February 9, 2014

Rise of the Arcane Fire Blog Tour: Review, Excerpt + Giveaway


Welcome to my stop on the Rise of the Arcane Fire blog tour! Today I have an excerpt to share with you along with my review of the book - and don't forget to enter the awesome giveaway at the end of the post! To follow along with the rest of the tour, click on the banner above!

Rise of the Arcane Fire (Secret Order #2)
Author: Kristin Bailey
Genre: YA Fantasy/Steampunk
Release Date: February 4, 2014
Publisher: Simon Pulse

Buy Link: Amazon


After her parents died in a fire and her grandfather disappeared, Meg Whitlock thought her life had come to a standstill. But when she learned that the pocket watch her grandfather left her was really an intricate key, Meg, with the help of a stable hand named Will, uncovered the Amusementists: members of an elite secret society dedicated to discovery and shrouded in mystery.

Now the Amusementists are convening in London, and Meg is determined to join their ranks. But being the first girl in the Order has its difficulties, and with Will away in Scotland Meg fears she can’t trust anyone but herself. Her worries are only supported by the sabotage happening at the academy, with each altered invention being more harmful than the last.

With threats lurking around every corner, and while trying to prove her worth as the first female Amusementist, Meg must uncover the identity of the academy’s saboteur before the botched devices become deadly. And after she finds evidence of a sinister and forbidden invention, Meg must stop it - or risk the entire future of the Amusementists.

"Bob, did you hear anything strange during the night?" I asked.

"No, miss. Not a thing. A caller has arrived for you." He tipped his hat, then left the way he'd come.

A caller?


I smoothed the knot of braids at the back of my neck even as a deep twisting sensation pulled at my middle.

My composure completely abandoned me as soon as he entered the parlor.

"Will," I breathed.

He stood in the doorway with the light from the kitchen touching the dark waves of his hair. His skin had been kissed with gold from the country sun, and the low sweep of his lashes gave his shadowed eyes a sinful depth. He held a fistful of wildflowers he must have picked on his way to London from Chadwick Hall. He held them out to me as the corner of his lips turned up in a smile.

He looked stunning, like a changeling prince stolen away from this world to be raised in a realm of mystery and illusion.

I threw myself into his arms, and he held me, dropping the flowers to the floor. I smiled as I gained my senses and tried to put at least a modicum of respectable distance between us.

Mrs. Brindle cleared her throat.

I ducked my head as she skewered me with a single look.

Will walked straight to her and flashed a charming smile, then kissed her hand. "Mrs. Brindle, you are looking as lovely as ever."

"And you are a scalawag. Best mind yourself, boy. In my day, less than that earned you a trip to the altar." For all her apparent disapproval, she gathered the tea tray with a wry smile.

"I should be so lucky," he said, the hunger in his gaze heating my cheeks.

Even Mrs. Brindle blushed. "I know what you're about, young man. Just remember I've got my eye on you." And abandoning her chaperone duties altogether, she turned for the stairs.

I giggled. "I think she wishes to see me compromised."

"It's so good to see you," Will said, stooping to gather the flowers by the door. "I brought these for your parents."

I sighed and helped him gather them. "Thank you. How long are you in London?" Every moment he had been away had felt like a lifetime to me. Will held my heart, but he was working for Oliver, and the duke kept him busy. Will acted as a personal messenger for the Chadwick affairs in London while Oliver settled his estate in the country and planned his wedding. It meant Will was often traveling for days on end between London and Birmingham.

"I'm only in town for the week. Oliver and Lucinda send their regards," Will said. "I was also told to inform you there will be a Gathering."

I looked toward him in shock. "A full Gathering of the Order?" If word reached my grandfather, he would have to return for that. A Gathering meant that as many Amusementists as could muster were to meet in London at the appointed time to discuss Order business and plan the next Amusement.

Will placed the flowers on the table. "Oliver has asked for your attendance. He figures you should address the assembly about your grandfather. One of them must know something."

"I do hope so," I murmured.

Will took my hand. "Oliver has asked for me to be there as well."

I felt my heart skip as I met his eyes. "He's going to nominate you for an apprenticeship," I said. Excitement poured through me. "Oh, Will. How wonderful."

He glanced back at the door and then down. "Aye. It would be a start."

My heart  felt hopeful, and I found myself alight with giddy energy. I knew Will was concerned about making a name for himself. He had started life as a poor tinker in Scotland, then worked most of his life as a stable boy. This was his chance at a real opportunity. I knew he wasn't satisfied with his current position. He felt it was charity on the part of Oliver to employ him.

Now he had his chance. He could be an Amusementist.

Will was driven beyond the aspirations of most men to make a way for himself. He needed desperately to belong to something. Once he felt secure in his fortunes, we could be married and manage the toy shop together. We could finally begin our life.

He shifted.

Unease set upon me once again. "Will? What's troubling you?"

He shook his head. "It's nothing." His eyes narrowed as he studied my face. He lifted a hand to my cheek and let his thumb slide near the corner of my eye. "You seem tired."

"I'm fine." I turned my face toward his hand as he gently brushed his fingers over the hair by my ear. "I've been working too hard."

