Last year, when I finished reading Defy, I really hoped that it would be the start of a series because I wanted to know what happened once everyone knew Alexa’s secret. My wish came true, and Ignite is a fantastic follow-up that once again left me wanting more.
We pick up one month after King Damian’s coronation, and Alexa’s life has been turned upside down. Iker’s attack left more than just physical scars, and she’s feeling more isolated than ever. Alexa told Damian she didn’t love him back because she was afraid that a scarred guard wouldn’t make a suitable queen for him, so she constantly has to try to hide her feelings while staying close by to protect him. Some of her fellow guards haven’t forgiven her deception or the blow to their pride that they don’t fight as well as a 16-year-old girl, and the new guards are a constant reminder of her friends who died. Rylan is still hurt that she chose Damian over him and yet didn’t turn back to him after rejecting the king. Alexa’s life is basically a mess and she’s struggling to hold it all together.
A lot of changes have taken place in the kingdom of Antion as well. Damian is working hard to earn the trust of his people after they suffered through his father’s tyrannical reign; the breeding house that seriously creeped me out in the first book is gone, and the orphans who were forced into the army have been given the option to leave. The kingdom is starting to heal, but with resources spread so thin, they’re in a bit of a precarious position. Damian is also confused and hurt that Alexa rejected his declaration of love.
Things start to get weird when an unexpected delegation arrives from Damian’s uncle, King Armando of Dansii — the man who sent the black sorcerer Iker to King Hector. Damian doesn’t trust Lady Vera, but flirts with her so she doesn’t pick up on his suspicions (much to the annoyance of Alexa). Close on her heels, another group arrives from Antion’s new allies in Blevon, but when their strange behavior turns into an attack in the throne room, Damian and his advisers don’t know what to think. Add in the poisoning of Lady Vera’s taster, whose body vanishes at the same time a member of Damian’s family is kidnapped, escalating attacks on villages, and the apparent allegiance of Blevon with an unknown black sorcerer — even though Eljin swears this is impossible for reasons he has frustratingly sworn not to reveal — and Antion may be on the brink of war again. The question is, with whom? And do they even have a chance of winning?
Sara B. Larson does a good job of mixing political intrigue, sorcery, and kickass fight scenes to tell a story that I can’t wait to finish reading. Ignite ends with a cliffhanger, but I’m so glad she picked the cliffhanger she did. More sadistic writers would have stopped the story a couple chapters sooner when the fate of nearly every major character was up in the air, but she tied up several loose ends while still leaving me eager to find out what will happen next.
The only thing that’s somewhat frustrating is that Alexa tries so hard to be strong that she makes some dumb decisions. At the same time, her actions are more realistic than teen heroines who never get flustered or make mistakes, especially given that she’s dealing with injuries and exhaustion for much of the book. Flawed characters are more interesting anyway.
I received an advance copy of Ignite from Scholastic Press in exchange for my honest review. This review originally appeared at Persephone Magazine.