We Unleash the Merciless Storm is Tehlor Kay Mejia’s sequel to We Set the Dark on Fire. It picks up the story threads of Carmen Santos and Daniela Vargas, the two brides of Mateo Garcia. In the upper class society of Medio, marriages are composed of one groom and two brides: a Segunda to nurture a man’s passions and emotions and a quick-witted and loyal Primera to nurture his logical and discerning nature.
In this world, the power structure prioritizes the wealthy and leaves the rest to suffer. Although the wealthy share a narrative about privilege and destiny, Dani knows their narrative is a lie, and all the best lies have some truth in them. The real story is about greed and money and politics and privilege and prejudice. The real story is that humans live in a system that was created thousands of years ago by people who wanted to reward those like them and punish everyone else. The face of that system is Mateo Garcia.
Hoping to undermine the systemic prejudice, Dani the Primera and Carmen the Segunda are working undercover. They belong to La Voz, a gang of freedom fighters who have adopted the Emma Lazarus philosophy: “If we’re not all free, none of us are free.” As they play their roles as infiltrators and spies, the two young women develop feelings for one another, but neither is entirely sure whether those feelings are real or part of their act until a botched La Voz attack and fire occurs in the marketplace. Although Carmen is extracted, Dani is not.
Now, both young women, who have lived in the lap of luxury, are accused of traitorous actions. Carmen feels compelled to warn Dani, whom she believes may be in danger while La Voz suspects she is a double agent. However, because Carmen herself is under suspicion for betrayal, she has been forbidden to leave the La Voz compound.
One of the barriers standing in Carmen’s way is Ari Vasquez, who is barely nineteen but carries himself like he holds the keys to the kingdom. With his aggressive tactics, he has attracted the attention of La Voz’s leader, El Buitre, who uncharacteristically defers to the young man—much to Carmen’s chagrin.
Fearing that La Voz is turning and wishing to find the truth and to preserve the cause, Carmen sets a plan in motion, a plan that might get her killed. But she’s a soldier, survivor, and La Voz operative, so she takes matters into her own hands. For her, La Voz is a calling, a passion, and a purpose. In La Voz, there are no rulers, just people using the skills they were given, and Carmen has spent her life fighting, negotiating, and spying as part of the resistance. She is unsure whether she has any hope to win the love of a girl like Dani, who deserves better than violence, deception, and betrayal.
Still, Carmen can’t stand by and watch the reckless actions of Ari and be unaware of the end game. Even though she has long been known as Cuervita, the little crow from La Voz’s legends, she senses change. Before these disconcerting times, the name tied her to her family, to the mythology, and to the resistance’s origins. But now—recalling the words of the once wise El Buitre: “A fool trusts blindly. The wisest man is full of doubts” (51)—she resists the name and focuses on the hunt for the information leak and the real traitor she is certain is eroding the foundation of La Voz.
As the action-packed plot unfolds, the reader wonders whether this is a doomed love story or a hopeful adventure. When Carmen learns of Mateo’s plan for Rebel Eradication, she begins to think La Voz is doomed.
As Carmen takes risks to save both the girl and the cause that she loves, readers learn several key life lessons, not the least of which is that love changes one’s course. In fact, Mejia pens a fascinating definition of love as something that leaves scars but is also about trust and a history of shared experiences. Love can keep us going when nothing else can, and for love we commit immense sacrifices.
Another important lesson and human truth contained between the pages of this book defines power: When you control people’s attention, you often influence their reactions. If you influence their reactions, you can influence their decisions.
As the storm approaches, Carmen grows to wonder whether she and Dani are like a pair of trees which twisted around each other as they grew—massive, beautiful, haunting, and formidable. But are they holding each other up or stunting each other’s growth?
Like many other good stories, this one doesn’t have a fairy tale ending, although it does have an emotionally satisfying one as Mejia skillfully balances issues like class, gender, and immigration with a gripping love story.
- Posted by Donna