Cursed by Fire & Kissed by Fire (Books 1 & 2 in the Blood and Magic Series) by Danielle Annett

I recently signed up to the Blog Tour for the release of Kissed by Fire by Danielle Annett. However, I needed to read Cursed by Fire first. It was my intention to read each book and review them separately, but I was so intrigued by the first book, I had to read Kissed by Fire (a good sign for any reviewer) to see where Annett was going to take the tale, hence, this is a dual book review!

In Cursed by Fire, the reader is introduced to Aria Naveed, a mercenary and psyker – meaning she has pyrokinetic powers, bursting into flame, often at will, but sometimes it is out of her control, particularly when she is stressed. The opening to the book is quite a brutal one as Aria and her boss, Mike, find the body of a little boy, Daniel,  who they have been employed to find, murdered seemingly by a vampire. However, as it transpires that the Daniel was a shifter, someone who can transform into an animal, this act is seen as a potential spark to a war between the vampires and the shifters. In order to avoid a battle between the two groups, Aria is hired by the shifters to find out who killed Daniel. Helped by her best friend and shifter, James, Aria investigates Daniel’s murder, uncovering a plot to incite the war, but she is determined to find out who killed the little boy. All the while, Aria is being watched by a handsome stranger, who despite her resistance to him, feels an attraction towards him. However, Inarus is not who he seems and Aria is torn between her attraction for him and her innate defensive response.

Cursed by Fire gives the reader an idea of the hierarchy in this place where paranormals and humans live side by side, not necessarily harmoniously. The characters are intriguing, and the plot has a feel of Veronica Roth’s Divergent about it. Similarly, there are factions, in this case, shifters vs vampires vs humans/Psykers, who have lived alongside each other out of a desire to keep the peace but there are members among each group who wish to take control. Like many first books in a series, this book lays the groundwork for future books, but has plenty of action to draw the reader in.

Kissed by Fire flows a little better than Cursed by Fire, most likely because there are a lot of characters in the first book to get accustomed to and a societal dynamic to get a grasp of. Cursed by Fire ends with a 3rd person narrative in consideration of Declan Valkenaar, the Alpha of the Pacific Northwest Pack of shifters. The reader is given a hint that perhaps Declan feels more for Aria than has been previously displayed. In Kissed by Fire, we find out just how true this is. As Aria takes over at Sanborn Place, the mercenary firm she works for, she is keen to get back to work and takes a job at a farm where a being has been attacking the farmer’s animals. The farmer is convinced it is a creature only know as a myth, but when it turns out that there may be some truth to the myth, Declan’s hand is forced into completing an act that seals Aria’s fate. As Aria comes to terms with this turn of events, along with her mixed feelings for Inarus and the still-unsolved murder of Daniel, the reader is taken on a fast-paced journey.

I like to be able to feel a sense of realism in the books I read, something to relate to, and while this book is jam-packed with vampires, shifters and psykers, the battle of wills between each powering force is something that can be related to the politics of today’s society. The sense of tenuous compromises and living on a knife edge are all valid scenarios that we hear in the news each day. Aria is a great main protagonist, flawed but strong. She reminded me a little of Stephanie Plum, heroine of Janet Evanovich’s “Numbers” novels. These books aren’t remotely comedic like Evanovich’s novels but Aria always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and usually ends up coming off worst.  That said, she is strong, feisty and really likeable.

Annett has written two really good books and I have no doubt that there will be more to come from this series. They are not necessarily books I would have picked up to read, but they were entertaining nonetheless, and I think any issues I have with it are down to personal choice. I’m not completely sure I understand the Declan connection, although perhaps this will be explored in future books. I was a little disappointed that James is not the love interest, but I’m sure Annett has a plan for her characters and I am invested enough to want to know what happens next. Cursed by Fire and Kissed by Fire are action-packed, mystery-filled novels and will appeal to readers who like an adventure.