Power Unbound, by Nicole Murphy, is the second book in the Dream of Asarlai trilogy. You can read my review for the first book, Secret Ones, here.
Where Secret Ones followed Maggie and Lucas, Power Unbound shifts to following Ione, Maggie’s best friend, and Stephen, a gadda who is about to sit for the highest test of power. Although there are a few scenes in Austin, Texas, most of this novel is set in Ireland. Despite the shift in character focus, the overarching plot continues on from the first book, featuring more prominently, and all the characters we like from the first book pop up again.
Ione is unique among gadda for having particularly weak power, despite coming from an old and powerful family. She came to terms with it long before the story started and spends her time working as a computer programmer. She’s also a widow and has a young (10 or 11 year old) son to look after. It would be easy to say that Ione offers more depth of character than Maggie did, but I think what really makes this story better is Murphy’s development as a writer. (And the fact that Lucas’s past in the first book wasn’t exactly straight forward.)
The whole novel hangs together better and I found it more enjoyable. The romantic plot line is less linear and, while we know that the two characters will end up together (it is paranormal romance, after all), the obstacles in their way felt less artificial. It was more about them being silly than external circumstances, which I liked.
The fantasy plot line was more action-packed than in Secret Ones. The danger was greater and the stakes were higher. Also, more progress was made working out who’s been behind all the evil shenanigans. Unlike the first book, it felt less like the relevant characters were flailing around not getting anywhere. (To be fair, in the first book the trouble was quite different in nature and didn’t initially seem to be connected to the overarching plot.)
The end of Power Unbound set up the final book in the trilogy quite well. Unfortunately, I have to wait a few months before I can read it (I want a matching paper set, not the ebook), but I definitely want to know what happens next and how everything is resolved. Oh, I should also mention that while the overarching plot follows on from Secret Ones, I think it’s possible to read Power Unbound by itself. It contains some spoilers for the first book, but doesn’t actually rehash all the details, so you could still read the first book afterwards. Of course, it’s better to read them in order but if, for example, you’re particularly interested in the Ditmar eligible works which include Power Unbound and the third book, Rogue Gadda, you could probably get away with skipping Secret Ones.
Overall, Power Unbound was an enjoyable read. I definitely recommend it to fans of paranormal romance.
4 / 5 stars