Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-228927-8
The back cover says that Wildfire is a “thrilling conclusion” to the Hidden Legacy series, but there are enough loose ends and sequel opportunities by the last page to convince Avon to offer a hefty sum of money to Ilona Andrews to keep the series going. Normally I’d be cynical and say that nobody would want to cut loose a golden goose, but the author had ended a series rather prematurely before, so I’m going to just wait and see. But damn it, the series finally gets me good, and naturally it has to happen with the “thrilling conclusion”.
Incidentally, this one is best read as part of a series, rather than a standalone book. If you are new to the series, at the very least, check out my review of the first book to get the background details.
Nevada Baylor is now a certified Prime mind-rapist extraordinaire – don’t worry, she’d just do this for the greater good – and even better, four members of the family are also Prime materials with powers like unerring firearms accuracy, two more degrees of mind-rape, and… totally not She-Hulk, so please don’t sue. Their grandmother has found them, and she wants them to assimilate into her House, which is a bad thing as Granny is a cruel and mean creature to the bone. To ward off Granny’s impending threat, Nevada decides to apply to have the Baylors form their own House. Houses can’t attack other Houses directly, you see, and as the head of her own House, Nevada will be able to parley for favors and alliances with other Houses to protect her family.
Why not just turn to Connor “Mad” Rogan, you ask? The author has a good answer: politics. If she relies on House Rogan, other Houses will see her and her family merely as subordinates or minions, and things can get sticky if House Rogan somehow lose its prestige or power (ha, ha, like that will ever happen).
Oh, and all the House stuff means that, theoretically, Nevada and Rogan should do that genetic scanning thing so that they will make babies with appropriate partners in order to make the best super babies ever. Oh.
Meanwhile, if you have read previous books in this series, you may remember Rynda Charles, whose mother was part of the conspiracy of Houses to topple the current regime and appoint a new order of their choice. Now, she needs Nevada’s help: her husband is missing, and no one else cares or is willing to help. Brian, the head of House Sherwood, is by all accounts a herbamagos whose magic works on fungi of all things, and the brilliant researcher has a tendency to run off to “find space” whenever he’s stressed. Hence, when he goes MIA again, most people, including Brian’s older brother Edward, assume that he’s just on another sensitive phase again. Rynda has a gut feeling that something is wrong, however, and that’s even before the ransom demands show up…
In other words, business as usual.
Now, given my response to the previous two books in this series, I am flabbergasted by how much I enjoy this one. A big reason for this, I believe, is due to the fact that Rogan is, for once, content to be in the sidelines, showing up only when Nevada really needs his help instead of overpowering the whole thing and taking charge. The problem with Rogan is that he is basically Curran – someone who is too powerful and influential that he becomes more of a convenient plot device than anything else. In the case of Curran, we have an asshole who has the heroine completely dependent on him and his people, and this power imbalance is disturbing because he also treats the heroine like a prop rather than an equal partner. Rogan does that a few times here, basically telling the heroine to stay put while he goes off to do things without telling her, but fortunately, he doesn’t become front and center. So everything is okay here.
And Rogan earns some grudging approval from me when, in a scene where Nevada is doing her vicious mental sodomy act, many people are telling her that she is overextending herself and she should dial it in. He, on the other hand, is nodding his approval and basically going, “Nah, my baby is awesome, she can do that… and more! Go darling, show them what you’ve got!”
So, with Rogan being tolerable, what is left is a quintessential Ilona Andrews story: lots of fascinating lore, plenty of interesting concepts, and some solid twists and turns that come together to give me a rollicking good time. While there is not much gore here, the author doesn’t hesitate to put in some developments that may make some readers cringe, so things aren’t that sanitized yet. Conversations feel more like conversations rather than just information dump poured over in exclamation marks. And really, I find myself having such a good time that I will probably love to read spin-offs involving some of the other secondary characters. In fact, those spin-offs may be fun as Rogan wouldn’t be there to trivialize all conflicts with his awesome ability to get anything and everything done. And, best of all, Nevada really holds her own here, and she’s awesome even if her weapon is only a chalk – the author does good job here keeping Nevada’s agency and personality distinct from Rogan’s, something I wish had been done better in the recent Kate Daniels books.
And even the mean and evil Granny is fun.
I am taking an oogie off, though, because of the climax, or rather, anticlimax. One, a secondary character suddenly pops up out of nowhere, perhaps to fulfill the black character quota, and then teams of assistance also show up from some folks who just come out for that moment. It makes sense that many Houses will mobilize to face a common threat, but to have them just show up like that feels lazy. The author could have done a more graceful job in bringing them in in a more organic manner that doesn’t scream “plot convenience”. And then, we have the entire story building up to this confrontation… only to have everything resolved in a “Huh… that’s it?” manner! It’s bad enough that the villain is just some background convenience to get the plot going, he isn’t even disposed off in a worthy grand showdown!
This particular showdown makes the one in Burn for Me look like the Battle of Gettysburg. What happened? The author never shied from grand showdowns in the past, so I can only guess that either the story went on for too long and drastic cuts needed to be made, or someone decided that fragile romance readers that make up the bulk of the author’s fandom are here only for werewolf/alpha male sex and they don’t want to be traumatized by icky things like violence and, you know, urban fantasy stuff. Sheesh, at least have Nevada stab the bad guy’s eyes out with her chalk – no, she just stands there and narrates events to the reader, ugh.
Anyway, Wildfire is hot, especially considering the dumbed-down “We know you romance readers only want to read about hot alpha male peen, so here’s a super big one!” qualities of the previous books in the Hidden Legacy series. Can I ask for the next book to feature those teenagers going on a road trip and killing bad guys in cheerful bloodthirsty abandon?