It follows the story of Aysel, who was briefly in the first book, who is the daughter of a noble from the land of Sarkum and friend to Makram. From the outset, it's no secret that she's a spy (see what I did there?) and a good one at that. Her magical ability to manipulate air allows her speed and stealth, but she's been forced to hide her magic for as long as she can remember. She's a firecracker, full of life and impish humor. Then there is Bashir, guard to Sultana Naime, who's stolid approach to life has made him indispensable, and subsequently he was promoted to Captain of the Guard. He's trustworthy, and sees the world in black and white.
Aysel and Bashir find themselves at odds - she's a spy, he's a guard. She can control air, and he can control earth. She's witty, flighty, yet knows what she wants. He's no-nonsense, immovable, and stubborn. Yet their chemistry can't be denied, and the author's ability to create flirty yet not overdone relationships really shines.
If you've read Reign & Ruin, you know how unique the worldbuilding is. Much like old-world Arabia, the setting and culture are alive with life and color and texture. The author is incredibly gifted at descriptives without being there being too much purple prose. However, I wanted to see more of the world. The vast majority of the book is once again in Tamar, like the first was. I would have liked to see more in Sarkum, or even the Republic.
Hence lies my main issue with the book. The Republic, a supposed empire with advanced technology, is still on the outskirts of this story like it was in the first book. There isn't a real sense of threat. The issues facing our protagonists remain somewhat similar to Reign & Ruin. Naime is threatened by assassins, and Aysel and Bashir are trying to neutralize the threat. There are other plotlines, of course, but the issues seem to remain close to home, with the Counsel almost always needing to be kept in check. However, where Reign & Ruin was absolutely stellar in its politics, this takes a back seat in Storm and Shield. I know that sequels are incredibly hard to write, because everyone compares it to the first book, but still... where there were still good characters, good worldbuilding and sizzling romance, the plot and politics fell off a cliff.
Now that's not to say I didn't enjoy the book. I really did. The things I didn't like weren't enough to outweigh my overall enjoyment. And Evans is, quite simply, an outstanding writer. You should definitely give this series a try.
3.5/5 stars, and I will be reading the third installment in the near future.