marriage to Celeste will help the political tensions that his own kingdom is facing but he is reluctant because of the past Kjallan’s empire ambitions may be a threat to him. Despite his reluctance in engaging and interacting with Celeste, I did like that when she started to break through his walls. And when Rayn began to open up to her and this is where I started to warm up to his character.
I really liked that Amy Raby writes appealing heroes who never cross over to the alphahole territory and I find that really refreshing. I also liked how the system of governance worked in Prince Rayn’s kingdom (which is half run by a democratically run council and the royal family) was different to that of the other kingdoms we’ve seen in this series thus far. It has definitely influenced his character, because he holds an honour bound set of rules, and sometimes is too much of a flaw because he is not open to new ideas. I also loved the depiction of Rayn trying to cope with his father’s dementia, which is affecting his rule and is adding to the political tension in the kingdom which is beginning to crack with corruption and greed in the council who is beginning to make steps in a power grab. But Amy Raby added a vulnerable layer to his character when with Rayn’s feelings while he is witnessing the deterioration of his father’s illness and is helpless about it. I found his character very much like an onion which over the course of the book, he started to unravel and showed different sides to himself.
E: Rayn took a while to grow on me. He was so totally locked into his own mind and culture that he was willing to cut off his nose to spite his face. He knew the Land Council was trying to claim all the power but he wasn’t willing to think about how he could use opportunities they provided to thwart their efforts until it was almost too late. I could understand his fear of feeling like a traitor based on his family’s history with the Kjallan empire but he also made it seem like his family was always perfect and universally loved.
However…when certain truths were pointed out to him I loved how Rayn was big enough to realize he had some serious misconceptions and apologized. From there I had such a blast with his scenes. The way he slowly courted Celeste, he enjoyed her intelligence and refusal to leave him to his fate, and viewed her as a partner. I think my heart completely melted when Rayn was musing to himself that he wished Celeste was around so he could discuss his family’s situation with her versus the Land Council. I think he might be my favorite of Raby’s heroes.
Marlene: One of the things I loved about Rayn, and about all of Amy Raby’s heroes, is that while they might be physically strong, their brawn is not their defining characteristic. It’s part of the whole “not going to alphahole territory” that Has mentioned. They are all intelligent and compassionate (even when Rayn is not thinking clearly). But those are the characteristics that define them, rather than their ability to mow down armies with their swords. In fact, none of them seem to think that killing everything in their path is the way to rule their countries effectively; they are all treaty-making rulers.
Rayn starts out thinking that the alliance is a great political idea that he wants nothing to do with, because of his own preconceived notions. Even Celeste is more realistic; she may want to marry for love, but she knows it’s not something she can expect. Rayn just doesn’t want to marry a Kjallan, but wants the trade the alliance will bring. What makes him a terrific hero is that once he figures out he’s been wrong, he admits it and seriously apologizes.
2. Thoughts on the Heroine
Has: I was very interested to see how Celeste would develop in this book, I really enjoyed her character in the first book and the events of that still carried over to this installment. I love love love that she was the one who chased the hero. She didn’t overpower Rayn, but gave him the space he needed until he realised what a fool he would be if he lost her.
I also loved her intelligence and love of science and it was fun to see her show Rayn that she wasn’t just another spoiled arrogant and aloof princess and that she had something more to offer. And the irony of that first impression he had of her, is that he was the one acting that role, which I found funny. But I also loved how their romance developed. I am a sucker for stranded in the wilderness trope and there is an element of that when both Celeste and Rayn find themselves shipwrecked and they both got to know each other away from their people. The romance really kicked up a gear for me. I liked that the tables kind of turned in the romance in the second half of the book, with Rayn in the chasing role and Celeste revealing her own secrets and fears.
E: Like Has, I was super curious to see how Celeste recovered from her ordeal in Assassin’s Gambit. I loved how she turned out and was encouraged to use her brain. While what happened to her during her first marriage was horrible, I thought Raby’s explanation of the actual events and their lingering effects really made Celeste seem three dimensional. I loved how Celeste decided to develop her mind and the support her brother provided. I was also impressed when she went after Rayn in a direct but not forceful manner without shying away from telling him some uncomfortable truths.
She was also incredibly loyal while maintaining her sense of honor and remaining aware of the dangers of holding power. Her vulnerability to Rayn was so extremely touching as was her refusal to let him get away with being an ass. I found her ability to enjoy nature’s beauty on one hand and to be coldly pragmatic on the other hand absolutely delightful.
