Scarlet Tides by David Hair
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: The Moontide Quartet (Book #2 of 4)
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Pages: 688 pages (UK paperback edition)
Published: 24th October 2013 by Jo Fletcher
Wow. Scarlet Tides is an awesome sequel. My gratitude goes to Kitty G for recommending this super underrated series.
The Moontide has come, and the clash between East and West begins again. Scarlet Tides is the second book in The Moontide Quartet by David Hair, and it provided a significantly improved reading experience compared to Mage’s Blood. I’m not saying that Mage’s Blood was a weak installment; as I said in my review of the novel, it had a pacing problem caused by tons of info-dump sections in the first half but the second half was engaging. In my opinion, Scarlet Tides was as engaging as the second half of Mage’s Blood and more for almost the entirety of the novel; the info-dump sections that plagued the first book has vanished, and Hair was able to progress the plot and characters. The second book of a trilogy/quartet has an infamous reputation for being treated as a mere platform to make the next book shine; rest assured that this simply wasn’t the case here. I mean it, the social commentary, the deadly fanaticism on religions, and the internal conflicts and characterizations of the large cast of characters were terrifically put on the pages of this huge book.
“Our own people live in fear of us. There has to be another way. I thought the shihad would be pure, but it’s been corrupted. It’s not holy any more – maybe it never was. How can you find paradise by killing innocent people?”
It’s been months since I’ve read a sprawling epic fantasy series on this scale; there are many characters, the world-building—despite it being similar to our real world—is very detailed. However, what I found to be the most impressive in Hair’s storytelling within this series lies in the compelling characters and their dialogues. Every main character, in a way, has their fates intertwined with one another. I still have two books left in the series to read, and SO MUCH life-changing events have occurred to them already. None of the characters behaved or stayed at the place where their story began. It’s just incredible; I won’t categorize this series as grimdark, but none of them—except for very few characters—are thoroughly good people; most of them have their respective hidden agendas to execute. Scarlet Tides truly deepened the characterizations of the main characters through their genuine chemistry, engaging banter, and dialogues that display palpable tension. The clash of civilizations, culture, religions, and the character’s shifting loyalties was so well-written; I can’t help but found myself hooked by the narrative.
“We are men of principle, and a principle holds true whether writ large or scrowled in a margin. Our word is our bond. If a man cannot be trusted, he is no man.”
It’s a bit unfortunate that I failed to click with one of the new main POV characters—Ramon’s. I personally think that the last two chapters aside, Ramon’s POV was comparatively uninteresting because his chapters mainly dealt with marching and interacting with newly introduced characters. Thankfully, this was a small thing in the grander scheme of plotlines; the greatness of the other characters definitely made me feel safe to overlook this minor issue.
The maps in this series were very helpful in increasing my immersion in the world of Urte. The cast of characters contained inhabitants from both Yuros and Atiopia, and they constantly moved location; knowing where they’re at and how far they are from each other was beneficial to my reading experience. Here’s a reminder that unlike Mage’s Blood, Scarlet Tides have a glossary section at the end of the novel. If you’ve read the first book, you’ll know that this series rightfully receive the Game of Thrones comparison advertisement; this applied to world-building, a huge list of characters, and Hair’s ruthlessness towards his characters. I haven’t mentioned character’s names except for Ramon in this review to avoid spoilers; Hair is seriously not afraid to torture or kill off his characters if it’s necessary for the plot, and I loved it. The action scenes were already brutal, vicious, violent, and well-written; feeling that no characters are safe from dangers undoubtedly heightened the immense pressure that the characters felt to me.
“Men surround themselves with illusions. Most find reality just too hard. Only the great are prepared to deal with what truly is.”
I have no idea where the story will go from here. Everything is unpredictable, and I’m both excited and scared—once again—to find out the next ordeals that will visit the surviving characters of this series. Scarlet Tides was impelling and filled with superbly written morally ambiguous characters. I’m halfway through the series now, and I’m surprised that this series hasn’t received the attention it deserves. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the remaining two books will be as good as this one, or maybe even better.
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