Book Review: Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews

Posted July 30, 2021 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews

I received this book for free from my own shelves in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews
Genres: Mystery, Private Investigator, Magical Realism
Published by Avon Books on August 27, 2019
Pages: 359
Format: eBook
Source: my own shelves

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Also by this author: Burn For Me, Magic Shifts, Burn for Me, Magic Binds, White Hot, Wildfire, Iron and Magic, Magic Triumphs, Magic Bites , Magic Burns, Magic Strikes , Magic Bleeds, Magic Slays , Gunmetal Magic, "Gerard Demille and Helen Meet", "Diamond Fire", Magic Rises , Magic Breaks, Magic Shifts , Magic Binds , Magic Triumphs, "Sweep with Me", Clean Sweep, Sweep in Peace, "Questing Beast", "A Mere Formality", Blood Heir, "The King of Fire", Blood Heir , "A Misunderstanding", Emerald Blaze, "The Cool Aunt"

First in the Catalina Baylor Trilogy and the second part of the Hidden Legacy magical realism private investigator mystery series revolving around House Baylor and the family with Catalina as the focus.

In 2019, Sapphire Flames was nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award in Romance.

My Take

The primary conflict is the Ettersons and House Baylor taking their case, which only reinforces those House Baylor rules. It’s because of those rules and their upbringing that there is a lot of guilt rising after every battle.

I adore the family loyalty amongst the Baylors, as well as their adherence to their family rules, especially that third one! So unlike Augustine who is constantly trying to “trap” them into working for him.

  1. Once bought, they stay loyal
  2. They try not to do anything illegal
  3. They have to be able to look at themselves in the mirror

The point-of-view is first person protagonist from Catalina’s perspective. I swear, that girl has such depth and more political acumen than I would have thought.

Catalina’s magic is amazing. Anything she says (or sings) will lure anyone to her. Most of what she says is so sweet and such a dichotomy to the situation. It’ll make your head spin. Of course, Alessandro also makes her head spin, and since we’re reading from her perspective, we know exactly how he affects her, lol.

Sapphire Flames provides several fascinating backstories, including Catalina’s childhood and her elevation to Prime and then as the head of House Baylor; Penelope’s past histories and current history with Abarca (Heart provides Abarca’s past!); Sigourney’s past and her last statements; why Nevada quit being the head of House Baylor; what happened to Augustine ten years ago; and, the history of the Osiris serum, which is damned scary to contemplate!

Then Andrews taunts us with Alessandro’s history with his family concerns and all his “red herrings”.

Oh lordy, Andrews includes some fun tidbits that make the Baylors seem like your average family. Catalina’s description of who cooks dinner was a crack-up and sounds similar to my childhood.

Leon is currently working the Yarrow case.

Ya can’t say House Baylor doesn’t know its strengths, lol. They send Arabella to collect their fees if the client is reluctant to pay.

When it comes to action . . . oh yeah, there is PLENTY! Hair-raising and fascinating all at once since I have no idea what kind of trick any of them will pull out of the aether. As for characters, oh lordy, we’re swamped with them. Every one of them fascinating whether that be good or evil. Hmm, or somewhere in between.

I do wish Andrews had milked more drama out of Catalina’s concern that Alessandro is a common killer. And that’s my only niggle.

Nothing is too big or too small for the Baylors. Although, it seems that the Yarrow case continues to impact them, lol.

The Story

It’s that Baylor loyalty — and Catalina’s political assessment — that prompts her to risk her reputation and safety to unravel the mystery of Runa’s mother’s and sister’s deaths.

But behind the scenes powerful forces are at work, and one of them is Alessandro Sagredo, the Italian Prime who was once Catalina’s teenage crush. Dangerous and unpredictable, Alessandro’s true motives are unclear, but he’s drawn to Catalina like a moth to a flame.

To help her friend, Catalina must test the limits of her extraordinary powers, but doing so may cost her both her House — and her heart.

The Characters

Catalina Baylor is a siren Prime, who can talk anyone into anything, as well as the Head of her House. Her secondary magic is a targeting ability. (Unlike most Primes, Catalina has to hold her magic in or it will influence people into trying to make her theirs.) Shadow is the dog Catalina finds.

