ARC Review: Fireborne (Aurelian Cycle #1) by Rosaria Munda
This book is an amazing debut fantasy that looks at how entrenched society is with power and privilege. How much can a revolution change a society? Is it any better than what came before?
About the Book
Publisher: Penguin Teen | Release Date: October 15, 2019 | Pages: 448
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy | Format: Paperback ARC | Source: Publisher
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.
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Narrative style: first person | Perspective(s): dual (Annie & Lee)
What a tense and wild ride this was! Fireborne is an amazing fantasy debut that looks at the period just after a revolution succeeds and asks important questions about politics in general.
“And as with God’s the world quaked, to see them fireborne.”
I love the way that the story unfolds, acclimating the reader to the world and the way that the regime has improved society over the last ten years. By the time talks of war began, I was rooting for the new regime that I really connected with Lee and Annie’s actions. Is new always better? A regime called by any other name is still that: a ruling power.
This is an intricately developed world. There are a lot of terms, hierarchical names, and history from before and after the revolution, and I’ll admit that it took me a while to get through the first 200 pages of the book. I was interested and engaged, but it did seem to drag a little bit and feel a little bogged down. After devouring the last half of the book in two days, I can say that it’s necessary worldbuilding that pays dividends later and will probably make for a tight sequel. I was hoping that the finished copy would have a glossary included in it, but unfortunately, it doesn’t.
I love these characters and will do anything to protect not only them but their dragons. Yes, there be dragons here! Annie and Lee are our two protagonists, with alternating perspectives. Both orphaned when they were young, they grew up together in the system following the revolution. Eventually, they came to train to be elite dragonriders thanks to the metals test and they are the top contenders for the top position when the book begins.
“For the first time in my life, the old wounds are useful [… T]he memories of weakness finally serve a purpose, and once used, they never hurt the same strength again.”
Grief and the lingering healing from loss play a big role in the story. It’s been years since the revolution, but Annie is especially haunted by the murder of her family by the old regime. I loved watching Annie start to believe in herself and allow herself to want things that she wouldn’t have been allowed by birthright.
Do you like slow-burn, will-they-won’t-they friends to rivals to maybe lovers? If so, then hoo boy, are you in for a treat! I might have a few KISS! KISS! KISS! notes in my book. It’s kind of funny, but I actually connected more with Lee from the beginning up until about the 200 page mark, and I was completely the captain of Team Annie. She deserves the world and I just want to give her a hug.
“‘I watched my family get taken by dragonfire at the age of six, and I learned to ride anyway.'”
With Annie and Lee being from polar opposite backgrounds – even though Annie doesn’t know it – the reader is at once unsure of where their loyalties lie. The old regime was brutal and corrupt, and Annie knows first-hand what they were capable of. The revolution made things better for everyone, right?
The revolution provided Annie and Lee, as well as the entire society, the opportunity to rise above the station of their birth through the metals test. For the first time, the lowborn are given the chance to fly for the dragonriding fleet and protect the city. But privilege still exists, despite the new regime’s best efforts to make things better for everyone. Those with more resources are still more likely to succeed. Classism still permeates the class golds and how they look at everyone else. Those who come from the lower classes and test gold are frowned upon as if they were “new money.” As if their place has less value because it wasn’t passed down from a long line.
Overall, I really enjoyed Munda’s debut fantasy Fireborne! She has brought Plato’s Republic new life with a cast of characters you can’t help but adore (except for Power, he can choke), touching on the intricacies of classism and the nuances of rule you can’t help but debate. This one will make you feel things, but will also make you think, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who likes epic fantasy!
ARC sent by Penguin Teen in exchange for my honest review. This does not impact the content of my review or rating. Quotations were checked against my finished copy.
Content warnings: bullying, classism, death, grief, loss of family, violence, war
Have you read Fireborne yet, or is it on your TBR? What other books would you recommend with dragons and politics?