Blood, minor-adult par romantic relationship/courtship, physical abuse, intimate scene, dehumanizing perception toward sex workers
(Review copy received for my honest opinion. This, however, has not impacted my review in any way.)
(If you haven’t read the first book, HEART OF MIST, either refrain from reading this review, or proceed at your own risk)
Finally!! I finished REIGN OF MIST!! I was so excited to pick up this book after the map of the realm at the beginning revealed the secret continent of Oremere for the first time. It got me so so excited, and a lot of my excitement and enthusiasm were rightly paid off.
In the HEART OF MIST, we explored the continent of Ellest and its matriarchal kingdom of Valia. In REIGN OF MIST, Scheuerer takes us to the rest of the realm; Bleak in the misty and mysterious continent of Oremere; Henri to the continent of ice and snow, Havennesse; Swinton in the desert and firestorm continent of Battalon, and finally Dash half in Ellest and half in sea journey. We also explore the doomed prison island of Moredon Tower. I’m so excited to start WAR OF MIST after this, hoping we get to see more of the continents plus the smallest continent in the realm, Quatrola, still unexplored.
Anyway, the story picks up exactly from the places it ended in the last book. Bleak starts off in Oremere, looking for answers regarding her past and everything that is going on around her. She is rescued by Sahara, Henri’s sister, who turns out to be alive and well. Bleak, through the Valian, soon joins an underground rebel organization, who are tirelessly working against the evil self-proclaimed Queen Ines. I loved Bleak more here. She is confident, assertive, and no more a passive, reactive character.
“How well could you ever know someone? And if you could know someone well, did they ever change?”
Swinton starts his journey through navigating the tricky and foreign country and court of Battalon, again torn between loyalty to his master, King Arden, and loyalty to his people, his kind, and his best friend, Fiore. IMO, Swinton is written much better and clearly than before, and we get to know more about the grey moral commander who plays both a desperate father and a overly loyal soldier.
Henri is given more POV than the last book. In fact, all characters were given more space and chapters here, though Bleak dominates and I crave to see more of her POV (sorry!). Anyway, Henri comes to seek out Queen Eydis of Havennesse and her help in fighting back King Arden and Queen Ines. Diametrically opposite to Henri’s serious and take-no-shit personality, Queen Eydis is a breath of fresh air, who is simultaneously an eligible and capable leader, a caring lover, a funny and friendly ally, and a strict and stern enemy if you cross her. I love how much she changes Henri, making her laugh and smile and relax despite being in grave situations.
Lastly, Dash! Oh this boy goes through so so much in this book, my heart breaks for him. He spends half the book in Ellest, lost and lonely and confused but committed. I love being in his POV that shows us the bleak and grave situations in Ellest, taking us back to the original setting to show us how things are going back home for our protagonists who are busy in the other continents. Dash goes through enough for one child’s lifetime. I hope to see him more assertive and confident in WAR OF MIST.
As for the rest of the cast, I loved the newest additions. Rion, Bleak’s teersh panther reminds me of Nailah, Zélie Adebola’s lionaire. His unquestioning loyalty is so adorable!!
Sahara is so much opposite to Henri and yet they share so much similarities that are not just physical. She supports and helps Bleak like a true mentor, and I love her for it.
Fiore I love more than before. He goes through so much and is put through so much because of cowardly and selfish Swinton.
The rebels are mostly lost in the background after the initial introduction, sadly. The mysterious character of The Tailor is a bit too on-the-nose enigmatic. I liked Casimir but he felt too lost and confused and passive as a character. Princess Olena is amazing and I love love love her tart replies and quips toward Swinton, shutting him up effectively. She is very sharp-tongued and outspoken ❤❤❤
The pace of this book is too fast. One moment you’re in Havennesse/Oremere and the next you’re sailing through a stormy sea. The pace is a fast for my taste, and compared to the first book. I wish it could’ve been a bit more relaxing but judging by the plot situations, I think maybe it was the right pace? Who knows!
My main complain about this series, so far, is the continuous negligence toward character development of the villains. In HEART OF MIST, we saw almost zero development in King Arden, like he was such a cardboard cutout villain, one dimensional whose motivation for being power hungry is unknown and not explored. I get it, that because he was an absentee villain most of the first book, he couldn’t gain any character development. But the same happened here with Queen Ines, and one of her main lackeys, Langdon. We meet Queen Ines only a handful of times and even then there were ample opportunities to establish her as a solid villain. She is also talked and thought about often by the protagonists, but not once we find the motivation and back story for her conquering-the-world goal. She is simply the Disney villain who wanna stand in your protagonist’s path to hinder their journey AND conquer the world for no reason. Like I did not find her motivation behind taking over the world. Do you have any idea how hard it is to rule just one kingdom, let alone five continents? Why the drive to kill off or exploit the magical Ashai race, her own kin? (She sounds like a neutral evil with no motivation.) What made Ines crave for so much power? Simply greed? Nah, it’s hard to believe that. I wish she were more like The Darkling and others, but she felt too one dimensional. Rather she reminded me of the King of Hybern from the ACOTAR series, and her two commanders, Langdon and Farlah reminded me of the twin sibling commanders of the King of Hybern; Dagdan and Brannagh. They also resembled Alecto and Amycus Carrow, Voldemort’s henchmen who were also siblings.
Langdon was also left unfinished and underdeveloped. I really hoped he would at least show some signs of development but nope.
Another thing I didn’t like is how sex workers are demeaned, devalued, and dehumanized here. Like in most fantasy books, they’re merely a plot device for setting development, and/or used as a decoy for the protagonists to use to throw dust in the bad guy’s eyes. This is a bit too disappointing, given that sex workers are still dehumanized, belittled, and treated like trash in real world too.
Overall, I give the book 3.5 stars. It could’ve been better than the last book, or just good, but ultimately it bit off too much than it could chew.