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September 21, 2023

Heart of Night and Fire by Nisha J. Tuli ~ a Review

by MK French

Zarya has forbidden magic, but no one will explain why it's such a dangerous secret to keep. She escapes to Dharati, she searches for answers with the help of blood-drinking rakshasa and magic-weaving Aazheri sorcerers. The city is attacked every night by dark creatures, and they've grown stronger since Zarya's arrival. She chooses to fight for the city as well as search for answers, and the mysterious and handsome Rabin haunts her dreams. He generates desire, but she doesn't know if she can trust him. As fighting intensifies in the city, Zarya must decide if saving the city is worth revealing her secret magic, or if it will destroy everything.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of romantic fantasy novel Heart of Night and Fire by Nisha J. Tuli
September 2023; Second Sky; 978-1837904877
audio, ebook, print (368 pages); fantasy

Zarya chafed at being kept confined to a small radius surrounding a cottage in the jungle. Rot creeps in, there are demonic creatures that would happily kill and eat humans, and magic is held by only certain classes of creatures or people. No explanations were ever given to her regarding her birth parents, other than it's too dangerous. The first chance she gets, she heads out, and the people she meets are guards for the nearest queendom. Once brought there, she tries to find her place by becoming a guard, while also intermittently trying to figure out why she has dreams of Rabin, who her mother is, and why she can pull down starlight. We find out some of this as the book continues, which also brings up even more questions about Zarya, Rabin, the princess, and the other nations. 

The world-building and magic is really fun. We learn a bit about the magic system as Zarya does, as well as the creatures of myth infused with it. The creatures outside the city walls are getting more dangerous, and a creeping darkness is out there. On top of that are rivalries between kingdoms and queendoms, and a sixth element to magic that once brought horror to the land. Of course, she gets involved with this; we wouldn't have a story to read if she didn't. Her actions have consequences, and her initial secrecy means she doesn't get answers until the end. At the same time, it's not unreasonable for her to keep those secrets. We know that some characters are more trustworthy, but she doesn't. And the queen's advisors are without key knowledge about Zarya that we have. This keeps the tension high and adds new questions for the reader. As the first book in a quartet, it strikes the right balance and makes me want more.

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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