In Soul of Fire, Sarah A. Hoyt’s glittering and engaging sequel to Heart of Light, British gentleman and were-dragon Peter Farewell embarks on a daunting and dangerous journey to the heart of British-controlled India. His mission: to find and recover “Soul of Fire,” twin gem to “Heart of Light” and deliver it to his friend, Nigel Oldhall, so that Nigel can return both gems to their rightful place, the first temple mankind ever built, hidden in the secret heart of Africa.
Finding a single ruby, however large or powerful, in a vast land simmering with the promise of rebellion and rife with hostile magics, however, is no easy task. And when Peter stumbles across and rescues Sofie Warington—a runaway virgin whose meager dowry is the very gem that Peter seeks—that task is made both easier and monumentally more difficult.
The plot moves inexorably across India, as Peter and Emily are pursued by strange Chinese dragons, the King of the Were-Tigers, and agents of the Monkey Court. As in Heart of Fire, Hoyt spins an engaging tale, albeit one not quite as surprising or with as many revealing twists as the first book in the trilogy. In this book, Peter takes center stage, along with Sofie Warington and her fiancé-presumptive, Captain William Blacklock. The plot, while not as intricate, is still quite satisfying, and Hoyt’s vision of a magical India is equally engaging to her vision of magical Africa, if not even more so.
While the worldbuilding in Soul of Fire is not quite as extensive as in Heart of Light, the new information revealed to readers is in keeping with what Hoyt has already established, and if there is less revealed, it’s only to be expected from the second book in a trilogy that has such a firm foundation in the book that preceded it. One notable exception, however, is the various Were-Kingdoms we glimpse throughout the book, and how masterfully Hoyt draws the various characters native to those kingdoms.
Hoyt’s character work is fantastic, as it was in the previous installment of this trilogy. What I found particularly fascinating was the various ways in which Hoyt skillfully threaded animal characteristics through the personalities of the varied were-characters. Never heavy handed, never obvious, it is skillful and subtle work and very well done.
I also very much enjoyed the way in which the trilogy refocused itself. While still part of a single story, each book is very much its own creature, with its own set of central protagonists, differing milieus, and series of antagonists—antagonists which, while differing in organization and locale, are united by a common purpose: throwing off the yoke of British rule. It is refreshing to read a trilogy that departs so from the standard line of unbroken narrative and character stretched across three books.
If anything, I loved this book even more than its predecessor. I would heartily recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the first book, is fascinated by alternate history and/or magical Victoriana, or is just looking for a great and romantic adventure tale.
It truly is a book with soul.