‘When Water Burns’, penned by Lani Wendt Young, is the second book in the Telesa trilogy. It brings back the story of Leila Folger and her incredible journey as the Goddess of Fire.
After the death of Nafanua and her sisters, The Covenant Sisterhood no longer exists. The only one that survived is Sarona, who, being completely alone, poses no threat to Leila and Daniel. The two lovers can finally lead a normal life. Or so they think.
While Daniel is recovering from the battle with vicious sisters, Leila is back in the Washington D.C. to be with her dying grandmother. Before her death, the old lady reveals a shocking secret to her granddaughter, which leaves the young girl utterly shattered. Despite her family’s objections, Leila decides to go back to Samoa.
Back on the island, she starts university, moves to a new house together with Simone, and finds out that she is the sole beneficiary of Nafanua’s will. She chooses to accept the inheritance, much to Sarona’s frustration.
Leila’s life seems almost ideal. She is happy in Samoa, has quite a few friends and a loving boyfriend. Her relationship with Daniel flourishes as they get to know each other better and better every day. But nothing lasts forever and there are dark clouds on the horizon. Daniel learns the truth about his past, Leila meets mysterious Keahi, and Sarona is back in the game.
The problem with sequels is that they hardly ever live up to the originals. But let me tell you, this novel is just as good as its predecessor. It is even more action-packed and full of surprising twists and turns you definitely won’t foresee. What is more, it is set not only is Samoa, but also in Tonga and Hawaii, so you’ll get to know more about all those fantastic places.
As Leila’s story evolves, it also gets a little bit darker. This volume is certainly less light-hearted than the first one. It addresses some serious and difficult subjects: sexual assaults, abuse, domestic violence. They are particularly prominent in the very touching prologue, which, despite being a great introduction to what a reader can expect, may be hard to get through for some people.
But of course, there are occasional bouts of humour among this gloominess, especially when Simone takes the stage. As a flamboyant fa’afafine, he is the most hilarious character with a truly extraordinary personality. And it is absolutely fantastic that he plays a bigger part in this book.
All the other characters are much more mature and grown up compared to the first novel. Leila is not a teenager anymore. She is a young woman who knows how to fight for her life. She is determined to succeed and is not afraid of what may happen in the future. Daniel, on the other hand, has finally come into his own. As he discovers his gifts, he becomes more independent. He starts to be ‘Daniel’ and not just ‘Leila’s boyfriend’; but he still remains that sweet and loving boy everyone knew. Keahi is a new introduction. He is an inscrutable person with a painful past. Because of his secrets, he adds extra spice to the whole story.
‘When Water Burns’ is a great novel. Without a doubt it is just as good as ‘Telesa:
The Covenant Keeper’, which, by the way, you should read if you haven’t done it yet. Brilliant storyline, good pace, intense action. The sequel is a bit darker and serious (but still incredibly funny!), so I would say it’s best for emotionally mature people. I highly recommend it.