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Young Adult Fiction 65
engaging sci-fi/fantasy
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SWIFT THE STORM, FIERCE THE FLAME is an engaging YA fantasy. This book is a sequel to COLD THE NIGHT, FAST THE WOLVES, and although some of the key characters appeared in the original story, this could be read as a stand-alone. Sena and Remy have traveled to Maraas, a planet far different from Tundar, with swamps and tropical storms in place of the cold and frozen desolation. Like Tundar, it is a planet at the edge, where corpos are fighting for control with crime bosses and scavvers. Remy has intel that her former partner is on Maraas, and she is determined to deal with him and right the wrongs that had led to her flight a couple years earlier.

Once back, Maraas is unlike she anticipated it would be, and she begins to see that darker plots are afoot with the corpos controlling the planet for some kind of nebulous evil - something that begins to become more clear as she uses her genetically modified skills to gather intel. The planet is heading towards a war, and though Remy would rather deal with her own personal concerns and leave, she finds herself embroiled in it all. As she investigates and learns more, the brewing battles become more critical than she ever could have imagined and the fate of so many rests on the decisions she will make and what they do next.

What I loved: The sci-fi world-building in this one is just as lush as the first book, with a new planet, its own climate, politics, and animals to learn about in the midst of some pressing action-adventure. From the beginning, the plot takes on some heavy intensity as enemies are quickly formed and decisions made that narrow the paths Remy and Sena could take. While this book is told from Remy's perspective and focuses on her concerns, the inclusion of Sena as a continuing main character helps to thread the books together and allows the reader to remain invested in her continuing story.

Remy carries the heavy weight of her upbringing (if you can call it that) at the hands of Nova, where they crafted her into the perfect tool through abuse and programming. As a result of their teachings, she feels limited by what her genetics say that she should be able to do, and she distrusts her own feelings and motivations. A big part of her personal journey in this book is to begin to define herself on her own terms and understand her own emotions separate from who Nova had told her she is.

Thought-provoking themes include friendship and what that means, decisions and the power in being able to make your own, loyalty and betrayal, nature vs nurture, and found family. Choice and being able to drive decisions made about you is a thread that runs through the story, particularly as it manifests in missteps in friendship/relationships. As those we are close to seek to protect or think they understand us, it can be easy to assume their choices or make decisions for them. What becomes clear is the importance of allowing others to drive their own lives and the power in giving them the space to make their own decisions.

The story wraps up some of the main plots, but the ending is left open for possible future books. I will definitely be there for the ride and appreciate the close ties between the first and second books (though with stand-alone power). The unique elements are really helpful for readers who read the first book long ago, as recap is not really required, though the story does allude to the events of the first book as relevant. This is definitely an exciting series to follow!

Final verdict: With great world-building and passionate characters, SWIFT THE STORM, FIERCE THE FLAME is an engaging YA sci-fi/fantasy that will keep readers on their toes.
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