Indie Book Review: Blue Flames by Madilynn Dale

 Written by Joe Compton

Author: Madilynn Dale

Release date: January 31, 2023

Genres: Romance, Fantasy, Supernatural
Book 2 of The Ember Series
Length: 223 pages

Blurb: With the chaos of her escape from Hell and loss of a mate, Ember attempts to focus on her pack. More is coming for them with Alpha Gale keeping secrets and Greed building an army. It’s only a matter of time before she must return to claim her place as princess of Hell and train as a hellhound. Still, having spent her entire life thinking she was a latent shifter, she doesn’t want to leave those she loves unprotected.
In her pursuit to bring Alpha Gale down, Ember must reach out to other packs. With Adam’s lead, and all their friends by their side, they devise a plan to stop Alpha Gale and have him removed once and for all. No more sacrifices, arranged marriages, or hidden agendas.

When Ember is forced to leave before their plans can take effect, she must depend on her vampire mate, Zeke, and her friends, as she begins to learn how to lead Hell. What Lucifer didn’t expect was having to prepare her for an all out war so soon. The balance of power and time are now on her shoulders. Will Ember buckle under pressure or will her unrealized power be able to bring down those seeking to conquer them all?

WHAT THIS BOOK DOES WELL: There is a tremendous amount of incredibly well designed, well executed literary devices used here to near perfection that really puts and keeps you in the story, and it's coupled with a very well written prose technically that never pulls you out or makes you double back (which for this reader is a big deal because that's what keeps me from reading a little faster than I would like). It all starts with a nifty sub plot that not only picks up from where we were left off in BLACK FLAMES but enhances the group dynamic, furthers the importance of family and friends, and gives us a nice little ease into what is to come. 

This device is used in unison with another couple of aspects I really came to appreciate. The 1st is the callbacks, not only from the 1st book, but it is also used effectively within the same book in later pages. Then there is also the foreshadowing that raises the stakes for what happens in the 3rd act. All very cleverly and meticulously designed here to really enhance the reading experience. 

I also like how much Madilynn respects her readers to know what is going on and does dwell too much on recapping or rehashing as it were. The moments that she does do that she does it neatly within the dialogue which helps keep things moving while simultaneously reminding us of this or that.  

The emotional moments are really strong here and play out not only logically but very much as they would do in real life. I appreciate that there is that connection even though we are talking about Hell, vampires, and werewolves. That subtle human element shows great depth for Ember especially. However it kind misses though with the other characters a little bit, but then again they aren't very human so it plays to who they are, but it still seems a tad bit callous at times. Something that I obviously rationalize here enough to not let it stop me from feeling along with Ember anyway. 

There are also small moments where I feel like as not the target audience and that certain dialogue and certain actions plays a little much to that. To be fair though I knew that going in and Madilynn knows where her bread is buttered with her audience, so to give them what they want, is smart on her part. I am just going to have to get over it. Which I am fine doing, its nothing that ever gets too much but I did find myself tempted to skip ahead a little bit at times. 

I do feel like she wrote a lot of the first act for her non target audience, thank you Maidlynn, as it takes about 90 pages before what I expected to come (a little bit of a pun intended there) does and does all over the rest of the 2nd act for the most part. So, getting those 1st 90 pages of the subplot I mentioned above, it was nice of her to do that. However as much I appreciate and enjoyed it, I actually think the 2nd into the 3rd act and then throughout to the end is really where this book hums and is beyond fantastic. I really enjoyed the return of Ember and the gang, and the trip to Hell and look forward ot more of it in the 3rd book to finish the trilogy.

WHY CHAMPION THIS BOOK: This is a great continuation read, that if you read the 1st book in the series and enjoyed it, this book should not only be a part of that, but it should have the opportunity to enhance it by the different devices I mentioned above. There is a sort of Empire Strikes Back feel and energy to this middle book of the trilogy which really gives this reader excitement for the 3rd installment. So, if you like how a trilogy like that is built and you didn't go read the 1st book yet, I hope maybe you will consider it. 



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