Hi there! Today I’m sharing a Throwback Thursday review for a M/M fantasy romance from Antonia Aquilante. A HARMONY OF FIRE AND EARTH is the second story in her Elemental Magicae series. I really enjoyed THE PRINCE’S CONSORT and THE ARTIST’S MASQUERADE, so I thought I’d try this one.
About the book:
Prince Edmund of Thalassa and Prince Arden of Aither are eagerly anticipating their upcoming wedding, but the danger to their kingdom hasn’t lessened. They have a plan, but they won’t be able to carry it out alone: they need a strong wielder of each Element, whom they can trust implicitly, to carry out the magic.
Rhys is a commoner and wielder of Earth magic. He and his sister have made a living from the use of their magic for years and have become highly respected in scholarly circles, though he prefers a more simple life with his plants. When a message from Prince Arden reaches them asking for their help, they don’t hesitate. They stop only to request that Gaz, a strong Fire wielder and the man Rhys has long been enamored of, accompany them on the journey to Thalassa’s royal palace.
What no one knows is that Gaz was once known as Prince Gareth of Thalassa and is Edmund’s younger brother, long believed dead. He fled his home after his Fire Affinity made itself known and put him in danger, and he had no intention of ever going back. But he can’t keep himself from going to his brother’s aid, despite the risk of discovery and of the weight of his secrets potentially crushing his fledgling relationship with Rhys.
Working against time, they must find a way to come together in a magical working the likes of which none of them has ever imagined, or their homelands will surely burn.
This is the second book in a fantasy series, and likely best enjoyed when read in sequence, though I read it as a standalone and had minimal trouble following the complete story arc. There may be spoilers for the first story in here.
Prince Edmund of Thalassa, a water wielder, and Prince Arden of Aither, an air wielder, met in the first book because Edmund had been betrothed to Arden’s Elder sister, Queen Hollis. THis was a way to unite the fractious nations and stave off war. There is a lot of intrigue, some attempts at assassination, and it seems the culprits–backed by the grasping rulers of neighboring Tycen escape, and Edmund and Arden have retreated to Thalassa where now their marriage is part of a treaty to halt escalating tensions between Thalassa and Aither. Tycen’s fire-wielding agents have been creating conflicts at the borders of both nations to incite violence that will weaken these countries to make an advantage for Tycen’s forces to attack. While the marriage is a political alliance, Arden and Edmund are very much in love with one another, and determined to manage the growing threat of Tycen’s plots side by side and hand in hand.
Arden, a scholar in magic, has determined that the way to stop the fire attacks by Tycen’s agents is to shore up their borders using a complex combination of the magic of all four elements. He’s a strong air wielder, and he sends for a strong earth wielder, Briallen, who travels with her brother Rhys, also an earth wielder. It’s trickier to find a fire wielder, especially in Thalassa, where the water-wielding King Torin has made the practice illegal. His second son, Gareth, barely escaped Thalassa with his life once his Talent for fire became known in his puberty. Briallen and Rhys do know Gaz, a reclusive fire wielder who resides in a cottage inside the borders of Aither, where fire wielding isn’t illegal. They invite Gaz to come with them on Arden’s request to bring any fire wielder they might trust. They don’t know that Gaz is really Prince Gareth living in exile with his bodyguard.
Gaz knows that he should refuse Briallen’s quest, but he can’t resist the possibility of helping safeguard the kingdom of his birth. He doesn’t know he’ll see his brother again, but he is in fear of discovery. The disguises his bodyguard fashions are pretty good, though. And the growing attraction between Gaz and Rhys is also a balm. Gaz has lived in near solitude for the better part of a decade and he’s…burning (ha!) for some affection. The journey unites Rhys and Gaz, but Gaz’s true identity becomes a secret that divides them. When the reunion comes, Gaz fears Edmund will send him away–or worse imprison him, but his need to reconnect makes him reckless–with the best possible result. In fact, it is connection that will power the big magic Arden has planned, so Rhys must get past his (kinda unreasonable) hurt that Gaz concealed his true name from him.
This is a quest story, considering the bigger picture, but also a romance for Rhys and Gareth/Gaz, as well as a reunion of brothers/family as Gareth connects with both Edmund and his younger sister. There are many points of view in the story, but I found it easier to follow than I expected. The sexytimes are on the down low–less graphic and more emotional connection, which made sense given the objectives of the story and the needs of the character–particularly Gaz. Rhys, as an earth wielder and low-key healer, is a nurturer by nature, and he’s more than willing to care for reclusive and attractive Gaz, but thinks he isn’t worthy of a prince–despite these two identities describing the same man. It takes a bit of magic to get his mind turned around, but that’s all to the good.
Danger lurks throughout the book, and even up to the end the potential for surprise and disruption are lurking. The location the magic must be performed is close to the borders and sites of incursion, and Thalassan guards could still arrest Gareth, if he’s recognized. The climax does bring more battle than expected, but also a better sense of closure, with it. This book ends the duology–leaving the reader satisfied that peace will reign and happiness will follow our stalwart heroes. I liked the book, and would recommend for folks who enjoy fantasy, magical realism and quest stories with a side of romance.
About the Author:
Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent—they all end in happily ever after.
She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats (which she shares with friends and family), and of course, reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to e-books, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Antonia is living there again after years in Washington, DC and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.