We Unleash the Merciless Storm by Tehlor Kay Mejia
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: YA Fantasy
Representation: Queer, Sapphic, Latinx
Content Warnings: Violence & Gaslighting
In this nail-biting sequel to Tehlor Kay Mejia’s critically acclaimed fantasy novel We Set the Dark on Fire, La Voz operative Carmen is forced to choose between the girl she loves and the success of the rebellion she’s devoted her life to.
Being a part of the resistance group La Voz is an act of devotion and desperation. On the other side of Medio’s border wall, the oppressed class fights for freedom and liberty, sacrificing what little they have to become defenders of the cause.
Carmen Santos is one of La Voz’s best soldiers. She spent years undercover, but now, with her identity exposed and the island on the brink of a civil war, Carmen returns to the only real home she’s ever known: La Voz’s headquarters.
There she must reckon with her beloved leader, who is under the influence of an aggressive new recruit, and with the devastating news that her true love might be the target of an assassination plot. Will Carmen break with her community and save the girl who stole her heart—or fully embrace the ruthless rebel she was always meant to be?
Everything is here! The scandal, the distrust, the romance, the guilt, and so much more. Mejia carries the adrenaline from the cliffhanger of book one straight into book 2. I was hooked! I love that this book shows the issues that can arise within a resistance movement, especially after years of activism. Mejia's depiction of the ways in which society not only undermine's the strength of women, but constantly undervalue's traits which are viewed as feminine like showing emotion or using manipulation rather than force. Toxic "male" aggression is often messy and just as "emotional."
Just as I'd hoped, this book gave Carmen great character development and a sort of unexpected backstory. She may not have made the best decisions, but she followed her gut and motivated herself after every fall. The tension between Carmen and her love interest is wonderful, but if you are looking for spice, this is not the place to find it. Which I'm actually relieved by because they are under 18 years old.
From the very beginning, with the La Voz creation story and the pledges, I did not trust it. Not because I thought they were wrong, but because I could smell the misogyny and possible abuse of power. I couldn't understand why all of those people seemed to be following and agreeing with the Vulture simply because he was the leader... Perhaps, I'm just wary of people in leadership positions because of how easily and often that position is taken advantage of and abused. So when Carmen started questioning it, I was like, "thank you!" In resistance movements in the past, men undervalued women as leaders (as white women did with women of color and gay men had done with lesbians, etc.) So it's cool to see that issue brought up and addressed in a YA book.
We Unleash the Merciless Storm is a solid end to the story of Medio and La Voz! I highly recommend it to anyone (13/14 and up). This series may be good for courses on social justice, philosophy, and sociology.