Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews

Sapphire Flames Cover

Review of audiobook version—another fabulous entry in the Hidden Legacy series!

Sapphire Flames (Hidden Legacy #4) by Ilona Andrews

Reading Level: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: August 27, 2019
Publisher: Avon
Pages: 400 pages
Source: Loan
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

As an enormously, magically gifted Prime, in a world where magical talent is the key to power and wealth, twenty-one-year-old Catalina Baylor has been head of the House of Baylor for three years now, after its former head, her older sister, Nevada Baylor, married Connor “Mad” Rogan and joined his house. Catalina simultaneously inherited leadership of the Baylors’ private investigation agency. Her father started the agency many years ago and, previously, Nevada had been in charge of it since the age of 17, after their father died and her mother, a retired military sharpshooter, lost her PI license. Catalina has an extremely rare power as a siren—she is possibly the only one left on earth. She has been forced to place a massive, psychic wall around her power since earliest childhood in order to protect herself and others from the way her power drives people mad with obsessive love for her. Only her own family are not affected by her power.

Catalina has never dared to date, but for the past three years, she has had a persistent crush on twenty-something, gorgeous, compelling, Italian Prime, Alessandro Sagredo, ever since he was tasked with testing her siren power in order for her to be officially certified with the status of Prime. Unfortunately, Catalina is positive that nothing can ever come of her feelings for Alessandro and, when shortly after her testing, he asked her for a date, she drove him away. She did it for his own safety, but also for her own. She is convinced that no man can ever authentically love her, because her siren power will inevitably induce a false, dangerously obsequious passion in him. She could not bear the thought of perhaps instinctively stimulating a bogus love in Alessandro if she got close to him, due to desperately wanting him to return her regard. She desires something real in a potential mate or nothing at all, especially from Alessandro.

Catalina has followed Alessandro on social media all this time, and he has followed her—though they have never communicated directly. She has learned thereby that he is a member of an ancient, noble, and exorbitantly wealthy family, and that he seems to do nothing with his life but flit around the world as a useless, international playboy. The photos he regularly posts on his social-media account indicate that he travels a lot to exotic locales, drives sinfully expensive cars, dates an endless string of stunningly beautiful women, and has had four broken engagements. Her sisters have teased her unmercifully for the past few years about the enduring infatuation with Alessandro that Catalina has not been able to suppress or conceal, but she has long been convinced that she will never see him again. He lives half a world away, and his elite lifestyle puts him completely out of her league. Until the day that, out of the blue, in the midst of a terrifyingly dangerous investigation into the murder of the mother and sister of a family friend, Alessandro begins showing up everywhere Catalina goes as she follows leads in the case. Not only that, he displays James Bond type mojo against various evil, magical villains who are endangering Catalina, which she finds shockingly out of character for the dilettante, care-for-nobody persona that Alessandro has always presented to the world.

I have been looking forward to this book ever since it was announced, and it is every bit as wonderful as I had hoped it would be, based on how very much I have enjoyed this entire series so far. Catalina and Alessandro are fabulous romantic protagonists, and extremely well matched as potential lovers and as positive, magical warriors, fighting the good fight to protect and defend “truth and justice.”

Note that this is the fourth book in the Hidden Legacy series. Though it is conceivably possible to read this book as a stand-alone novel, I don’t recommend it. Catalina appears in all three of the previous novels as an important subcharacter, and a lot of significant events take place in those books that impact major occurrences in this story. Also, if you have not read those books, many incidents in this book will be a spoiler for them.

Nevada, Catalina’s older sister, and her husband, Rogan, are the main protagonists for the first three books. They are out of town during this entire book. This is a useful fictional technique for two reasons. First, it keeps Nevada, who is the first-person narrator of the first three books, from overshadowing Catalina, who is the first-person narrator of this book, and will be for the next two books in this new trilogy. Secondly, Nevada and Rogan’s absence effectively “orphans” Catalina so that she cannot call on their considerable magical and financial resources to bail her and the rest of the Baylor family out of the consequences of the deadly foes who come at Catalina and her family from all sides due to the gigantic, evil-Primes conspiracy Catalina’s investigation has landed her in the big middle of. Fortunately for Catalina, the absence of support from Nevada and Rogan is more than adequately compensated for by Alessandro. He is not only a one-man army, he proves to be a fabulous partner in general as Catalina pursues her murder investigation, and the action-adventure scenes with the two of them are amazing. They are always edge-of-the-seat exciting, and also at times quite hilarious.

It is also terrific to have a chance to spend time with the rest of the Baylor family again, each with a unique and lovable personality, and each with their own magical power. We also meet a brand new subcharacter in this book in the form of an adorable little stray dog that Catalina rescues and christens, Shadow.

As is the case with the three-part romance between Nevada and Rogan, the arc of the romance of Catalina and Alessandro will spread out across three books. Though the murder mystery that is the core of the action-adventure plot in this first book of their love story is resolved by the end of this book, the romance plot itself will not be 100% resolved until the end of book three in this trilogy, which will be book 6 in the Hidden Legacy series as a whole.

Thus, like the initial trilogy, this is very much a “slow burn” trilogy. That lack of focus on sex, which is so very common in a typical, single-title, paranormal-romance novel, never bothers me in an Ilona Andrews series, because they do a better job than any other paranormal romance authors I’ve ever read in showing, on the page, that their romantic protagonists are soulmates. And they absolutely fulfill the ultimate goal of any romance novel which, also, few others routinely manage to achieve. They firmly convince us, their avid fans, that the lives of each of their sets of potential lovers, in this case, Catalina and Alessandro, will be forever blighted if they do not ultimately achieve a happily ever after.

I experienced this novel in audiobook form. Emily Rankin is the narrator. I had never listened to any book performed by her before and was delightfully surprised at her skill. It is crucial that a narrator not simply read a book, but effectively act out all the parts, believably sounding like people of both genders and all ages, and offering authentic regional and national accents. Ms. Rankin excels at all of these dramatic skills.

In addition, since a performed novel is experienced in every detail much more slowly than one can read it on the page silently, this tends to spotlight every possible flaw in a given story. I am happy to report that, as always, there are no flaws of any kind to be found in this or any other Ilona Andrews novel I’ve ever read or heard performed. For that reason, this is a recording I know that I will listen to again, many, many times in the future.

I rate this book as follows:

Heroine: 5

Romantic Hero: 5

Subcharacters: 5

Romance Plot: 5

Murder-Mystery Plot: 5

Action-Adventure Plot: 5

Urban-Fantasy Worldbuilding: 5

Writing: 5

Audiobook Narration: 5

Overall: 5

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