As a teenager, I was a voracious fantasy reader: Harry Potter, Eragon, Lord of the Rings, Artemis Fowl. If there was magic involved, I was reading it. These tendencies didn’t stick with me as an adult, but reading Rebecca Ross’ debut adult fantasy series felt like a personal homecoming to the genre.
The Elements of Cadence duology is centered around the residents of Cadence, an island entrenched in Scottish-inspired folk magic and split by an ages-old feud between the Tamerlaines in the East and the Breccans in the West. While reading the first installment of the duology, A River Enchanted, I was enthralled by Jack and Adaira of the Tamerlaines, childhood enemies turned reluctant partners in order to call upon the spirits of the island to help find missing girls in the East.
The second novel and final in the series, A Fire Endless, turns a warm welcome to Cadence into an enchanting, high-stakes battle for the fate of the spirit and mortal worlds. Told with the same lyrical prose and again in multiple, third-person perspectives, the book picks up exactly where A River Enchanted left off: Adaira taken as a willing prisoner to the West by her newly-revealed birth parents and Jack left to pick up the pieces of the East plagued by a mysterious blight on its lands and people.
With disaster afoot, the relationships between characters old and new remain the heart of A Fire Endless. Jack and Adaira, now husband and wife, pine for each other across clan lines with the hope of unifying the East and West somehow, not only for themselves, but for the good of the island. Torin and Sidra, newly appointed leaders in the East, struggle to understand the blight infecting their orchards as their people look to them for guidance. As in A River Enchanted, Ross is a master at balancing each of these characters’ turn as the narrator. Chapters often switch between two to three points of view, and never once does it feel jarring or leave the reader wanting more; on the contrary, it feels like a fascinating look at a crime scene through the eyes of each specialist involved in analyzing certain information.
The pairings of Jack and Adaira and Torin and Sidra often take the center stage, but I also found myself very invested in the individual struggles of Jack and Adaira to connect with their estranged parents in the West; Jack with Niall and Adaira with Ines and David. Even if they’ve lived on the same island their whole lives without knowing it, diving into the world of the Breccans is a culture shock. The treachery on their side of the island is difficult to swallow — Adaira is forced to witness death matches under her mother’s rule and is advised to poison herself in order to build up a tolerance for it and avoid assassination attempts. Despite all of this, underlying the violent traditions of the West is the nobility of its leadership, as well as evident, unconditional love between parent and child, which I found particularly moving as these characters grow closer to finding common ground.
Along with a deeper understanding of the Breccans, readers also learn more about the spirit world. Spirits were certainly present in A River Enchanted, but they come to the forefront in A Fire Endless as Bane, the Spirit of the North Wind, emerges to overtake the mortal world with blight, famine, and war. Silenced by Bane with unknown magic and determined to dethrone him, we meet Ash, the laird of fire, Orenna and Whin, the sisters of enchanted wildflowers, Hap, the hill spirit, and many more spirits of nature, who play a part in helping our human heroes. Most notably, the book opens with the first and only section from the perspective of Kae, a wind spirit and messenger to Bane who is brutally banished to the mortal world and ultimately provides information that helps Jack destabilize the nature of Bane’s true power. This section, in the way that it captures the beauty and violence of the spirits, felt like the best, most unique example of Ross’ handle on prose which carries into her descriptions of the mortal world through the entirety of the book — beautiful, lyrical, with an underlying bite and realness to it.
The addition of the new characters and the gorgeously wild nature of the spirits provides a richness to the lore that, while memorable in the first book, makes the world feel even more magical. With a deepened sense of Cadence’s folklore, as well as heartrending insight into the relationships between lovers and family, A Fire Endless is a riveting adventure that takes readers into the unknown and provides an epic, satisfying conclusion for the characters we’ve come to love. Rebecca Ross proves her mastery in fantasy and romance, and it’s absolutely can’t-miss.
A Fire Endless
By Rebecca Ross
December 6, 2022
A River Enchanted
By Rebecca Ross
February 15, 2022