I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the author for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.
Summary: A desperate princess, a magical traveler, and a watch that binds them together with the fate of a dying world.
Vi Solaris is the heir to an Empire she’s barely seen. Her parents sacrificed a life with her to quell a rebellion and secure peace with a political alliance. Now, three years past when her wardship should’ve ended, Vi will do anything to be reunited with her family.
The Empire is faltering beneath the burden of political infighting and a deadly plague. Yet, Vi can’t help but wonder if her inability to control her magic is the true reason her parents haven’t brought her home. Suspicion becomes reality when she unleashes powers she’s not supposed to have.
Powers that might well cost her the throne.
As Vi fights to get her magic under control, a mysterious stranger appears from across the world. He holds the keys to unlocking her full potential, but the knowledge has an unspeakable price — some truths, once seen, cannot be ignored.
All eyes are on her and Vi must make the hardest choice of her life: Play by the rules and claim her throne. Or, break them and save the world.
Aaaaand we’re finally back in the Air Awakens world! I can’t express how much I missed AA and its characters, and while I still haven’t managed to reread (because five books are A Lot), I still remembered enough details to dive into this sequel/spin-off and catch all the references.
⇒ Do you need to read the Air Awakens series first?
You probably don’t need to, since this follows different characters, but at the same time I feel like you’d lose a lot by not knowing what happened before. Kova built a rich, fantastic world with simple but important rules, and there’s a lot that the first series covered (relationships between the different parts of the Empire, the culture and superstition around sorcerers, the way magic works, the history of the Empire, etc) that still plays a huge role in Vortex Visions. While most of it is explained here again as the story goes on, I feel like to get the best reading experience you really do need to have read the first series.
This book takes place around twenty years after the events of Air Awakens and sees Vhalla and Aldrik’s daughter, Vi, as the protagonist.
SOME SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE END OF THE AIR AWAKENS SERIES
If you’ve read the end of the first series, you’ll know that Vhalla’s firstborn is to be sent to the North to live among them. I didn’t remember all the details about the deal and why that came to be, but more is explained here.
Vi is seventeen and while her parents visit her when they can, she has never set foot outside of the North. She has also never met her own twin brother (only younger than her by a few minutes), but communicates with him through letters.
When Vi’s power is Awakened, it’s not as she or most people imagined it, and she must keep it mostly hidden as she trains with Sehra, the Chieftain of the North. And with her power come visions of the future that promise nothing good to come.
I think one of Elise Kova’s strongest abilities, other than the worldbuilding, is how she creates an interesting cast of surrounding characters that relate in different ways to the MC. We see some familiar faces (Jax!!!!, Sehra) and a few new ones: Ellene and Jayme are Vi’s friends; Andru is the son of the Head of Senate and recently sent to the North to assess Vi’s qualifications as future Empress. Taavin is the “voice”, the boy Vi (the champion) summons with her newfound power.
I really liked most characters even though I don’t have strong feelings towards both Ellene and Jayme. I wanted to know more about Andru and I think the clues about his own side romance were pretty obvious and I can’t wait to see it unfold in the next issues. I cared less about the main romance, I’m sure the next books will make me like it more but so far I just don’t see a reason why they should be together. I do however appreciate how inclusive this was (as were Kova’s other series): we have Andru who’s gay, Vi’s brother who’s so-far-not-specified queer, and Ellene has two moms (Sehra and her wife).
I found the ending a bit abrupt, like, I thought I still had one more chapter to go but that was it. But speaking of which, there’s a few appendixes at the end with maps, more explanations on Lightspinning and elemental affinities, a pronunciation guide (it’s not V-ee but V-eye! but I will still keep reading it as V-ee in my head lol) and a recap of the story of Dia. I really appreciate that because it makes the worldbuilding more accessible and idk, I just really like when authors do that.
Overall this is a strong first installment for a spin-off and I can’t wait for the next one.