Title: Siege and Sacrifice
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
From the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician Series comes the enthralling climax of a cataclysmic war between monstrous creatures.
Sandis has finally freed herself from her master and his plans to use her as a vessel for the ancient beast Kolosos. But her master has found a new, impossible vessel: Sandis’s brother, Anon—a brother she long thought dead.
Kolosos is ancient, massive, and seemingly unbeatable. Fortunately, Sandis has her own monster—an ethereal fire horse that she can summon at will. In addition, she and Rone may have discovered the secret to defeating Kolosos: ancient lore that details the creation of magic. It could be the key to victory and the key to saving Anon.
The price is steep, and Sandis is willing to pay it. Rone is not, and his attempt to save her only pulls them apart. As both are tested in ways they never expected, Sandis and Rone will need to determine the sacrifices they are willing to make. If their efforts are not enough, their city will fall…just as the ancient city beneath it already has.
Much like with the previous installment, I was looking forward to this one so much I pre-ordered as soon as I could. And again, Holmberg didn’t disappoint!
Siege and Sacrifice wastes no time and starts off immediately after the cliffhanger from the previous book. Now that we have all the background we need and the world-building is set in stone, the story moves at a much faster pace. It felt like non-stop action from beginning to end, except for a few quite moments throughout during which the characters could breathe.
Once again, Sandis continues to grow into her independence, to the point of gaining some flaws. Her stubbornness in her newfound control almost gets people killed, and she grapples with those consequences with an introspection you don’t usually see in protagonists. She and Rone are both very self-aware and constantly trying to be better, which makes their mistakes hurt that much more when they happen. Their flaws are really what make them so relatable. Despite Sandis’ power and Rone’s skill, they’re not invincible and the danger they’re in actually does feel real. At no point does it feel like plot armor protects them, which only adds to the tension.
And while we’re talking about characters, I have to mention that I absolutely love Bastien, if only because I love terrible puns. Seeing him try to bring a bit of levity into their dire situation really felt like a breath of fresh air, especially after being deep in Sandis’ angst.
Although most of the mythos of the world has already been explained in the previous books, we get a little bit more world-building in the way of secrets being revealed. I won’t say what they are, but I will say that it wasn’t that much of a surprise. I started to suspect the major twist as early as book two, so I was a little disappointed on that front. However, I will say that the book takes a turn early on that I wasn’t expecting, and that was pretty great to read. I ended up docking a star for predictability, as well as how the book started to drag a bit toward the end. While it was fast-paced for the first 60%, the rest of its pacing felt inconsistent, with the changes in perspective sometimes feeling a bit jarring.
Overall this was an enjoyable read that I’m glad I saw through all the way to the end. It’s been a while since I’ve committed myself to a series, and I don’t do that easily. If you’re a fan of fantasy rooted in character growth, definitely give the Numina series a shot!