Series: The Elemental Trilogy #2
Published by Balzer & Bray on September 16, 2014
Amazon • Indiebound • Barnes & Noble • Goodreads
After spending the summer away from each other, Titus and Iolanthe (still disguised as Archer Fairfax) are eager to return to Eton College to resume their training to fight the Bane. Although no longer bound to Titus by a blood oath, Iolanthe is more committed than ever to fulfilling her destiny—especially with the agents of Atlantis quickly closing in.
Soon after arriving at school, though, Titus makes a shocking discovery, one that makes him question everything he previously believed about their mission. Faced with this devastating realization, Iolanthe is forced to come to terms with her new role, while Titus must choose between following his mother's prophecies—and forging a divergent path to an unknowable future.
The Perilous Sea is one of those rare creatures: a sequel that is better than its (already pretty great) predecessor. Where The Burning Sky sometimes dragged in places and was a little fuzzy on the magic and the rules of this fantasy world, everything in this installment is much improved. The plot zips along with breathless tension, more action, and a larger scope to the world of the story that never becomes daunting or confusing. The elemental magic is more present in the story and there’s none of the confusion of the first book. There are zigs and zags that I never saw coming and guarantees almost certain heartbreak. I devoured this book even more eagerly than the first and I loved every minute of it.
The characterization is superbly done overall. Brave and stolid Iolanthe with her quick wit and easy bravado. Sweet Titus with his seriousness and sense of duty ever present. I especially enjoyed getting to know the Eton classmates much better, in particular Wintervale and Kashkari. All of the boys are endearing in their own unique way. Thomas draws these characters so well I forget that I’m reading a story and I feel for them as though they are real people. This all comes back to stab you in the heart, though, when things take a turn for the worse. And boy do they!
Now, as adorable as Titus and Iolanthe were in the The Burning Sky, I thought this volume really increased in romantic tension and sexiness. When not writing YA fantasy, Sherry Thomas is known for writing adult historical romance novels (one of which I love, love, love) and it was more apparent than ever in this installment. Also, for those unfamiliar with the first book, Iolanthe is disguised as a boy (with the help of some magic) to blend in at Eton. As a fan of m/m romance in general, I really loved the slightly queer reading on their relationship. Of course, since this is YA, it never truly gets steamy but it is very, very sweet. Sometimes I love that just as much. Iolanthe and Titus are very supportive of each other and their mutual respect is so refreshing. One of my very favorite things about them is the reversal of the Damsel in Distress trope from the first book. Similar misandries, I’m delighted to report, occur in this one. But really, I just adore the wit and warmth of their relationship and I wish there were more of them in YA.
The story is told in two alternating timelines. In the present, Titus and Iolanthe are stranded in the Sahara with no memory of who they are and the forces of evil Atlantis rapidly encroaching. Does it sound like fun adventures follow are soon to follow? Because they are! In the second, we’re back at Eton exploring the paths and choices that landed our main characters in their Sahara predicament. I actually really enjoyed the alternating timelines which is unusual for me. I often find that I’m always anxious to get back to one story or the other. Sherry Thomas seamlessly weaves the two plotlines and balances the interest and tension in a way that never made me impatient to get to either the past or the present. All is brought together at the end with explosive reveals that tore at my heart. These characters fight, and try, and die, and are strengthened through the struggle. It is written so viscerally my heart still pangs writing this now weeks after reading the book.
The series also focuses an intense amount on prophecies. After all, it’s prophesy that brought Titus and Iolanthe together in the first in the place. But there are some interesting developments in this book and I really enjoyed the exploration of free will/choice that the story engages with its readers. Are certain things happening because it’s fated? Or are they happening because the characters have been actively working to fulfill the prophecy? The story fully engages on this questions.
I also just adore Thomas’ writing style. It’s gorgeous and luxuriant without being grandiose. And the story is effused with Britishness through and through. It rather makes me want a cup of tea just thinking about it right now.
The Perilous Sea is an exciting adventure fantasy that is all the more enticing for its lush writing, inherently lovable characters, romantic banter, twisting plot, and bonus! Victorian boarding school setting! If you’re not reading this series yet don’t make me have to come have a stern talk with you. Just come back here and thank me later.
An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.