Author: Rosaria Munda
Publisher/Imprint: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Edition: Paperback ARC, 432 Pages
Hardcover Publication Date: October 15, 2019
A Spine that Shines? Quite Well!
*This review is based on a paperback ARC edition received from the publisher. All quotes used in this review come from the uncorrected proof. These are my honest opinions. Thank you.*
‘All that I am, henceforth, belongs to Callipolis. By the wings of my dragon I will keep her. Let my will be her protection. Let my reason guide her to justice.’
I finished reading Fireborne yesterday! What an interesting premise! It seems like an ambitious undertaking, but I think Rosaria Munda handles the execution of the concept pretty well. The society of Callipolis is dealing with the aftermath of a bloody revolution. I think it was an interesting choice to focus on the aftermath rather than the revolution; this focus makes the novel stand out more from other YA novels that tend to focus on beginning a revolution. Atreus is the people’s leader of Callipolis, the First Protector. It was Atreus who helped lead the revolution that overthrew the rule of the dragonborn, the dragon riding aristocracy who formerly controlled Callipolis by violent means. It was also Atreus’s idea to design a new society in which all citizens have a chance to test into a meritocratic program to train to become dragon riding Guardians who protect the city. Meanwhile, the survivors of the old regime are gearing up to retake Callipolis.
I think the author has definitely done a great job fleshing out the new regime’s governmental system and its complexities. If you fancy Classical history and literature, you’ll probably be interested in this book, too. The author’s inspiration for Atreus’s new regime is found in the Aeneid and Plato’s Republic. It’s nice to see some fresh source materials that are not usually incorporated into YA novels.
What else will you find in Fireborne? You’ll definitely find all of the exciting elements that are advertised about it. Aside from the aftermath of a revolution, there are dragon riders (the Guardians), dragon riding tournaments, and a bit of romance.
Fireborne also uses the flashback technique. In this instance, I think the author utilizes flashbacks in an effective manner. These flashbacks help the reader understand the complexities of different relationships and characters.
Another thing that stuck out to me was the pacing in the scenes between the dragon riding tournaments. The pacing slowed down a bit in between, because large chunks are about making tough political/governmental choices. If you enjoy books with a political focus, then you’ll probably enjoy these sections. Personally, I think some of the reminiscing and summarizing scenes could have been trimmed down.
‘We’re monsters, even if they call us something else.’
Characters & Romance:
Annie (Antigone) and Lee are the two main characters in Fireborne. Their relationship is quite complex, and I definitely appreciated the complexity. I think complexity makes for good character development.
Lee grew up with Annie at the same orphanage. He secretly comes from a dragonborn family of the old regime. His family was killed on “Palace Day,” but someone spared him and sent him to the orphanage. Now, he must juggle being both a high-ranking Guardian and a survivor of the old regime. The other survivors, his kin, want him to join their conquest to retake Callipolis. He is forced to choose between the new Callipolis or his kin. The author isn’t afraid to stick him with a tough choice, and I appreciated that. Rosaria Munda does a great job showing Lee’s struggles and the complexities of his character.
Annie is another fascinating character. Like Lee, she is training to be a Guardian. She is not your typical YA heroine, and I appreciate the author’s attempt to create a different character, one who is an average person who is often unsure of herself. I find that aspect of Annie’s character more relatable. Annie’s family was killed by a dragonlord’s dragonfire during the old regime. Although she begins to suspect Lee is dragonborn, she can’t bring herself to sever the connection she formed with him during their years in the orphanage. He was her friend and protector there. Her character arc is a good one, and she really proves her ingenuity at the end of the novel.
Now on to the romance. There are sort of two overlapping love triangles (if that makes sense). Annie and Lee each have a second admirer. I know some readers don’t mind love triangles. For me, it depends on the book. Personally, I think the love triangles are not entirely necessary in Fireborne. Don’t get me wrong. I like all of the characters involved in the triangles. They’re good people. But in Fireborne, it feels as if the triangles are a distraction from Lee and Annie’s connection. The connections with the other love-interests feel superficial in comparison to that of Annie and Lee. Lee begins a physical relationship with the second girl because he feels lonely. He admits as much to himself, and I do find it slightly problematic that he continues with the relationship despite his admission.
Nevertheless, I was really rooting for Annie and Lee! Their connection is not superficial at all. They have a good foundation and history as the basis of their feelings. I’m eager to see how their relationship will develop in the sequel!
‘Even if we’re a little evil, we’re still better than the evil they were, before.’
Why didn’t I give Fireborne a 5-star rating?
As I mentioned above, I think some of the reminiscing and summarizing passages could be trimmed down a little. The pacing slows a bit between the dragon tournaments. There is also a lot of information laid on the reader within the first 100 pages, and it took me a while to absorb. A lot of the story feels like buildup for a climax, but the actual confrontation near the end feels a little short in comparison to all the buildup.
During much of the buildup, the “enemy” is not actually present in Callipolis. The survivors of the old regime are hiding out in a different nation. When they do come out to attack, we’re not shown the actual attack. We’re given a summary and shown the aftermath. (Until the end, when there finally is a personal confrontation.) I wish the enemy would’ve engaged in more in-person conflicts. I can think of a few other characters who have the potential to be villains/enemies, but they haven’t quite made that leap yet.
Furthermore, the motives of Power, the bully figure, remain unclear to me. Sometimes, he’s an absolute jerk. Other times, he seems be trying to help Annie – in his own twisted way. By the end, I’m not exactly sure what he wants. Maybe we’re not supposed to understand yet? (Also, is the name “Power” supposed to be symbolic?)
Fireborne definitely has the feel of a first book in a trilogy, setting up what is to come in future novels. Overall, I think this debut is well-done, and I quite enjoyed the story! The author does a wonderful job of making the reader question who is “good” and who is “bad” among the characters. I look forward to the next installment! If you’re a fan of dragons, revolution, and romance, I’d highly recommend checking this one out when it releases on October 15th! Happy reading :)
*Content Warnings: Some passionate kissing, severe burns, fighting/duels, a few s-words.*