Let’s start with that unbelievably cool cover! At first glance, and for a long while afterward, all I saw was the black outline of an awesome dragon. But, when I later spotted a creative instagram post (by @fromlibrarywithlove), I realized there had always been another layer to the cover art hidden within the cover’s negative space. I was in awe!
Forget what you were taught about not judging a book by its cover! In this case, the layers within the cover art are a hint to the layers of complexity to be found within the novel’s text. Happy surprise! You’ll get what you might expect: a story including dragons with lots of action, a bunch of intrigue, and a dash of romance. But, happily, you’ll also find more: discussions on power, class, and gender politics; a thoughtfully-constructed world inspired by/adapted from Plato’s Republic in which poetry based on Virgil’s Aeneid plays a key part; and even a reference to Homer’s Odyssey. (For more info on Rosaria’s inspirations from Classical Literature, please find this fascinating “Further Reading Guide” provided by Penguin.)
My favorite aspect of the novel is the character of Annie whose given name is Antigone. Though she was born a serf, she’s intelligent and determined. Her world’s new order, born of revolution, allows her a chance to compete, by virtue of a dragonriding tournament, for the honor of being chosen commander of the aerial fleet. Annie could be considered a cross between Hermione Granger and Katniss Everdeen. But even that description sells her short. Though she doesn’t start out that way, Annie becomes a heck of a strong female and it’s a joy to witness her evolution. Fireborne is such a wonderful commentary on gender politics that I was surprised to read that author Munda needed her own journey of sorts in order to make possible Annie’s heroic journey. (See Munda’s SLJ editorial Gender Politics in Fireborne.)
Along with Annie the other central protagonist is a boy named Lee. Though her cast is fairly large, Munda skillfully balances character development, ensuring that her secondary characters are drawn in sufficient detail without sacrificing the necessary page-time for Annie’s and Lee’s stories. Fireborne is told through alternating first person narratives from Annie and Lee, as well as a third-person narration used for flashbacks. In whole, readers get a good sense of these teens’ beginnings (they have an interesting relationship that begins in their backstory), their identities, and what drives their actions and decisions. As events unfold, you’ll enjoy watching Annie and Lee mature into people who are not just impacted by their world but actively shaping it.