It was the truth. The shop had suffered from more than four years of terrible neglect. It was once again a shining gem in the bustling storefronts of Mayfair. I had worked myself to the bone to restore the shop to its former glory.

Will led us into the front of the shop. "This looks wonderful." With the morning sun shining through the sparkling glass windows, light danced over the bright colors of the shop. The dolls, games, toys, and puzzles seemed pleasant and cheery in the new light.

Then I heard it again.

Tick, tick, tick.

I shook my head.

"What is it?" Will asked, turning to me. "The shop is beautiful. Simon Pricket would be proud."

Tick, tick, tick.

"It's nothing," I said, taking a step to retreat back toward the parlor. "I can't stop thinking about my parents today. I fear it is making me a little mad."

He took my hand. I tuned and stared at my palm folded in his. "You, mad? Never."

I smiled before I could help myself. "Honestly, mad. I keep hearing the ticking clocks. But that's impossible. There are no clocks here in the shop."

The teasing light in Will's eyes hardened as his smile faded to a grim line.

"Will?" His sudden change of expression sent a pang of fear through me.

"Shhh." He put his finer to his lip.

I waited.

A heartbeat.


Tick, tick, tick.

Will's gaze locked with mine. He heard it too.

Will set on the piles of toys, knocking things to the side as he overturned half the shop. I helped him, throwing myself into the muddle. It would take forever to set it all right, but I didn't care. I wasn't losing my sanity. Whatever was making the sound was real.

Suddenly Will stilled. The skin over the back of my neck tightened and tingled. I stepped through the scattered toys to stare down at an odd contraption. It was a metal cube, not much larger than a hatbox, with windows cut out on every side. At the center was a heavy-looking orb that reminded me of a cannonball.

Gears twitched on the framework surrounding the orb as a long screw twisted within a metal filigree tube that connected the ball to the solid top of the box. With each ominous tick a ghastly little device that reminded me of a spider on a twisting strand of web moved closer to the ball. With each notch downward a spider leg struck a bit of flint on the spider's back, setting off a spark.

I leaned closer and detected a terrifying chemical scent.

Dear Lord, it was a bomb. 
Rise of the Arcane Fire is the second book in a young adult fantasy/steampunk trilogy that  continues to follow our leading lady, Margaret "Meg" Whitlock as she desperately tries to discover what happened to her grandfather and the rest of her family. After addressing the entire Order and becoming determined to be the first woman allowed into the Order, Meg finds herself in another dangerous situation - the academy is being sabatoged and things are about to turn deadly. With her friends Lucinda and Oliver planning  their wedding and Will away in Scotland, Meg doesn't know who she can trust. She must rely on her own intelligence and intuition to figure out who is behind the attacks as well as stopping one of the worst inventions ever created - one that would end the Order itself for good.

Although this was the second book in the trilogy, the novel continued to surprise and fascinate me. There are tons of steampunk aspects to the story, which I found to be incredibly whimsical and enchanting. I haven't read much steampunk fiction, so I really loved being drawn even further into the magical world the author created. The characters continued to be interesting and they each definitely had their own personalities. Meg is still a fantastic main character. She's witty, smart, determined, and loyal to those she cares for - she also has an independent streak that isn't really accepted during her time. She has her flaws like all of us - but I think it makes her all the more realistic and easy to identify with. Her pain and guilt over her parent's death continues to dictate her life - she can't seem to escape it. Once again, she finds herself at the center of a deadly mystery - her very destiny - and she doesn't think twice about what she must do. She experiences great character growth in the book and I hope that it continues into the next one too. Will is a great love interest, even though he can seem a bit cliched at times. He's definitely much better than in the first book when he was aloof and detached. This time around he openly shows his love for Meg and his loyalty and devotion are obvious. He's a strong character who takes on a lot to protect those he cares about, primarily Meg, and it doesn't hurt that he's a complete hottie. The plot itself is another fabulous mystery full of unexpected twists and turns that I enjoyed trying to figure out along with the characters. I absolutely LOVED reading about the different inventions and amusements in this book - just like the first - along with reading about the history of the order. I hope we get to see more of this world in the next installment too. It adds a unique aspect to the story, which I feel gave it added depth and interest. The writing was great with a natural flow that sucked me right in from the first paragraph. I liked the pace of the book - not too fast and not too slow as to be boring. Overall, this was a phenomenal second book of an enchanting and captivating trilogy. The only issue I have is now having to wait for the next book to come out! Very highly recommended!

Kristin Bailey grew up in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley in California. As a kid she enjoyed visiting the beach, camping and skiing with her two brothers.
Now she is a military wife and mother of two young children. She is also terrible about spoiling her pets. She has one fluffy mutt, two cats who think they own the world, and a fish tank with a quartet of fat fish, and two secretive striped ninja-assassin snails.
In the course of her adventures, she has worked as a zookeeper, balloon artist, and substitute teacher. Now she enjoys writing books for teens who enjoy mystery and adventure as much as she does. 



  1. I'm always on the lookout for steampunk titles ... thanks for the chance to win a copy of RISE OF THE ARCANE FIRE, which sounds right up my alley!