1.) The Changing Tide ★★★★
“Which is better, do you suppose? To dive or to jump straight down?”
Book 2 of the Rogue Elegance series, The Forbidden City, takes place shortly after the events of The Changing Tide. With the prophecy set in motion and our main characters scattered throughout Chancey, The Forbidden City, and in Emerala’s case—the world, the stakes are raised and the reader is left in a state of uncertainty, unsure of who will survive, who will succeed, and how all of the characters’ storylines will intertwine.
“The world has never stayed still. Even boys with hearts of ice find themselves melted down into something new.”
Atmospheric. Vivid. Cinematic. The world has always been my favorite part of this series, and in this book we see it expanded in ways I hadn’t thought possible. With Emerala at sea, James’ life in Chancey further explored, and the Forbidden City introduced, we learn more about the the harshness of the world these characters inhabit and how that has shaped them, as well as are introduced to more lovable characters—my favorite being Peterson.
The new characters and setting added another layer of richness to a world that was already extremely detailed. By the end of The Forbidden City, I felt as though I knew the world as well as I had known Chancey by the end of The Changing Tide. I loved seeing the world both through Emerala, who, like the reader, is experiencing it for the first time, and through The Hawk and Alexander who have traveled the seas and seen it all before.
Speaking of those three…
“She looks inhuman—otherworldly—like some ancient, wild thing. He could love her for it if things were different—if he was a man with the luxury of romance.”
The love triangle(s) in this book were AMAZING! I’m usually the first person to say I’m not a fan of love triangles, but Dowling handles them masterfully, sprinkling in the romance and sexual tension, without ever allowing them to overtake the main plot. Both Emerala and Nerani are strong and complex women whose stories are not defined by the men they end up with—I’m personally on team Hawk for Emerala, as he’s a pirate to the core and I’ll always be rooting for the morally ambiguous characters and team James Byron for Nerani because I’m a sucker for star-crossed lovers. But I’m not counting Alexander or Topan out of the running yet!
“Tonight I will sleep with my regrets. Tonight I will spend another midnight choking on my cowardice. Perhaps tomorrow will be the day the fates finally catch up to me. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll finally be able to rest, even if that rest shall be at the bottom of the storming sea.”
There simply aren’t enough words to describe my love of this story, the characters, and their world. Dowling has managed to capture everything I loved about The Changing Tide and heighten it all in this book. The magic is elevated while the real world themes of prejudice and social justice are still explored in depth. After the events of this book I am so uncertain as to what will happen next and am eagerly (and nervously!) awaiting the release of the third and final installment in the Rogue Elegance series, The Winding Maze (available May 18th!) If you are a lover of the sea, adventures, pirates, magic, and complex characters, then this is the book series for you—I will never not recommend it!
“We can’t live in fear just because there might be death at the end of an adventure.”