We Unleash the Merciless Storm

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
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Exciting Latinx fantasy finale ramps up violence, romance.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Some Spanish vocabulary; some words are translated, some have context clues.

Positive Messages

Acts of kindness and helping those who are down are the real acts of resistance against tyranny. Your passions make you strong, so don't be afraid of them or push them away. Women don't need men to define them; they're capable of making large-scale changes happen, and of wielding power fairly and justly. Also strong messages about power of female friendships and sisterhood: power of being there for each other and helping lift each other up.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Carmen is a positive role model for bravery, perseverance, teamwork. She believes in her own ability to create the world she wants to see and doesn't need gods or anyone else to do it for her. She believes that people should take care of one another and do what's right, is willing to put herself in real danger to help others. Dani is loyal and supportive but always calls Carmen out when she's wrong about something. She's also willing to put her own life at risk for the cause. They're a positive representation of a same-sex romantic relationship. Important male characters, except for one, are weak and/or power hungry. But it's clear that within the rebel society, men and women are on equal footing.


Battles and combat mention killing with swords, knives, guns. Several mentions of slitting throats. One character throws poison-tipped knives -- the poison causes hallucinations, madness, death in quick succession. Blood is mentioned as seeping but not described in detail. Pain described in detail. Characters frequently in danger from drowning, being captured, or killed. A couple of hard slaps to the face; one draws blood, one mentions possible broken teeth. A poisoning victim hallucinates animals and imaginary beings attacking a human and drinking blood. Sounds of gunshots, screaming; the end of screaming implies execution in the distance. One shooting in the chest at close range mentions that blood is everywhere. 


Carmen and Dani kiss and make out with caressing, hands exploring, passionate and romantic feelings. Sex is described once in an abstract, vague way without mentioning sensitive body parts. Carmen sees an opposite-sex couple kissing in the distance.


"Bitch," "whore," "pendejo" ("stupid").

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An adult villain drinks heavily, and dangerous drunken behavior is described when he threatens others.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that We Unleash the Merciless Storm is the second volume in a duology that began with We Set the Dark on Fire. Reading them in order is strongly recommended for a fuller understanding of the world and the characters; they might seem undeveloped since not much time is spent in this book establishing them. Violence is mostly from combat and battles with swords, guns, and knives. Scenes of slitting throats and shooting at close range mention blood but don't describe it in detail. Pain is described in detail. The central romance is a positive representation of a same-sex relationship with kissing and making out. Sex is described once vaguely but emotionally and without mentioning sensitive body parts. Strong language is rare and insult-based:  "bitch," "whore," and "pendejo," which means "stupid" in Spanish. Lots of positive messages about the power of sisterhood, teamwork, and helping one another in times of need.

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What's the story?

WE UNLEASH THE MERCILESS STORM picks up immediately after We Set the Dark on Fire, but switches to Carmen's point of view. She's finally made it back to the rebel's camp, to the people she grew up with, and the only home she's known. But hanging over her is a cloud of suspicion about what really happened and where her loyalties lie. And after weeks go by with no word from Dani, it's starting to look like one or both of them have betrayed the cause. But being looked at with suspicion isn't the only change Carmen notices in the rebels. El Buitre's leadership seems to be weakening, and Carmen doesn't like the way Ari's trying to take over, or the directions he's moving the group in. When the formal accusation of betrayal finally comes, Carmen leaves the rebels on her own, determined to find Dani -- and the truth.

Is it any good?

This action-packed final installment leaves the pampered, privileged world of the first book behind, ramping up the excitement and romance while remaining steeped in Latinx culture. Fans of the first volume should be aware that We Unleash the Merciless Storm is far from more of the same story in We Set the Dark on Fire. It's much grittier, and most of the dystopian and mythological elements are gone in favor of the fight for a better life with equal opportunities for everyone. These missing elements make it less literary and more of an action-adventure romance, but it's effective as far as those aspects go.

Switching to Carmen's point of view keeps the reader a bit off balance at first, just like Carmen herself feels once she's back among her rebel family. There's plenty of intrigue from the group dynamics, a budding romance, and suspense over when and how the bad guys will attack to keep the pages turning. There aren't many surprises or twists along the way, but the compelling, relatable characters keep things interesting. Themes explored include sisterhood, class and gender divisions, border walls, social justice, and loyalty.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in We Unleash the Merciless Storm. How much is too much? Is it justified under the right circumstances? Do you react differently to reading violent acts than to seeing them in movies, videos, games, etc.?

  • What are Carmen's character strengths and weaknesses? Do you like her or admire her? Why, or why not?

  • Did you read the first book? If so, which did you like better? If not, would you like to now?

Book details

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