Call of Fire is the second book in Beth Cato’s steampunk alt-hist adventure series Blood of Earth.
When an earthquake devastates San Francisco in an alternate 1906, the influx of geomantic energy nearly consumes Ingrid Carmichael. Bruised but alive, the young geomancer flees the city with her friends, Cy, Lee, and Fenris. She is desperate to escape Ambassador Blum, the cunning and dangerous bureaucrat who wants to use Ingrid’s formidable powers to help the Unified Pacific—the confederation of the United States and Japan—achieve world domination. To stop them, Ingrid must learn more about the god-like magic she inherited from her estranged father—the man who set off the quake that obliterated San Francisco.
When Lee and Fenris are kidnapped in Portland, Ingrid and Cy are forced to ally themselves with another Ambassador from the Unified Pacific: the powerful and mysterious Theodore Roosevelt. But even TR’s influence may not be enough to save them when they reach Seattle, where the magnificent peak of Mount Rainier looms. Discovering more about herself and her abilities, Ingrid is all too aware that she may prove to be the fuse to light the long-dormant volcano . . . and a war that will sweep the world.
Call of Fire picks up right where Breath of Earth left off and keeps the action rolling throughout. The pacing is great as we go from crisis to crisis while our protagonists try to stay one step ahead of their enemies. In some ways the story feels like one giant chase. Ingrid and Cy are either looking to flee, or fleeing to find their friends, or trying not to get separated while in flight. There are some moments where our characters are allowed to breathe, however, and it’s in those moments that we get to know them a little better.
This is really a plot driven book where our characters are caught up in stuff and along for the ride. Usually I like more character driven stuff, but the characters in this are so much fun and I love the way they interact with one another. One thing I was astonished at is that it’s only really been a week’s time since the events that kicked off the first book. Our main characters have grown really close in that short amount of time, but it feels fine because they’ve been thrown together under such crazy circumstances. Then again, to quote Jack in the movie Speed, “I have to warn you, I’ve heard relationships based on intense experiences never work.” I really hope it works out for Cy and Ingrid! (Also, did I just show my age by quoting Speed? Oh well.) And as much as I love both Cy and Ingrid my favorite character has to be Fenris. I was almost a little disappointed that we didn’t get to spend as much time with him this book, but there was still a good amount of Fenris being cranky mechanic Fenris to keep me satisfied.
There is a lot going on in this book and our characters run up against one obstacle after another. I’m left wondering if they’ll ever see an end to things. Sometimes I think there’s a little too much plot happening: the stuff with Blum aka magical kitsune, Ingrid exploring her magical ancestry, Cy’s family who are all involved with everything, Teddy Roosevelt (friend or foe?), Lee’s entire subplot with the Chinese being subjugated, Geomancy and all of the earth spirits…and now the Russians are involved somehow. And yet somehow it all works as it’s intertwined together. We’ll see how it goes in the next book if it can continued to be pulled off and which direction it goes. I continue to love the Alternate History angle as well as the steampunk elements.
Overall, Call of Fire is a fun ride. Recommend trying out the series if you like fast-paced stories with fun characters, adventure, romance, alt-hist and/or magic. 4/5 stars.