In David Hair's second instalment, the Leviathan Bridge has risen from the ocean and Rondian forces are on the move to begin the Third Crusade. Following the events from Mage's Blood, the character's are now spread all across Urte and more are introduced as Scarlet Tides expands our perspective on the political corruption and deception that is descending upon them.
Cymbella Meiros de Regia has run off with the Scytale of Corineus, a very powerful artefact, in search of her mother, Justina Meiros. Alaron Mercer is now out looking for her with the Inquisition on his trail, his arch-enemy, Malevorn Andevarian, a part of the group hunting him down. Ramon Sensini is placed is Pallacios XIII, a legion known to be filled with rejects and other mages with bad reputations. Ramita in Antiopia is in mourning the death of her husband, Antonin Meiros, while coming to terms with her awakened gnosis through pregnancy. Elena Anborn is controlled by necromancer Rutt Sordell after Cera Nesti betrayed her, thanks to the manipulation of Gurvon Gyle. Then there's Kazim Makani, the souldrinker who killed Antonin for the love of Ramita and is now plagued by his actions, fighting a moral battle between his religion and what he believes is right. This is where our adventure begins in this tantalising sequel.
We are, firstly, brought back in time to the committee meeting between Saint Lucia Sacrecour, Gurvon Gyle, Kaltus Korion and others just as Mage's Blood did. It picks up where the meeting had finished off in the first instalment, providing us with more information in relation to the plan for the Third Crusade, only unveiling a little more than what we already know and teasing us with hints to other actions later on. Then the rest of the story begins, starting at the first month of the Moontide. It begins from the perspective of Jeris Muhren, the Watch Captain of Norostein who aided Alaron and his friends with the discovery of the Scytale and General Langstrit. After a quick moment with the King of Noros and the swift death of Belonius Vult, the power game starts again and we are reminded of the tough decisions that are necessary in the time of war and corruption that is beginning to be unravelled.
We soon return to Alaron since the events in the first instalment, watching as his mother burns after perishing to protect him. Although the first book finds him discovering the Scytale and corruption that led to the artefact being hidden in the first place, his real journey begins in this book. He sets off with Jeris to find Cymbella after she has run off with the artefact. However, their journey together is cut short when the Inquisition, who are also hunting the artefact, find Alaron with the gypsies that Cymbella grew up with. After, he is forced to travel alone. Through the unfortunate event of being found, he is saved by a group of mythical creatures that were illegally created, unveiling more corruption in the politics of Urte. With the continuous threat of the Inquisition, Alaron realises the full ability he has with his gnosis as it is pushed to its limits. Once he finds Cym, they travel to find her mother, and both discover and lose more than they both could have imagined.
Ramita, newly-widowed after her young lover Kazim killed her husband, Antonin Meiros, begins the journey of learning and controlling her gnosis from her pregnancy manifestation. She originally tries to hide it away from the group she is with, knowing she would be used for breeding or worse if they find out she was carrying Meiros children. Events lead to her being able to communicate with her step-daughter, Justina, and she is able to come and save her from the group and take her away to a secluded island with a secret building built within it. With Justina's help, Ramita learns her affinities in the gnosis and grows in confidence in her ability to wield it, finally acknowledging the ascendant power she has been granted. However, with the sudden appearance of Alaron and Cymbella, world's collide in both devastating and fruitful ways, and the due date for Ramita draws closer.
Cera and Gurvon find themselves locked in a political battle in Brochena, Javon. Through the continuous manipulation of Gurvon, Cera is forced to lead her army to failure to allow the Dorobon leadership to take control. Gurvon knows he has Brochena wrapped around his finger, but with the inclusion of Portia Tolidi in the mix and her friendship with Cera, this control starts to waver as he finds himself growing more attracted to her. Cera, on the otherhand, is trying to find a way to put a stop to the Dorobon, sacrificing herself in many ways to keep her brother safe while also using her new found power in Gurvon's attraction to get him to do what she wants. Within the turbulence of politics, both Cera and Gurvon find themselves in trouble, their own games getting the better of them. To add onto this, Elena is controlled by Rutt Sordell, but through chance and fate escapes his control to find herself latched onto the souldrinker, Kazim, and both find themselves stuck together in a mutual need to get revenge.
And amongst the Rondian army is Ramon. Through pure wit and a natural ability to lead, he starts an Opium trade within the ranks. However, it is not to distribute the destructive drug, but to put pressure onto his familioso to save his mother. He also finds himself alongside Seth Korion, a peer from college who, with Malevorn Andevarian, gave him and Alaron a hard time. He isn't seen highly amongst his peers, the only friend he makes being Kip, another low-blooded mage. However, when Severine, a high-blooded mage in Pallacios XIII, starts having horrific visions, a new conflict begins to appear. With this, plus the discovery of mages within the Keshi forces, Ramon discovers that there is more going on in this Crusade than the previous and realises that corruption has seeped into the army ranks.
Although the story is spread across many places in Urte, connections begin to strengthen as all of them affect each other. Each character is bound to another, and desperation becomes a common motivator for all involved in this political game. And with the inclusion of Huriya and the group of souldrinkers she is with, the threat for all mages grows as they all fight for the one item that will grant them unimaginable power: The Scytale of Corineus.
What I thought
I'll keep this short by writing that this book exceeded all of my expectations from the last instalment. The dreaded second book in a series can sometimes be a let down, what with high expectations from the introductory story, but this hit the mark perfectly. Now that all the introductions were mostly out of the way, it was time to get into conflict of the story. The build-up in Mage's Blood to the Moontide was what made this story fantastic because it began with the first month of it. This added a new conflict with the Rondian and Keshi armies fighting against each other in the Third Crusade. It also meant more characters were introduced, such as Ramon's peers in his rank, who added extra perspectives. Because I was so invested in the characters introduced in the first book, the added characters were easily placed in the positions of 'lovable' or 'loathed' by how they acted with the original lot, which I think was done very well by Hair.
The connections between each of the characters became more apparent in this book, which I loved because it created depth and interesting contrasts. It also meant that the reader was able to know more about what was happening elsewhere than the characters, which led to me silently shouting at them to not do certain things because of something else that was planned by another character in another place. Hair is also able to create some amazing plot twists, tension and subtle foreshadowing through this, which, again, I absolutely loved.
To put it quick, plain, and simple: this series is quickly becoming one of my favourites. The variety in characters, personalities, perspectives and so on is so immense and I love each and every one of them. I am still yet to find a perspective that I feel bored by since all are so interesting in their own ways. And after the events at the end, I am very curious to see what will occur in the next instalment: Unholy War.
Charlotte is a reading and writing lover who has completed a creative writing intensive course at the University of Oxford and is a current university student studying a double degree in journalism and creative writing. If you are curious to learn more, check out the 'About' page.