I bought Royal Airs not long after loving Troubled Waters. But the third book, Jeweled Fire, had just come out in hardback, so I decided to wait to read Royal Airs until I had the third one in paperback, too. I waited. And waited. And saw the publication information change, saying the paperback version of Jeweled Fire wouldn't be coming out for like twenty years! I pre-ordered it on Amazon in 2016; earlier in June (2019), Amazon cancelled my order because they found out the book wouldn't be released at all. :(
(Yesterday I discovered the reason why: the publisher decided that people will prefer ebooks to paperbacks). So much for my paperback collection of these books. :(
Thankfully, interlibrary loan started back up at the local library. So I put in a request for Jeweled Fire. In the meantime, I also found a copy of the fourth book, Unquiet Land (also hardback). So once Jeweled Fire arrived from out of town, I knew I had to get reading Royal Airs!
Of course, this being four years later, I don't really remember all the details of Troubled Waters. Thankfully, Royal Airs gives enough of the background information that I was able to piece together the important bits as I went along.
Royal Airs takes place about five years after the events of Troubled Waters. Rafe Adova, a man who gambles at cards against people for a living, notices a well-dressed red-head slip into the bar he's in. When some unsavoury sorts corner the red-head at the table, Rafe is quick to stop them. He has lived on the streets for years now, and appreciated when strangers helped him.
Of course, he wasn't expecting that the wayward girl he was helping was Princess Corene. And he most definitely wasn't prepared to meet her sister, Princess Josetta, who operates a shelter in the slums. While in the area, Rafe is later jumped and almost killed because of the strange markings on his ear. Josetta's guards find him and bring her back to the shelter, where their lives become unexpectedly intertwined because they find each other fascinating. But when the truth about the attack comes to light (and to the attention of Darien Serlast, regent of the Welce throne and Corene's father) their lives get a whole lot more complicated!
Okay, I'll admit that's a pretty lame synopsis. There's a lot more to Royal Airs than that, but also a lot less political maneuverings than were in Troubled Waters (I think? Maybe I'm wrong about that? It's been four years?) The two main characters, Josetta and Rafe, want to lead ordinary lives. Josetta likes caring for the poor in her shelter in the slums (I loved how Zoe brought water to the building for her because of course the coru prime can do that!) I also loved how Rafe had no elemental blessings for years (every time people pulled ghost coins, which are coins that are so old and worn that you can't tell what blessing was supposed to be on them) until Josetta pulled blessings from her shelter's temple, where none of the coins were old enough; only then did Rafe get actual blessings (but they were all extraordinary ones, not ones associated with particular elements).
But then Royal Airs also has the technological aspects as well. The elay (air) prime invented cars (elaymotives), and is working on creating flying machines as well (aeromotives). Rafe was given a fortune for helping Corene, and at Josetta's suggestion he meets the elay prime to invest in an elaymotive factory. But while there, he discovers the plans for the aeromotives, and gets recruited to be a pilot (which is a huge gamble because there have been seven fatalities already!)
The political maneuverings happen mostly around visits to the state. First one foreign prince arrives to tour Welce in the hopes of making some trade negotiations. Then the empress from a second nation arrives as well. As one of the heirs to the throne, Josetta has to attend both. And after Darien Serlast discovers Rafe (and Serlast knows exactly who Rafe's parents were, even though he keeps that information close to his chest), Rafe is drawn into the affairs of state as well. There's also a huge question as to the heir of the country, because the named heir hasn't been seen at court for a year or two (only her decoy).
All in all, I really enjoyed Royal Airs. It was great to read more about the characters I liked from Troubled Waters, plus I really liked the new additions as well. Once again, this book was full of superb worldbuilding, and I can't wait to start Jeweled Fire!
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