I must admit, this story feels a little anti-climactic after the first two action-packed volumes. Probably because, ironically, there is so much happening. Or probably because the main characters are trying their hardest to get the heck out of Rome and keep thinking that everything is resolved. But, as Nic's experience shows, it's not over until its over. Caela and Callistus both return but they are both woefully underused. Most of the animal action (Key word: most) comes from the terrifying dragon known as the Mistress and, occasionally, a creepy spectral deer.
Nic is trying to do everything in his power to NOT create a Jupiter stone, but inevitably, he realizes he has to attempt it in order to complete his escape. Also spoiler, Nic's brush with death was a little too cliche. We pay one last trip to the arena and that scene is very satisfying, and we even spend a day or two in the Roman courts. The gods themselves never come out to reveal themselves or work out their issues in person--I really would've liked to see Nielsen's take on them--and the final action is left up to humans. But the final scene is still very epic.
The new characters in Wrath of the Storm, if any, aren't worthy of note--except for the fact that the Roman Emperor is actually involved this time. Nic, of course, has a hard time trusting ANYBODY, including his friends. Especially his friends. Every time someone who is not Nic tries to fix something, it almost never goes as planned. He doesn't trust the people in power who are watching his case, because, at least according to Nic's perspective, they all have ulterior motives, which is true, but in some cases it doesn't make so-and-so a bad person. And Nic doesn't want anyone else to sacrifice themselves for him even though they gladly would, and do. The stakes being as high as they are, I don't blame him for wanting to do everything himself. Grandpa Radulf, for instance, has finally moved past the antagonist stage, in fact the only opposition he creates is repeatedly telling Nic to PLEASE JUST STOP. Everyone's goal is for Nic to walk away from this mess alive, while Nic insists that he has to make sure everyone else is okay even if it means paying the ultimate price. What else is new?
This book has a lot going for it. We have some interesting demonstrations of Nic testing the limits of his power, and using his abilities to full effect so that he can get back up and keep fighting, so the action scenes can keep going in a believable way. Nic and Aurelia finally sort out their issues--yes, it does draw the attention of the enemy but I think Nic's insistence on having to protect Aurelia was the only real issue. Aurelia, as we well know, can take care of herself. So yay for having Nicelia confirmed. Crispivia is hinted at but not really a central part of the story. I can live with that. Crispus continues to be the real MVP of the squad. What really sold the book for me, though, was the unexpected redemption story, but if I said anything else then it would be giving away too much. The Mark of the Thief trilogy is definitely up there with my other favorite fantasy series.
Mark of the Thief
Rise of the Wolf