Lots of Potential, Waiting to See What Happens Next

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This book is completely outside my “genre comfort zone,” as I almost never read fantasy, and I read series fantasy even less often. However I’ve heard a lot of hype surrounding this book, so I had high expectations for it to be amazing. While it didn’t necessarily “blow me out of the water,” I can definitely see why it’s shaping up to be the fantasy series of the year.

Two girls, living a thousand years apart, each carrying a destiny they do not understand. They’re inextricably linked, but we don’t know how yet. In a world prophesying a Blood Queen and a Sun Queen, who is who, and what does it all mean? I found Furyborn to be a good first book in a series, with ample world-building and character introductions, that leaves you with just enough questions to wait for more.

Furyborn starts off with a lot of action, and it never slows down. A lot happens in a short time, with each chapter alternating between the two girls--Eliana and Rielle. Rielle is battling through a series of tests, and Eliana is constantly on the move. Their stories are entirely different, which made it easy to keep track of who was who (which was helpful, considering we began with little knowledge of either person and learned more as the story unfolded). The story is constructed around a mystery: who are the two queens in the prophecy? While the truth of the queens’ identities isn’t revealed until near the end of this book, I would have appreciated more suspense. I actually didn’t find the reveal very surprising; the story could have been stronger with more mystery or elimination of the twist in the first place (as in, we could have found out up front, and the book would have unfolded in much the same way).

This book also had a lot of setup, as most first fantasy books do. There’s a lot to describe about the world and its rules. This is why I am not a fan of the genre. However, I can say that I understand the world these girls are in, which to me means the world building was done well. I also think Legrand has set herself up well enough that the next book in the series won’t need as much description to carry the plot forward.

Furyborn has a wide cast of characters, some of whom I enjoyed and some of whom I didn’t. In fact, I found the secondary characters to be some of my favorites in the story. Eliana’s brother and Rielle’s best friend are two such characters, whose presence strengthens the humanity of our two “queens.”

As for the main two, I liked how driven they were. I liked Eliana more than Rielle, but both girls have strong storylines that carry them forward. However, I did have a few things about them that I did not like. First, I thought their sexuality felt forced and a little out of place. I had heard that this book would have bi representation, and while it certainly has allusions to both girls being potentially bisexual, it’s never really fleshed out and ends up feeling very forced. I also have a few concerns that the bisexual characters in this book furthering the stereotype that people who identify as bisexual are always promiscuous. The focus on sex was somewhat jarring. I don’t have an issue with sex appearing in teen lit, but this seemed oddly out of place and (yes, again) forced. Perhaps these elements will be filled in more and differently in the future books, but right now I’m wondering what was the point.

I also didn’t like how few redeeming qualities the girls had. They have these tragic backstories which drive their individual actions forward, and so their darkness is part of their makeup. However, I think there is a difference between “badass” and “cruel” or “selfish.” When characters are so depraved, I find it hard to root for them. I was looking for a little more humanity in our main characters, but couldn’t find any.

Finally, I had issues with the female-ness of this story and how it actually seemed to be lacking in important areas. This book is being marketed as a female-power type book. However, despite our strong leading ladies, both girls end up being defined by “men.” Audric and Simon shape the identities of Rielle and Eliana as much as the girls do. And they are often central to each girl’s agency. So, this doesn’t quite feel like a victory for feminism...yet. Again, perhaps in the future books more direction will be given to the girls. But right now, I’ve yet to see it.

Finally, as it relates to the plot, I thought the girls’ ultimate character truths were less of a surprise than they were supposed to be.

The style of writing in Furyborn is well-suited to the genre. It’s easy to read without being overly simplified, and the terminology created to describe what’s unique about this world was elegant and appropriate. The third-person voice was also appropriate, particularly for switching between the two girls. It kept me reading and turning pages through to the end.

While I’ve had a few negative things to say, I think this book series has epic potential. I’m glad we’re getting more female representation in the fantasy genre. This series can be a favorite alongside others like it. I’d recommend it to the avid teen fantasy and adventure reader. And, like TV shows whose pilots are a little rocky, who hit their stride in Episodes 4-10, I don’t think we should give up on this story. Who knows, the future books may take the potential found in these pages and carry it to fruition.