The Concord has been broken, and a war of magic engulfs the world.
In France, the brilliant young battle-mage Napoleon Bonaparte has summoned a kraken from the depths, and under his command the Army of the Dead have all but conquered Europe. Britain fights back, protected by the gulf of the channel and powerful fire-magic, but Wilberforce’s own battle to bring about free magic and abolition has met a dead end in the face of an increasingly fearful and repressive government. In Saint Domingue, Fina watches as Toussaint Louverture navigates these opposing forces to liberate the country.
But there is another, even darker war being fought beneath the surface: the first vampire war in hundreds of years. The enemy blood magician who orchestrated Robespierre’s downfall is using the Revolutionary Wars to bring about a return to dark magic to claim all of Europe. Across the world, only a few know of his existence and the choices they make will shape the new age of magic.
This review will contain spoilers for book 1, A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians
I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Orbit. All thoughts are my own.
Despite my complete lack of familiarity with French history, I thoroughly enjoyed book 1 and I was extremely excited to see where the author would take in book two. Napoleon appears! (I cry in excitement, knowing absolutely nothing about Napoleon). I can say I’m thoroughly satisfied with this second book of this duology and still sitting in awe by how complete Parry has construct this life-long story of Pitt and Wilberforce.
The highlight of this book is really the continued story and bromance between Pitt and Wilberforce. In book 1, we see them young and bright-eyed, full of energy to improve the treatment of magicians and end the practice of slaver, together. Book 2 sees them older, weary, failing in health. They’ve been forced compromise their principles, then fight each others justifications. Parry does such a phenomenal job bringing these characters and the larger scene of the British Parliamentary politics truly to life. In some ways, Pitt and Wilberforce begin this book as estranged exes, a pair who’ve split over a bad fight but still care for each other as people and it’s a delight to read their ever-progressing relationship. Pitt and Wilberforce show some of the most complex, most intricate, most human characterization I’ve ever read in a series.
Where the climaxes of book 1 were largely events centering people and politics, the major climaxes of book 2 are largely man v nature (kraken, dragon, etc). Depending on the reader, there may be a preference one way or another. Personally, I preferred the political climaxes and the progressively more and more terrible decisions of Robespierre in book 1 to the creature battles of book 2, but other readers may see it different.
Naturally, Radical Act is a book of escalation – the enemy has had his first tastes of defeat, Pitt and Wilberforce are finally aware of the true nature of their opponent, and the battles against slavery and the battles against France grow more and more dire. The pacing in this book is simply magnificent, with its slow builds to set the scene and suddenly you find yourself at the edge of your set anticipating an upcoming chamber debate or house visitation. There are lulls after major events but Parry manages to never let the reader off the hook, letting events build and build until the final climax.
I did wish there was more Napoleon in this book. The first half of this spends a fair amount of time following his early career and maneuverings with The Enemy, which feel like they kind of go nowhere in the second, but given how closely this book follows actual history, that’s probably simply due to how timelines met and diverged.
Overall, I rate this book a 4/5. Pitt and Wilberforce’s ever-developing relationship give me so much life and their characters are crafted just so so perfectly. The pacing of this book really just grips the reader and never lets go. While I would have wanted more political maneuvering, this action in this book is just delightful to read.
r/Fantasy 2021-22 Bingo Squares:
- Revenge-seeking character
- Published in 2021
- Chapter Titles (hard mode)