Fireborne – Rosaria Munda – The Aurelian Cycle #1 – G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers – Published 15 October 2019
Annie and Lee were just children when a brutal revolution changed their world, giving everyone—even the lowborn—a chance to test into the governing class of dragonriders.
Now they are both rising stars in the new regime, despite backgrounds that couldn’t be more different. Annie’s lowborn family was executed by dragonfire, while Lee’s aristocratic family was murdered by revolutionaries. Growing up in the same orphanage forged their friendship, and seven years of training have made them rivals for the top position in the dragonriding fleet.
But everything changes when survivors from the old regime surface, bent on reclaiming the city.
With war on the horizon and his relationship with Annie changing fast, Lee must choose to kill the only family he has left or to betray everything he’s come to believe in. And Annie must decide whether to protect the boy she loves . . . or step up to be the champion her city needs.
Magnificent. Truly and wonderfully magnificent, this is everything I need and love in a fantasy book. Actually it’s just everything I need and love in a book, full stop. So carefully crafted, so beautifully written, such strong, complex characters, such a unique position to place the characters in, not facing a revolution but living in the aftermath of one, so compelling and unputdownable. Fireborne is a book I devoured and the first book in a series I can’t wait to continue.
Annie and Lee are children of the revolution. Yet, despite their diverse backgrounds, Lee the son of aristocracy, Annie the daughter of peasant farmers, they formed a bond of friendship. Orphans, they tested into the role of Guardians —dragonriders—, a role previously only reserved for the leading rulers. Now, Annie and Lee are in the midst of the tournaments to determine who will be the FirstRider. But with the looming threat of the old regime, their loyalties and friendship will be tested.
I absolutely loved that this book is set after a revolution. So many fantasy books are focused on characters who must overtake their evil rulers, who must rise up and create a revolution, which is great, but it is so refreshing to look at it from the other side. To see how the lives of the children of the revolution are affected. To compare the old regimes with the new. To continue to make a stand for what’s right even when over all it might be wrong but still better than it was. How do you make that choice? I loved the politics in this book. The setting, the ranks and classes, the tests and tournaments, and training. Fireborne reminds me of a mix between the Poison Study series and all the great dragon-rider focused fantasies.
But despite the complex plot, heartbreaking backstory and compelling politics and intrigue it’s the characters who drive this book. Annie. What an amazing character. Such strength, depth and compassion. Annie isn’t an outwardly tough character. She is shy in public, has undergone tremendous pain and trauma. She has been bullied, belittled and overlooked. But she continues. She is clever, top of her classes, and a wonderful flier, good enough to make it into the final rounds of the tournament. But she doubts herself. She needs the support and guidance of those around her. And I think it is those things, including her ability to listen to people, to actually take advice, that make her such a strong character.
Lee. He is so torn between grief, guilt and a desire to do right. I loved his support and care for Annie, felt for him as he is tested and torn and unsure what to do next, his leadership and determination. His character development, highlighted through the flashbacks to his childhood is amazing. But it is not just Lee and Annie who are a amazing. This book is chock full of complex characters, characters to love, and characters, who, even right up to the last few pages, surprise you.
The only thing missing in this book was more information about the dragons. They seem to be taken for granted. How do the riders connect with them, who takes care of the dragons and what does that entail, what are the dragons’ temperaments? It is all very human centric, with only a few details given to the magnificent creatures, most of which tend to come later in the story.
Spaced between the chapters that alternate between Lee and Annie’s voices, are flashbacks about their childhood. These little sections offer so much insight into the pains of their pasts, the obstacles they have overcome, the strength of their friendship, the fights and disagreements, and the choices they had to make to continue to be friends. The flashback sections also offer insights into other portions of the story and all I will say here is, that last bit = mind blown.
Honestly, I adored this story from beginning to end. I was captivated by the dragon fights, touched by the characters and their stories, wooed by the romance (agonising as it is), incensed by the injustices and inspired. I cannot wait for this story to be continued. I cannot wait to share this book with other readers. And I cannot wait to find someone else who has read this so that we can exclaim and rant and gush together about the magnificence of this book. Rosaria Munda I salute you. If this is your debut, I cannot wait to read what you produce next.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction
Themes: Dragons, revolution, war, friendship, trust, politics, leadership, tournaments, training, romance, family, grief.
Reading age guide: Ages 12 and up.
Advisory: Occasional coarse language, sh** (4), pi** (4), bi*** (1). Violence – dragonfire burns and death, references to death, murder, beheading, and killing of children.
Published: 15 October 2019 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook. 448 pages.