House Baylor was . . .
. . . formed three years ago and is about to pass out of its protected state. Arabella is her youngest sister, a metamorphosis mage (and Prime) of whom the world is terrified, a Beast of Cologne. The bear-like Bern, a Prime Magister Examplaria who sees patterns in computers and code, and Leon, a one-shot, one-kill Significant, are brothers and cousins who were adopted in. Bern handles all things digital. Mom, Penelope Baylor, hits anything she points at and is a sniper; she’s in charge of security. Grandma Frida talks to armored vehicles, which she revamps. The Brick is one of her indestructible monstrosities. All of them work for their family company, Baylor Investigative Agency, established by their father.

House Harrison
Cornelius Harrison, an animal mage, is the Baylors’ only non-family employee (White Hot, 2). Matilda is Cornelius’ daughter and a frequent visitor to the Baylors. Zeus is a summoning pulled from an arcane realm. Prince Henry is a white ball of fluff, a.k.a. a cat. Nari had been Matilda’s mother (White Hot). Diana, a Prime animal mage, is Cornelius’ sister and the head of the family who is finally taking an interest in her niece.

Their security for the past six months is headed up by the lazy Lieutenant George Abarca. Lopez (taking care of a sick mother), Merriweather (he has a daughter), and Walton (has two kids) are part of his team. Sabrian is the Baylors’ lawyer, and she sounds damned good.

House Rogan
Nevada Rogan-Baylor, a truthseeker Prime, married Connor “Mad” Rogan, a telekinetic Prime who’s off the charts, three years ago (review of Ilona Andrews’ “Diamond Fire”, 3.5). She’s also the oldest in the Baylor family. Arossa Rogan is Connor’s mother, a telekinetic Prime, who has been coaching Catalina for the past three years.

The magically altered “Bug” is Connor’s surveillance expert; Napoleon, Bug’s old French bulldog mix, died a year ago. Sergeant Benjiro Heart heads up Rogan’s elite fighting unit and appears to have a thing for Penelope. I love Sergeant Teddy, a huge grizzly who was shot up with the Osiris serum in hopes that he’d be an asset in battle. He turned out to be a pacifist, and he so cracks me up.

House Sagredo is . . .
. . . a very old House based in Italy. Alessandro, Count Sagredo, is an Antistasi Prime whose magic nullifies other mental magic, who appears to be fascinated by Catalina. He has a woman (besides Catalina) who, at least, cares about him.

Natasha Popova is a Russian illusion Prime and Alessandro’s third ex-fiancée. And she makes me start wondering about Alessandro. The very rude Mira Fiore of House Fiore talks about her cousin, Constantia.

House Etterson
Runa Etterson is a Prime Venenata, a poison combat mage, studying molecular toxicology at UCLA. We first met Runa Etterson in “Diamond Fire“, 03.5. The fifteen-year-old Ragnar, a poison Prime and Runa’s brother, is the youngest and about to suicide. Tank is Ragnar’s dog. The seventeen-year-old Halle Etterson, a Prime Venenata who specializes in purification, is their sister. Sigourney Etterson had been their mother, another Prime Venenata. James Tolbert, a Significant purifier, is their jerk of a father.

Runa’s friends, Michelle and Felicity, have turned their backs on her. Dennis Moody is the Etterson financial advisor.

House Montgomery
The deeply irritating Augustine Montgomery, an illusion Prime, is the Head as well as in charge of Montgomery International Investigations, which holds the mortgage on Baylor Investigative Agency.

Melvin Rider, a.k.a. Bradley Lynton, arranged the hit on House Montgomery.

House Tremaine
Victoria Tremaine is a truthseeker Prime and utterly ruthless with it. She’s also the Baylors’ grandmother who’s been seeking them for a very long time. She’s in the Shenandoah State Correctional Facility, a.k.a. the Spa, right now. The Spa is where the magical elite serve time *eye roll*. (Other magical prisons include the Ice Box in Alaska where Pierce is serving his time, Burn For Me, 1, and the Iron Locker in Kansas.)

She was/is part of a plot to take down the Houses and remake the Republic of Texas into an imperium. Caesar is who they refer to as their leader.

House Madero
This House is a joke — they breed for brawn not brains. Dave and Frank Madero (his skin and bones harden, his muscles swell up, and he grows to seven-and-a-half-feet tall) used to look like twins until Wildfire, 3.

