The Defiant Heir by Melissa Caruso – Review

Cover- The Defiant Heir

Published: April 24, 2018

Publisher: Orbit Books

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Swords and Fire #2

Pages: 480 (Paperback)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Across the border, the Witch Lords of Vaskandar are preparing for war. But before an invasion can begin, they must call a rare gathering of all seventeen lords to decide a course of action. Lady Amalia Cornaro knows that this Conclave might be her only chance to stifle the growing flames of war, and she is ready to make any sacrifice if it means saving Raverra from destruction.

Amalia and Zaira must go behind enemy lines, using every ounce of wit and cunning they have, to sway Vaskandar from war. Or else it will all come down to swords and fire.

I thought The Tethered Mage was a pretty good debut, but Melissa Caruso has taken things to an ENTIRELY new level of awesome with The Defiant Heir. I devoured this book and now I’m all hyped up and ready for the sequel, but it’s a whole year awayyyyyy. WHYYYYY. But really, I loved this book leaps and bounds more than the first, which is no small thing as the The Tethered Mage was all kinds of good.

One of the big things for me is that the characters seem to mesh so much better in this book! Zaire is much more tolerable and has toned down the resentful hot-headedness. Marcello and Amalia are now ogling at one another less frequently and they are both taking their respective roles very seriously. Amalia is now a major political player and has a ton of influence. She’s a character to be admired. There are many new players in this book and it was just fantastic. I loved Kathe and thought he and Amalia were a fine pair of conniving little birds. Also, he’s a much more interesting paramour than good ol’ Marcello. Kathe is a love of games and (SPOILER) his being a Witch Lord means he can play games on a much bigger scale. The introduction of all the other Witch Lords was pretty awesome – I loved the descriptions of them because they seem like such fey beings and it gave them depth beyond the evil warlords they’re made out to be. Not that that isn’t what they are.

The plot of The Defiant Heir was absolutely addictive. Within the first few pages, the bodies of a Falcon and Falconer are found and it soon becomes clear that certain key people are being targeted. Surprisingly, it quickly becomes clear that the threat is coming from Vaskandar, though the Witch Lords are sovereign and don’t necessarily answer to one another so they can’t simply all be blamed. This book jumps head first into Vaskandran politics and it’s a bloody and complicated affair, though there are definitely rules – they’re not total savages after all. I’m slightly torn whether the Conclave or Amalia and Kathe’s relationship was my favorite part of the book. I’ll be honest, Marcello is super decent, but Kathe is SO much more interesting to read about he and Amalia have SO much potential to great things! Their combined intelligence resources could make them a hundredfold more powerful than they already are and their word games are a delight.

The Defiant Heir has certainly managed to impress me and I’m totally sold on this series now. I will admit that I’ve been hoping Amalia would suddenly reveal some sort of terrible affinity for magic and that she has a hidden mage-mark or something ridiculous like that… but my delight would be coupled with disappointment because it seems like such an obvious thing to throw at readers. I really just want her to stomp on the powers that be and become a formidable ruler. Oh well, we all have our dreams. Anyway, that aside, I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book and if you haven’t read The Tethered Mage first, you should probably do so. The audiobooks are great, but I may prefer reading the physical book over that format. If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear what your favorite (or least favorite) parts were!

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