Fiery Edge of Steel is Jill Archer’s second installment in her Noon Onyx series. Archer’s novel is set in an engrossing fantasy world brimming with magic, creatures, and plenty of opportunities for adventure. Fiery Edge of Steel essentially takes all of the best elements from the first novel in the series, Dark Light of Day, and improves upon them to create an exciting and thought-provoking narrative.
For anyone who is unfamiliar with the series, my review of Dark Light of Day provides plenty of background information about the post-apocalyptic, demon haunted world of Halja. In short, Noon Onyx is training to be a Maegester because she can control the forces of waning (destructive) magic due to the drop of demon blood in her lineage. Because of their power, Maegesters are tasked with controlling the demons in Halja, arbitrating disputes, and may even be called upon to execute a demon in extreme cases.
While Dark Light of Day focused on Noon’s myriad struggles coming to terms with her waning magic and her new life at St. Lucifer’s Law School, Fiery Edge of Steel sweeps Noon to the edges of New Babylonian civilization into the unknown. When a resident of a distant outpost, known as the Shallows, sends a complaint to the Demon Council regarding the Patron Demon Vodnik, Noon is sent to investigate on her first field assignment. Thankfully, Noon is accompanied by her boyfriend and fellow Maegester in training, Ari, as well as two Angels (human magic users blessed with a drop of Angelic blood). Together with a ship captain, who just so happens to be a powerful demon, Noon and her companions undertake a dangerous voyage to unravel the mysteries of the Shallows and administer justice.
One of Jill Archer’s greatest strengths is her ability to create unique and intriguing creatures and characters to populate Halja. Fiery Edge of Steel is full of water wraiths, drakons (demons born of a human woman), and hellcnights (demons that can appear in any form they desire). Some characters from the first book in the series are absent or make brief appearances, but it is a testament to the strength of their character development that I missed their presence. The new Angel characters, Rafe and Fara, are both complex and well-developed, and I must admit that Rafe is my personal favorite due to his independent, quiet, and carefree attitude.
Most importantly, Fiery Edge of Steel is packed full of action and features plenty of imaginative spell-slinging. The romantic elements of Noon’s story are still highly relevant and engaging, but are not as central to the tale as in Dark Light of Day. Archer manages to find an excellent balance between fantastical action and romance to create a balanced reading experience. I particularly enjoyed how the two Angel characters would “cast up” before major confrontations because it simultaneously made the encounters seem more epic and reminded me of the role-playing video games I love so much.
Jill Archer successfully combines elements of so many genres within the overarching theme of fantasy that Noon’s adventures in Fiery Edge of Steel should appeal to a vast audience. The second installment of the Noon Onyx series is a worthy successor to Dark Light of Day and even manages to surpass the original, so make sure not to miss out. The Shallows await!