The Fire Within Them – Matthew Ward

The Fire Within Them by Matthew Ward
Also by this author: Legacy of Ash, Legacy of Steel, Legacy of Light, The Darkness Before Them
Series: The Soulfire Saga #2
Published by Orbit on June 11, 2024
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy
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The second book in the action-packed new trilogy from epic fantasy author Matthew Ward, the Soulfire Saga is set in a world ruled by an immortal king, where souls fuel magic and a supernatural mist known as the Veil threatens to engulf the land. Perfect for readers of John Gwynne and Anthony Ryan. 
The sprawling Kingdom of Khalad stands alone. Severed from the rest of the world by an ancient, arcane war, its folk toil behind a wall of living mist, beholden to an undead king and his barons.
But hope lies with two Kat, an accomplished thief, and Vallant, a rebel and folk hero. Together they will light a fire that will burn away the corruption and tyranny of King Diar's rule.
But only if they succeed . . .

Katija feels her soul is deteriorating from the inside out. Omen rot is creeping through her body one inch at a time, starting from her ruined tattoo. Now that she has friends and family, she has little interest in dying, even if she refuses to tell them of her illness. During her search for a cure, life as she knows it crumbles around her. Answers only lead to more questions. Old lovers reappear…and the past catches up with more characters than only Kat. Tanith, Rîma, Vallant, Ihsan Damant—their pasts chase them into the present and the future. Though it might sound exaggerated, it’s the truth: Their decisions could impact the fate of the kingdom. The Fire Within Them by Matthew Ward is an imaginative, exhilarating, and beautifully complicated tale that fantasy readers will relish.

I had trouble with The Darkness Before Them, but I had few of the same issues with its sequel. My big struggle with The Fire Within Them: Each time I put it down, it took me fifty pages before I felt engrossed in Ward’s world again…then I would have an errand to run, or a pet would want to go outside. I had to go back to move forward. But isn’t that the same with life sometimes? We must retrace our steps so we can better understand where to go next. Study the past so we do not make the same mistakes. The Fire Within Them’s main characters must delve into their personal histories, even if they do not want to. Elements of their backgrounds influence the them. And, unfortunately, their accepted “truths” turn out to be false.

Like all of Ward’s other books, The Fire Within Them is superbly multi-layered. What appears simple on the surface ends up being deeper than the blackest point in the ocean. Ward builds on his already detailed world in a slow-burn story with battles, stellar character development, moments of humor, and political strategy. It also features a group that Ward describes in the Dramatis Personae as the “heralds of a new world.” The group works in the dark, a juxtaposition to Bashar Vallant’s rebellion. But there is so much more the characters do not—and cannot—understand until Ward provides all the pieces as the novel travels toward its conclusion…

…which then sets up for a third book. If you end a novel with “But first, we should talk,” you’re going to send my imagination reeling. I enjoyed The Fire Within Them by Matthew Ward much more than its predecessor. Could I have the next book already? I may age twenty years by its publication date.