My Rating: 2.5 stars: Finished it - take it or leave it (C)
Our hero, Tom Knox, left his small coastal hometown of Thornville three years ago, leaving behind his love, Rosa Campos. He joined the service and has been fighting against the Hapsburg soldiers here on US soil - or in Tom’s case, in the sky as an Upland Ranger. Before Tom left, he wasn’t much of a hero or a man worthy of Rosa, and her parents were certain to remind him of that often. He returns now, uncertain of how he’ll be received, yet certain that Rosa has settled down and moved on. To his surprise, Rosa is a changed woman - now the sheriff of Thornville, and she’s never forgiven Tom for abandoning her those three long years ago.
Unfortunately, as soon as Tom arrives, there are serious problems for Thornville. The Crandall Mining Company, unhappy that no one would sell land in Thornville, is heading towards town in a massive monstrosity of a machine that destroys everything in its path. It’s up to Tom and Rosa to overcome their past and work together to save the town.
Although this is the second story in The Ether Chronicles, the opening of Night of Fire is almost the complete opposite of the first book, Skies of Fire. Instead of jumping right into the action as in Skies, this book takes its time and introduces the reader to the surrounding landscape. We take a stroll down memory lane with Tom as he flies his way back to his childhood homestead and the woman he left behind. The beginning focuses on world-building and filling the reader in on the environment of the times.
Another change from the first book is that the locale has shifted from Europe to the United States in Night of Fire. The Army is warring with the Hapsburg troops (as they did in Skies), yet here in the US, there are no Men O’ Wars or large airships. The culture is that of the “Wild West” and cowboys, complete with flying metal “horses” used to combat the foe. This book has a very different feel from Skies of Fire.
Yet even with the differences, the story still has similarities with its predecessor. Once again we have a hero and heroine that share a history - a love - that ended abruptly when one partner left. This time around it's the guy who ran away three years ago, instead of the girl. But that’s about where the similarities end.
Although I’m not a big western-genre fan, I hoped the steampunk elements would supersede the wild west feel. At times the story did have the action and intrigue of a more traditional steampunk, yet at others, it was all whooping it up and cowboys. And while I felt the opening was strong and compelling, once the pair start their interactions with the mining company, the dialogue became flat and repetitive. The storyline held promise, but the voice it was written in just couldn’t keep me glued to the pages.
I liked that Rosa was such a strong woman and could handle herself. I liked that Tom appreciated that in her and even found it sexy. I also enjoyed that they both recognized that their time apart (although it was painful), was the best thing for their relationship.
However, their one sex scene came across mechanical in style and didn’t flow well for me. I also became annoyed with Tom and his constant jabs at and about Parker, the man he thought Rosa would marry. I wanted Rosa to punch him and tell him to get over it.
Overall, Night of Fire is an average book for me. It started out strong, and I found it intriguing. But all too soon, the story started to drag and felt repetitious. The high-intensity action was exciting for a while, but then started to grow old, and I found the insertion of serious relationship dialogue in the middle of fighting to be awkward. I had hoped for more after loving the first book, written by Zoe Archer. Knowing the next book is also written by her, I look forward to getting back to the Men O’ Wars and the British navy.