Marlene: First, I adore a brainy heroine! Second, Celeste’s body image issues and vulnerability made her very real, and easy to identify with. She’s not perfect, which is also refreshing, but the damage done by her horrific first marriage has left her with emotional scars that make it more difficult for her to expose her flaws (minor though they are) to a lover. Rayn’s courtship allows her to re-write the horrible self-talk, but it’s obvious that he comes to love her not just for their physical chemistry, but because she is intelligent and caring and is able to provide real help and perspective on the problems he faces. As well as helping him to share the joys. She’s pragmatic and politically astute, and she’s just what Rayn needs in a partner.
3. Favorite Scene
Has: Ohhh, I had several scenes in mind, but I think my favourite is when Celeste and Rayn are taking a tour of the kingdom and are travelling by ship. Both Celeste and Rayn are up on the observation deck and she is explaining to him about science and astronomy and that is where he finally realises that she is more than just a Imperial princess and is a turning point in their romance. I also loved the romantic tension in that scene even though it was tentative. Another scene that I loved was later in the book towards the end involving Rayn standing up for a close friend and advisor even though it could be potentially politically dangerous. But reflected on how stoic and loyal Rayn was as a character.
E: I have two favorite scenes besides the ones Has picked earlier. The first is when Celeste decided she was going after Rayn because he needed her and they loved each other. Her sheer determination to support her partner regardless of what her brother said was amazing. And I LOVED finding out who decided to accompany Celeste on her voyage. The second scene I have picked is when Rayn decided he was going to start taking things into his own hands and do what needed to be done to protect his people. To me, both of those scenes really talk about who Celeste and Rayn were when it came down to what they would do for those they cared about or felt responsibility towards.
Marlene: Those are all my favorites! And I’ll add to them the scene where the party comes late to the political climax and discovers Vitala “entertaining” the Inyan voters! It showed off Vitala’s strategizing and just how much Vitala and Celeste stick together.
4. Dislike about book
Has: I really didn’t have any real dislikes in the book. However, I would have liked an update or mention on Rhianne and Janto and how they were doing, because I was curious on how they were doing.
E: The only thing I disliked in this story was Celeste’s brother Lucien. I apparently have a love/hate relationship with him. I loved him during his own story and what he did for Celeste to help her become the woman she was for this installment but he also displayed a certain level of complete disregard for the thoughts and feelings for Celeste and his own wife Vitala. However, I loved what the two ladies did when their minds were made up.
Marlene: Lucien did not show off his best side–at all! He was terrific in Assassin’s Gambit, but now that he is emperor he seems to have temporarily fallen into the “I’ll protect you for your own good” trap. Celeste is a scholar, and his wife is a trained assassin, but he rides roughshod over what they want and tries to make their decisions for them. Of course they went around him! He should have expected no less.
5. Any other misc. thoughts along with grade
Has: I really enjoyed this installment of the Hearts and Thrones series which is set in a rich and vibrant world and I loved with each book, we get a different glimpse of the world. Celeste and Rayn were enjoyable leading characters and their romance was delightful. I also loved the political intrigue which added a delicious layer of tension in the story and it was fun to see some past characters in the mix. Overall, Prince’s Fire is another great installment in this series, and I am eagerly awaiting for the 4th book which promises to be just as engaging and compelling as this one!
I give Prince’s Fire a B+
E: Prince’s Fire was a fun installment. I enjoyed seeing a completely different type of country and marriage negotiations that started in peacetime instead of a completely hostile environment. Watching Celeste and Rayn slowly fall in love and become partners was really touching. The trials they experienced, the building trust, and the determination to make a difference all helped solidify the enjoyable experience. I am looking forward to the next installment because Raby has moved to my auto-buy list.
I give Prince’s Fire an A-
Marlene: I enjoyed Prince’s Fire more than I did Spy’s Honor. One of the things that made this one better is that Celeste kept her agency throughout the story. Even when Lucien tried to lock her up she took matters into her own hands to do what she felt was right. I loved that Celeste and Rayn were equal partners, that they brought important things to the relationship that the other lacked. Celeste was better at politicking that Rayn, but he inspires her confidence. That their courtship took place after their initial plunge into a sexual relationship was beautifully done.
I also give Prince’s Fire an A-