As the new lord of Magnus, Thomas should be at peace with the world, safe in his rightful home. But by reclaiming Magnus, Thomas defied the dark powers that want to control Magnus and its secret. In the middle of this struggle, he is haunted by two beautiful girls—one who betrayed him, one who helped him, but he still doesn’t know if he can trust either.
Martyr’s Fire is third in Sigmund Brouwer’s YA series Merlin’s Immortals, following The Orphan King and Fortress of Mist. In the first two books, Thomas sets out to recover his birthright, but is caught between the Druids and the Immortals, secret circles of power that control medieval England. Both circles want to use Thomas, but the Immortals want to claim him as one of their own—if he hasn’t been corrupted by the Druids. Martyr’s Fire picks up soon after the previous volume, reintroducing a couple of main characters while launching a new threat at Thomas’s power—a group of monks claiming to carry powerful relics and demanding allegiance from ruler and beggar alike.
As the story continues through this book, Thomas finally learns some of the secrets that have controlled his life, when another character explains the battle between the Druids and the Immortals. Even this revelation, though, leaves many more doubts and secrets that Thomas has to untangle to survive.
If you’ve read the first two books, you’ve probably got a good taste of what to expect in Martyr’s Fire—dungeons and secrets and science dressed up as magic, all in a very short read. (And, you can read the first chapter of Marty's Fire here.) If you’ve not read them yet, you may want to borrow them first and catch up on the action. Unlike many fantasy series, each volume of Merlin’s Immortals is about 200 pages long, so it's pretty easy to do, and it’s not so much what happens as why you need to care.
Unfortunately, I found myself getting frustrated by all the secrets. Readers do get to know more than Thomas does, but that also means knowing Thomas should be able to trust certain characters when he has no way of knowing that himself. And, after three books, I feel like Brouwer’s holding back secrets just because he won’t have anything left once he tells.
Overall, when I read the previous volumes earlier this year, I remember liking them fairly well, but after this book, I’ll probably keep reading less from being excited about the story and more because it is an interesting plot and because I want to find out what the secret of Magnus really is. It’s a good story, just not a favorite.
(As a side note, it’s not very clear from the marketing information, but when I looked up Merlin’s Immortal, the series appears to be a revised or expanded version of Brouwer’s Wings of Light/Magnus series originally published from 1992-1994. The changes seem to be irrelevant to first-time readers like me, but without reading the original series, I can’t say how much Brouwer changed in this version.)
[My thanks to WaterBrook Press for sending me a review copy of Martyr's Fire in exchange for my honest opinion of the book.]