Shelton Woods of House Woods attempts to pull Frank back. The protective Lilian Woods is his wife of nearly fifty years.

Scroll, Inc is . . .
. . . one of three DNA databases that tracks the lineage of Houses. Fullerton is one of their representatives who usually shows up.

The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences
Assistant Medical Examiner Dr Silas Conway is quite the obstructionist. Victor appears to be a go-fer.

Diatheke, Ltd, claims . . .
. . . to be an investment firm founded by Randall Baker. The nasty, rude, half-phobic Benedict “the Adder” DeLacy, a.k.a. Kurt Weber, a Prime ratiocissor, is the VP of Operations and a menincissor Prime. He delights in inflicting torture and fear, particularly on mental mages who are beautiful. Celia Scott is part of the staff that includes Jocelyn Rake, an upper-range, combat grade Significant psionic, who is a receptionist; Madame Laurent, who is one of many Morte Noirs; Lawrence, who has a hive mind and summons scorpion ticks out of a portal; Alba Gonzales, who is a telekinetic Prime; Kendrell Cooper, who is an aerokinetic Prime; Yeraz, who is a Magus Sagittarius who never misses; Louis Graham, who is a carnifex mage; and, a number of Averages.

Magdalin “Magdalene” liked to snark on the Herald, a House social network. Shondra “Killer Bee” Contreras was her BFF and most frequent contributor with a master’s in entomology. Additional friends include Lillie Padilla, PhD, a Herbamagos mage; Noriko McCord; and, Cristal Ferrer, a Magister Examplaria with a specialization in the microbiology of the human body, who suffers from a crippling social anxiety with absolutely no empathy. Biocine Laboratories is a House Ferrer company. Chad works at Cristal’s private lab.

The Osiris serum was invented some 150 years ago and awakened magic in those who took it, albeit there were three possible outcomes: death, a monster who dies soon, or latent magical powers wake up. Cherry, review of Ilona Andrews’ Burn For Me, is/was one example. The 971 serum, a variant that was illegally created, was used to create the 1012 variant. A Prime is the highest rank of magic user. A carnifex mage is also referred to as a butcher mage. Mind cutters puncture magic shields and induce pain and the ability to think, disabling their target. Psionics affect survival emotions. Phobics specialize in fear. An Hephaestus can make a weapon out of anything. An aegis specializes in protection.

Houses are a family that have at least two Primes in three generations. Some Houses are powerful and some are not. All must abide by the rules for House warfare. The Keeper of Records works for the Office of House Records. The Texas Assembly is the body that governs Houses in Texas. It has two major factions: the Civil Majority (thinks Houses have enough power and want to keep to themselves) and the Stewards (want to rule everyone and everything).

Linus Duncan, an Hephaestus Prime, is a former speaker for the Assembly, a witness and mentor for House Baylor to which he’s become a friend. He’s also the Warden of Texas with the sole purpose of protecting and preserving the integrity of the Osiris serum and protecting the survival of humanity with the full might of the National Assembly behind him.

The Guardian (looks like an SUV force-fed steroids) is capable of transporting private armies. Justin delivers groceries. Keystone Mall started dying when Hurricane Ike slammed it. Captain Swan, a combat-experienced Significant, had been brought in to command a new section training high-caliber magic users. Baranovsky had been a Prime murdered in White Hot, 2. Justin Pine, a handsome, wealthy Prime, attended the opening of the Mercier Exhibit.

The Cover and Title

The cover has a gradated (and murky) background of deep blue to purple to pink and back to deep blue. A circle of turquoise blue fog, sparks, and arcane symbols frames a purple interior with Alessandro’s body in one of his suits facing to the left, holding a gun, as he looks out at us. It’s Catalina in a royal blue slip dress of a gown with her right hand on his left shoulder who is turned towards us, her left arm out to the side and holding a turquoise flame. At the very top is a turquoise info blurb with the author’s name in an embossed gothic white below it. A testimonial in white is on the right next to Catalina’s left shoulder. The title is in an embossed gothic white and silver at their hipline. Framed between the “F” and the “M” is the series information in fuchsia.

The title refers to the Sapphire Flames that hold an assassin.

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