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The Elements of Cadence by Rebecca Ross (duology book review)

GENRE: Adult Fantasy
LENGTH: 958 pages (over 2 books) BOOKS IN DUOLOGY: A River Enchanted, A Fire Endless

PLOT (of A River Enchanted)
On the island of Cadence young girls are going missing. Future laird Adaira suspects the elemental spirits may be the culprits. She calls upon bard Jack to return home from the mainland to play in order to summon the elements. Can they rescue the girls in time?
There are four main characters in these novels: Jack (the bard), Adaira (the laird’s daughter and heir), Torin (the Capitan of the guard), and Sidra (a healer who is also Torin’s wife). Adaira and Torin are cousins though their relationship more so mirrors that between siblings. Adaira and Jack, meanwhile, were enemies has children who fall in love in adulthood.
All four characters had their own individual as well as joint struggles to overcome. In the first book specifically, Jack searches for belonging, Adaira is fighting to bring peace between the two sides of their island, Torin is dealing with grief, and Sidra’s faith is failing. I fell for all four of these characters because they’re all so well fleshed out. Among them Sidra and Adaira were my favorites while in the second book I found myself frustrated with Torin’s choices.
Neither Jack and Adaira nor Torin and Sidra’s romances were necessarily sizzling hot. They were, however, both very deep and meaningful. They grow steadily as the first novel progresses. I preferred Jack and Adaira’s relationship (though at times in the second book it was a little too gooey for my tastes). Also, even though Jack and Adaira were childhood enemies I wouldn’t say they fall into the enemies to lovers trope as they’ve, for the most part, put those feelings of enmity behind them.

Ross has such beautiful prose and it really makes the world come to life. The novel is told through the third person perspectives of a number of characters, though primarily the main four. As someone who doesn’t read a lot of adult fantasy (mostly YA) I can see this book appealing to readers of all ages. Ross is primarily a YA fantasy author so that’s probably why her writing feels so accessible to a reader like me who isn’t as familiar with adult fantasy.
The novel takes place on the isle of Cadence which is split into the east and the west who have been feuding over resources for years. There are also spirits on the isle which correspond to the elements (wind, earth, fire, and water). These spirits are sometimes helpful and other times mischievous or even outright dangerous.
I was much more intrigued by the politics of the island in the first book. The way that their needs contrasts each other (with the west having more powerful, easily accessible magic but barren land and the east having magic that causes physical pain and deterioration but lush lands) leads to a conflict where you can feel empathy to both sides. Both sides would so clearly benefit from an alliance, but the hurt runs so deep that it feels tragically impossible.
I wasn’t as called to the elemental magic in the first book because this is a type of magic that is pretty common in fantasy books. That’s not to say there’s nothing unique about how each author utilizes the elements. Still, it’s not something I see and think oh, wow, how revolutionary! The second book made me more interested in the elements, however, because they are the main antagonistic force and also, we learn more about the history and hierarchy of their society which was only touched on in the first book.

This is a well rounded duology. It perfectly balances character and world development in the first book. The second book expands upon the world and offers what I think most readers will find to be a good conclusion. I did have some mixed feelings about one characters’ fate, but I suspect I’d be in the minority in my opinion (I can’t elaborate further without spoiling things). If you’re looking for an accessible but beautifully crafted fantasy series then I urge you to give this one a try!

FINAL RATING: 4.63⭐️ (2 book avg.)
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