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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.
From debut author Rosaria Munda comes a gripping adventure that calls into question which matters most: the family you were born into, or the one you’ve chosen.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect from Fireborne. It was pitched as Hermione Granger meets Aegon Targaryen in a world with dragons based on Plato’s Republic. While I understood all of those things individually, put together I was…perplexed. But oddly enough, it was accurate.
What really made me want to read Fireborne was the promise of dragons, arguably my favorite magical creatures. But, to my dismay, Fireborne did not really deliver on that front (I’ll go into that later). It was obvious that Fireborne’s primary intention was invoking Plato’s Republic, and all other things kind of seemed…secondary.
Fireborne is based on a refreshingly original concept. Usually, dystopian fantasy YA novels focus on the corrupt world and the series follows the progression of the revolution concluding in the dawn of a new world. But Fireborne begins with the new world following the old corruption. It makes it clear that this post-revolutionary world can be prone to reverting to the problems of the past.
Watch and see how that vision will splinter, and then we will see if you have the stomach for more.
For the most part, I found the plot engaging. There were battles on dragon back, political debates, secret trips to meet long-lost family members. But at some points, it lagged, and I found myself just reading to find out what happened with a sort of detached disinterest. Towards the end, though, things started to pick up the pace as situations became increasingly dire. Because who doesn’t love to see characters suffer? Suddenly, this book that I almost wanted to put down had me turning pages quickly, and the conclusion went out with a bang.
The world of Callipolis definitely felt like a departure from the real world because of how the society functions. It is based on Plato’s Republic (which admittedly I’ve never read), but at a certain age everyone, regardless of status, takes a test to determine where they lie in society. While it was far from groundbreaking, I found the fact that the author based it on old Plato texts to be really impressive. I kind of want to read the Republic just to see how closely the author stuck to it (emphasis on kind of. I probably won’t).
“And as with gods the world quaked, to see them fireborne.”
The only reason Fireborne can be called a fantasy novel is because of the presence of dragons. There’s nothing truly magical or fantastical about the people, except that some of them are special enough to be chosen by dragons. An avid reader of fantasy novels, I felt a little let down by the fact that there wasn’t more magic involved.
Lee and Annie, the main characters, have a complex relationship with one another. They grew up together in the same orphanage and are both at the top of their class of dragon riders. Through flashbacks, it is revealed just how intertwined their pasts truly are, and I found these moments to be the most valuable in my understanding of their relationship. Honestly, I’d have preferred a book that followed the progression of their entire relationship because the flashbacks were some of my favorite parts of the book.
Lee is the son of Leon Stormscourge, one of the tyrannical dragon riders of the past regime. However, he doesn’t act like the entitled son of a highborn noble. He goes out of his way to help those who need him, and clearly does not want to be the kind of man his father was. I found Lee a lot more interesting than Annie because of his hidden identity. It causes him a lot of angst and puts him in an impossible situation that I really enjoyed watching him figure out.
Annie comes from the highlands, a poorer area. However, she is strong-willed, smart, and extremely hardworking. Even those in power do not want to see her rise because of her background.
Lee and Annie also have a slow, slow, slow, slow (did I say slow?) burn romance that I didn’t really understand. It was satisfying to see what ends up happening as a result, but leading up to it, I didn’t see many of the signs that indicated romantic feelings for each other. They are fiercely protective of one another and extremely supportive of one another.
I look down at this boy, vulnerable, at my mercy, and think, To the ends of the Earth I will protect you.
THE WRITING STYLE
Fireborne is told in the present tense and alternates between Lee’s first person perspective and Annie’s first person perspective. Interspersed throughout the chapters are flashbacks to Lee and Annie’s time in the orphanage, and each flashback reveals just how closely their paths are intertwined and why their present relationship is the way it is.
And here is why I gave Fireborne 3 stars. I’m fine with novels where it’s dual POV in first person. But they need to be written with distinct personalities in distinct styles (a book that does this brilliantly is I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman). However, it was often difficult to distinguish Annie’s perspective from Lee’s because the writing style was so bland. It almost read like a history book. Honestly, I learned more about the other characters in the novel, the other Guardians, than the narrators themselves. Additionally, within each chapter, the perspective would switch, and oftentimes, I would literally forget who was speaking due to the lack of any concrete difference between Annie’s perspective and Lee’s.
What sold me on choosing Fireborne as my October BOTM was dragons. But I didn’t feel like they were really done justice in Fireborne, a book that literally has a dragon on its cover. There were some really cool ways that the dragons were connected to their dragonrider; in battle, a rider’s emotions would overflow into their dragon, and the dragon would use that emotion to fuel their actions. Not every dragon rider had the control to do this, though, and when emotions unintentionally spilled over, it resulted in really extreme consequences. But I really wanted more from the connection between dragon and rider, because they really just seemed like tools used for battle and modes of transportation.
I’ll probably pick up the next book in the series since the novel’s pace really picked up towards the end. I found myself thinking about the choices the characters had made hours after I had finished the book, and the strength it must have taken to make them. But I won’t fool myself into thinking that it will become more of the fantasy novel I was craving.