In Cold Burn of Magic, book 1 of Estep's Black Blade series, readers meet Lilah Merriweather. Her life isn't exactly what you'd call boring. Sure high school is basically the same for everyone, unless you live in the "most magical place in America." Run-ins with monsters just happen to be a common occurrence. Orphaned, Lilah supports herself by using her Talents for Sight and Transference as a thief but her life takes an unexpected turn when she finds herself embroiled within a deadly family feud--the same feud that cost her mother her life.
Suddenly tasked with being the bodyguard to the Sinclair family bruiser, Devon, Lilah struggles with her growing feelings for her sweet, charming, irresistibly good looking and sometimes infuriating 'assignment.' Someone is dead set on targeting Devon and Lilah must use all her fighting skills to protect him.
Dark Heart of Magic picks up a few week after book 1. Lilah is still adjusting to her place within the Sinclair family. Having learned that her mother was a Sinclair, Lilah is more determined than ever to discover Victor Draconi's secrets and expose him for the murderer he is. More strange occurrences are happening in Cloudburst Falls, coincidentally just in time for the annual Tournament of the Blades. Lilah unexpectedly finds herself a contender in the games; however, the real challenge is surviving the deadly mishaps befalling participants.
Lilah learns some startling facts about her family's past in connection to the Draconi family. These discoveries has a greater impact on the outcome of the tournament and will prove to be important for book 3, Bright Blaze of Magic, due for release in April 2016.
What I liked...
I'm a fan of Estep's work, especially the adult urban fantasy Elemental Assassin series. The author has the knack for writing smart, sassy female protagonists. These characters usually have experienced trauma, leading to the development of a hard, anti-emotional exterior; however, they are more than capable of compassion and helping others when necessary. In a lot of ways Lilah reminds me of Gin but she isn't quite as jaded and deadly...yet. I do like that Estep has included some subtle connections to people and places in her adult series.
The secondary characters, pacing and plot are all well developed. These proved to be quick, fun reads with just enough mystery, humor, romance and just enough supernatural elements to entice teen and adult readers alike.
What I didn't like...
Aspects of repetition in the second book seemed to bog down the narrative. Just how many times does the reader need to be told that Lilah's go-to outfit is a specific t-shirt, cargo pants and sneakers? Additionally, I noticed an over repetition of certain phrases and ideas that were distracting, if not irritating while reading.
In general, I wholeheartedly recommend this series. It will appeal to Estep fans as well as urban fantasy fans young and old alike. I look forward to the next book and can't wait to see the next twist in the story
Final rating 4 out 5 stars
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