The second book in the “Broken Gears” trilogy, “Into the Fire”, picks up seamlessly from where the first book left off, with only a few reminders of what had occurred in the previous book. This is definitely one of those series that you 1. Need to read in order and 2. Have to pay attention to as the author weaves sub plot atop sub plot while showcasing her lovely prose style writing. Which fits perfectly with this Victorian style book with mild steampunk flavors. I say mild mainly because these books tend to spend more time on the etiquette of the Victorian-like society then the technology, for example. That being said, it reads like a historical fiction with how Fraedrich shows the reader more of Lenore’s home nation, the societal rules, and the tropical island of Bone Port, where more than one discovery is made!
The thing with these books is that they are slow burns. Most of the book is this wonderful, atmospheric scene and world building, and is very character driven which I do really enjoy! But this is not going to be a mysterious page turner, despite the intrigue as to whom wants Lenore dead and the various criminal plots aimed at violent reform would lead you to believe. You know what the conflict is, and that trouble is brewing, but the threats and the actual conflict itself is absent for long stretches of the novel. Which makes some parts slower than others, but the parts where there is action? Where Rook is once more trying to keep Lenore from accidentally killing herself by rushing to do the right thing without entirely thinking it through, all of that is perfectly well paced! It’ fast, but not so fast that you ever feel like you miss something, so the twist at the end, while a shock, made sense, and I applaud any author who can do that! But, by 50% into the book, the expedition in Bone Port was over, and at 70% the party responsible for putting a hit out on Lenore was revealed.
At that point, I’m wondering what was left to be told in the story, and I was worried the book would begin to drag. Which was a real concern for me because the book is a slow and steady read as is—but not a boring one, even if the reveal of the party behind the threat to Lenore’s life felt anticlimactic. I mean, you have this mystery that we’ve been building up to for two books and then the answers come and the reasons felt a little petty and small given the lengths the killer’s go to get at Lenore. But I won’t say I’m disappointed that part of this story was closed, for it opened up to a bigger mystery, a bigger issue that is centered more on this broken world rather than solely on Lenore, and I really liked that! I truly loved the last 30% of this book, and I really enjoyed the character development and where the author went with building out these complex relationships that everyone has, even if at times the story toed that line too much in the love-triangle category… I can’t say that whole situation had me liking Lenore or Eamon—it did not, and honestly had me liking our main character less and less, until the end of the book. Though that wasn’t the case for Eamon, whose high born breeding often gave him an attitude I didn’t care for. Then the Lenore I loved, the one whose vulnerability truly showed her strength more than anything else, finally returned and the last section of the book flew by in a delicious whirlwind of action and heart break.
As was the case with the first book “Into the Fire” ends with a great setup for the next, and final book, in this trilogy. It’s not exactly a cliff hanger, as all the major plot points and intrigues are, if not solved at least addressed. But a lot of the character relationships are left in precarious places, our main cast left in an emotionally very low point which makes you nervous as to how, or even if, they will recover. Will their frayed and broken bonds be repaired? It’s hard to say. I know which ones I wouldn’t be all that sad to see let go if it comes to that, but I won’t say who to avoid potential spoilers. While the book is a slower read, I do recommend it if you love beautiful writing with heavy character driven stories, and some steampunk themes. The characters are well crafted, their relationships and interactions complex, and each sands well on their own, but there were still parts that dragged, and sections where Lenore did get under my skin, which I mean, she is meant to be a flawed character which is fabulous, but still. So I’m giving this book 4 stars for I did really enjoy it, and I will most certainly be finishing out the series, which includes the stand alone novella set in the same world!
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