The Forbidden City by K.A. Dowling

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.”

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The Changing Tide by K.A. Dowling

The Changing Tide.jpg

“She recalls the endless summers—recalls standing waist deep in the waves and waiting for a ship that never came. She has spent her entire life dreaming of escape.”

Emerala the Rouge has spent her life dreaming of the sea and escaping her life in Chancey. For in Chancey, her Cairan people are persecuted by the king and his Gold Cloaks. As the years have gone by, things have only grown worse for the Cairans. A city balancing on the edge of a sword, a girl with the power to set an ancient prophecy in motion, and newly arrived pirates set the stage for the beginning of an epic adventure.

“He is a man of the law, and justice is his duty. He thinks of the body that hung limp in the square. He thinks of his father wringing his cap in his hands, turning away. He thinks of the bear king—of the man who would-be-god—kneeling on the floor and praying for luck. Pulling up his dead wife’s flowers by the roots.
What is justice?” 

Told from multiple perspectives, The Changing Tide offers a wide cast of characters, all of whom have faced struggles that have made them the people they are today. All with their own motives, these characters become entangled in a story that is larger than each of them individually and are forced to reevaluate everything they were taught to believe and determine for themselves who they want to be.

In particular, I loved the characters of Emerala the Rouge and Captain James Byron. Emerala is brave, stubborn, passionate, and has a strong obligation to do what is right, even if it gets her into trouble—and this girl has a penchant for attracting trouble. James has such great character development. Watching his internal struggle between what he was taught to believe in and what he knows deep down is morally right was incredibly powerful and I cannot wait to see the rest of his character arc in the later installments of this series.

“You cannot change the hearts of men.”

Beautifully told, this story is fast paced and I found myself flipping through each page to learn what would happen next. Throughout the novel Dowling uses vivid descriptions to create a rich world I felt as though I were a part of while reading.

“Gold blood bleeds red.”

The Changing Tide is the beginning of a grand adventure that tackles issues of identity, prejudice, and hate that is passed down through the centuries. I cannot wait to read the next book in this series, The Forbidden City!

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