Nathan’s Review of Siren & Scion by JD Evans
Publication Date: 28 May 2020
Series: Book #3 in the Mages of the Wheel (this review is pretty much spoiler-free for the entire series if you would like to learn more!)
Genre: Romantic Fantasy
Pages: 420 pages
She was beautiful the way the ocean was beautiful. In a new way every time one looked.
She is water, bright and alluring, fathomless and profound. He is a bridge between peoples, artist and criminal, vengeful and compassionate.
Amara Mutar has risen to the highest ranks of Tamar society by her wits and ambition. But it is not high enough to keep those she loves, and herself, safe from a past that will not release her.
Cassian Haydar has sunk as low as it is possible to sink, but he intends to take back what is his, and crush those who took everything that mattered from him—after he’s done stealing back all the other lives they’ve robbed.
In exchange for a betrothal that would secure Amara’s position and freedom, the Tamaran Sultana sends her on a dangerous hunt for lost mages of the Third House, in the last place any mage should be. Amara and Cassian, brought together deep inside the Republic, discover they have nothing, and everything, in common.
But their paths were never meant to converge, and there are horrors in the heart of a rising Empire that threaten both Amara’s plans and every mage in Tamar. Knowing the fate of the Circle rests in her hands, Amara must choose whether to serve her heart, or her people.
He was a shore upon which she crawled from the dark deep of her magic and fell against to breathe, and taste the air again.
Review for Siren & Scion
I am not usually one who enjoys a lot of romance in my books. As a side plot its fine, but I don’t particularly enjoy books where the romance overwhelms the rest of the plot; I don’t particularly care for the “spicy scenes”; the tropes of the romance genre usually don’t do anything for me. There are only a couple of exceptions to this rule, and one of the key ones is JD Evans.
The Mages of the Wheel series has had me in a vice grip ever since I checked out Reign and Ruin back when it was a finalist, and eventual winner, in SPFBO (sidenote: definitely check out the finalists in SFBO each year even if they don’t usually feel like they are your “thing”; it is a great and convenient way to expand your reading horizons!).
I’m attracted to Evans’ works because while they are definitely romance books and everything you should expect to find with romance, they are also just strong fantasy books – full of magic, politics, and great characters.
Siren & Scion, the third book in the series, is another strong entry in the series. What I found most interesting about this book was that the things I liked most about were things I found relatively lacking in the first two books, while the strengths of the earlier books were Siren & Scion‘s weakest aspects. Let me go through the book’s strengths and weaknesses, starting with the many strengths.
The Worldbuilding: Unlike most romantasies, I have always really enjoyed the worldbuilding in The Mages of the Wheel. It was well-developed, internally consistent, and beautifully married the romance and fantasy genres. Having said that, the world in the first two books was pretty small. We only got to really know a handful of cities and nations, despite Evans’ hints that a much bigger world was out there. Siren & Scion expands the boundaries significantly, placing readers in a brand new part of the world (although with plenty of connections and references to the places and characters we have already fallen in love with). We finally get to see the big bad empire that has been alluded to in previous books, and this also gives the book a different “flavor” from its predominantly West Asian inspirations/feel from previous books.
The Over-Arching Plot: As I’ve mentioned, I really like how Evans found a way to merge fantasy and romance story telling styles. Romance readers want their happily ever afters, and for each book to introduce a new couple, while epic fantasy readers want to feel like the story is going somewhere. The “overall goal” of the series is to recreate the Wheel (the magic system in the book), and each book in the series introduces readers to one of the mages for the wheel…who also just happens to be one half of the romantic couplings in each book. Despite each book further building out the Wheel, the actual purpose of building the wheel has never really come into focus. While Siren & Scion doesn’t quite reveal all of the cards of what the endgame for the series will be, readers are introduced to several new plots that will definitely have ramifications moving forward.
The Lead Character: The characters in this series are never bad, but I don’t think a character immediately jumped off the page and gripped me as much as Amara. She is fierce, effervescent, and sarcastic; she is just an absolutely fantastic character to spend time with. I think a big part of this is because, unlike many of the characters in Reign & Ruin and Storm & Shield, Amara is not a “traditional” member of the sociopolitical elite (nor does she have a significantly long-term relationship with any in the upper social echelons). Amara is a woman climbing the social ladder, and her complex background and relationship with her burgeoning social position makes her a fantastic character with a heck of a lot to dig into. Amara’s paramour in the book, Cassian (who is also a POV character) is also great, but nothing can stand up to Amara in terms of great character work here!
There are only two elements of Siren & Scion that worked less well than the previous two books:
The Self-Contained Plot: While Siren & Scion gave us so much good stuff in terms of the overall world and plot, I thought that the individual plot of Amara and Cassian was a step down from the previous two books. It took me much longer to feel engaged by their story than normal. Maybe it was because it has been a while since I had read Storm & Shield (if anyone from the JD Evans team is reading this, I would really appreciate recaps at the beginning of the books!), or maybe because the plot here didn’t involve the delicious court politics we’ve seen previously. This is not to suggest the plot was bad by any means! It was still quite strong, and by the halfway point I was flying through the book. It just took a bit longer to build momentum and get to the heart of what makes these books so great.
The Ending: Don’t worry, no spoilers here! I just want to note that the endings of Reign & Ruin and Storm & Shield (don’t worry – no spoilers for those endings either) were magnificent. There was a stunning climax and a grand finale building to the building of the Wheel. This book really lacked that kind of emotional and stirring ending. This book concluded on a quieter note, really emphasizing the romance aspects. I know this is just me and what I gravitate towards in this series (the fantasy over the romance), but I didn’t get that swell of awe and emotions that I usually get when finishing one of these books. Like with the plot, by no means a bad ending but just not as good as the first two.
If you’ve been meaning to check out this series, now is the perfect time. Not only are there three fantastic mainline series entries for you to binge through (plus a prequel novel that I am hoping to read this summer), but the fourth official book should be out soon. This is a series perfect for fans of romance and epic fantasy (and, yes, you can just skim past the spicy scenes without losing anything if they aren’t your thing – this is usually what I do). Siren & Scion is yet another entry that just proves how great this series really is.
Concluding Thoughts: Siren & Scion is another great entry into The Mages of the Wheel series, and it demonstrates a lot of strengths (and weaknesses) that the previous books lacked. JD Evans uses this book to not only introduce readers to her best protagonist yet, but she also seamlessly builds out the world while giving more details about the overarching plot and threat in the series. The actual self-contained plot of this book is probably the weakest of the three, and the ending doesn’t quite land as nicely, but this was still a fun and engaging book that I really enjoyed my time with. If you haven’t jumped on this series, what are you doing? There has never been a better time!