When the next book in James Harrington’s Drakin series was announced, I was quite hyped. More so when it was said it’ll follow another plotline concurrent to Empire of Ashes. And while I’m bad at managing my expectations… I wasn’t disappointed.
Empire of Ashes [review] came out in 2019 and became one of my favorites due to the great execution (very dark pun not intended) of quite heavy topics and the major characters (I’ve mentioned before how important hope is for me as a story element). This book happens at the same timeframe but follows a different set of characters. The main focus here being on Petra Penkrav who was a minor character in Ashes, resigning after seeing the atrocities at the Iksyar death camp, never to be seen in that book. Now, she’s got her own book.
The first few chapters retell the overlapping story from her point of view, then follow her home where she hoped to hide from the world. Which lasted… a couple of days only. Then, a soldier from a decimated army appears near her home wounded and wanting to save a dear friend that was taken prisoner – and likely faces torture or worse.
Taking her chance to at least slightly subdue her guilt from what she was a part of – even though she didn’t know the full scope until she was in place – she agrees to help. To her luck, the chaos unleashed by Princess Kaori (the storyline of Empire of Ashes) helps her as she’s still not listed as retired in the Empire’s databases. Still, freeing an important prisoner may be a tougher task than it seems.
At that point, the storylines of Ashes and this book cross again – Petra’s stunt is helped by Kaori’s assault on the camp that provides her with another opening. After freeing the prisoner, Petra has a short interaction with Kaori, which is the last time the characters from Ashes and from this book interact directly: the freed prisoner is a dragon and the torture she was subjected to has turned her feral. The best hope they have is to leave the fighters and seek out a mysterious figure (from another book in this series) in hopes of help.
This part leads to uncovering some other aspects of how dragons work in this series, and the story slows down a bit, but this works quite well. Towards the end, as this part of the plot is resolved, it turns to the topic of guilt, forgiveness, and justice in many forms.
As I said at the beginning, I was quite hyped up for this book, but also worried that I’ll have too high expectations. That worry was gone quite fast as I got to 40% during a two-hour train ride…