Title: Wild Savage Stars
Series: Sweet Black Waves #2
Author: Kristina Pérez
Publication Date: August 27, 2019
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ARC provided by the publisher through Edelweiss. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.
Kristina Pérez picks up where she left off in Wild Savage Stars, her second installment in her Tristan-and-Isolt-inspired series.
Branwen has a secret powerful enough to destroy two kingdoms.
Her ancient magic led to a terrible betrayal by both her best friend, the princess Essy, and her first love, Tristan. Now this same magic is changing Branwen. Adrift in a rival court, Branwen must hide the truth from the enemy king by protecting the lovers who broke her heart – and finds herself considering a darker path.
Not everyone wants the alliance with Branwen’s kingdom to succeed – peace is balanced on a knife’s edge, and her only chance may be to embrace the darkness within…
I read Kristina Pérez’s debut Sweet Black Waves last year and fell in love with her story. It’s one about love – love for your motherland and its people, love for your family, of the sister of your heart, and of love found unexpectedly. Pérez put her own spin on a legend that has been repeatedly told and romanticized over the centuries, breathing fresh life into it by focusing on a different character. It was an exciting start for a new series, and with the way it ended, I knew that I just have to get my hands on its sequel or else my curiosity will kill me.
Well, reader, I got my wish and boy, it was everything.
Brutal, magical, romantic and tragic – Wild Savage Stars was both the sequel I expected it to be and a surprising follow-up to its predecessor. It starts off almost immediately after the events of Sweet Black Waves with Branwen, Tristan and Eseult arriving at Iveriu’s enemy country of Kernyv. Pérez places her original trio in a new land, introduces new characters- both allies and foes – and ups the stakes in this installment.
Despite all these additions though, the story felt instantly familiar and I was quickly drawn back into this series’ world. Pérez’s writing is as strong as ever with lush descriptions and dramatic prose that is sure to coax an emotional response even from the most stoic of readers – be it anger, sadness or horror. Her scholarly knowledge of medieval legends, as it has done in her first book, continues to provide a solid foundation for her version of the story. It’s actually one of the things that originally pulled me to this series.
But it wasn’t why I stayed.
Branwen is a complex character. Dutiful to a fault and loyal to the bone, she oftentimes falls victim to her own schemes: making decisions that she thinks will best protect the ones she loves and overplaying her hand in preserving peace for her beloved Iveriu. She is not easy to like – most of the time she’s actually quite unlikeable – but there’s just something so ineffably human about her, in her struggle between what her heart’s wants and her mind’s idea of what is right, in being cleaved in half by love and hate, being caught up in between anger and forgiveness.
This series may be inspired by Tristan and Iseult’s legends, but this is Branwen’s story and she commands this book, dictating its tone and pace like the wildfire that she is. Wild Savage Stars is darker, more complicated than its predecessor. It mirrors Branwen’s growing powers and her new life in a new land – one that she has long seen as an enemy.
Indeed, while Tristan (annoyingly repentant to the point of self-flagellation) and Eseult (still selfish, immature, irresponsible, petty and, just so completely, wholly unworthy) remained stagnant, Branwen flourished. She falls in headfirst into Kernyvak politics, faltering at first but quickly became more adept as she gained her footing. She also, finally, comes around to accept her ancient magic – scaling up another level after vacillating between denial and reluctance in SWB and the first third of this second book.
Shifting the focus on new characters – the fair and kind King Marc and the cagey Ruan – instead of meandering on the broken pieces of the Tristan-Branwen-Eseult triangle was actually a godsend as it gave Branwen and the story a depth that the first book lacked.
I enjoyed reading this book so much and not just because it pushes the series on. Wild Savage Stars can very well stand on its own and even improves on its predecessor – something that a lot of sequels fail to do. With the way this installment ended, (Gasp! Another betrayal!) the series closer is bound to be an exciting one, and I’m in this ride come what way. Historical fiction buffs, Fantasy lovers, Romance readers and fans of retellings will all find something to love in this book. I definitely, definitely recommend this whole series and if you see a girl pushing this book into people’s hands, that’ll be me.
KRISTINA PÉREZ is the author of The Myth of Morgan La Fey (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). She holds a Ph.D. in Medieval Literature from the University of Cambridge.
She has lectured at the National University of Singapore on vampires in Western Culture and was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Hong Kong University’s Journalism and Media Studies Centre. As a journalist, her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal Asia, Departures, L’Officiel India, Condé Nast Traveller, CNNGo and the South China Morning Post, among others.
Her debut YA Fantasy, Sweet Black Waves – a Tristan and Iseult retelling – was published by Imprint/Macmillan on June 5th, 2018. The sequel, Wild Savage Stars was published on August 27th, 2019.
Writing as K.K. Péerez, her first YA Sci-Fi, The Tesla Legacy was published by Tor Teen on March 12th, 2019.