"One of fantasy’s best series." —Booklist, starred review
Game of Thrones meets Fourth Wing in a debut young adult fantasy that's full of rivalry, romance . . . and dragons.
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.
- ISBN10 0525518215
- ISBN13 9780525518211
- Publish Date 15 October 2019
- Publish Status Active
- Publish Country US
- Publisher Penguin Putnam Inc
- Imprint G.P.Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers'
- Format Hardcover
- Pages 448
- Language English
- URL https://penguinrandomhouse.com/books/isbn/9780525518211
Fireborne is told from the alternating perspectives of childhood friends and orphans Lee sur Pallor and Antigone “Annie” sur Aela. Lee is the sole survivor of his family, the ruling Stormscourge elites, who were overthrown just as brutally as they ruled. Annie, on the other hand, is the sole survivor of her family at the hands of Lee’s tyrannical dragon riding family. Their friendship, history together, and Annie’s knowledge of Lee’s secret identity as Leo Stormscourge provides an interesting and suspenseful undercurrent that ripples throughout Fireborne and could even change the very history of their world.
“Known now as Guardians, the new regime’s dragonriders are lowborn, commoners, even former serfs. No long the sons of dragonlords. Except for me, though I’m the only who knows that. Because in the wake of the Revolution, to be dragonborn is to be wanted for dead. I was born Leo, son of Leon, dragonlord of Stormscourge House and Drakarch of the Far Highlands--but since the orphanage, I’ve been Lee.”
I really enjoyed their characterization and their struggle with each other’s identities. Fireborne does a great job of making Annie and Lee foils for each other, with Annie being lowborn, and Lee secretly being ex-royalty. The fact that the two formed such an unlikely alliance in order to survive and seeing that loyalty to each other called into question not only as Lee’s family resurfaces to reclaim their throne, but also when the two must compete to become Firstrider of the new regime’s dragon fleet, is a truly unique and riveting experience to read. Author Rosaria Munda does a great job of making this not just a political conflict of interests, but a personal one, as both Annie and Lee struggle to come to terms with their conflicting pasts, families, ideals, and what it means for their relationship and their new Regime.
“I don’t blame Lee for spilling over, and I don’t blame him for the look of longing that transformed his face he first saw [his family]. It doesn’t take a stretch of imagination to understand what he must have felt. I know the ache of an orphan’s loneliness; I know what it is to crave the comfort of kin. I blame Lee for what followed….I blame him for the fact that I still want to trust him.”
This complex relationship is set against a backdrop of excellent world-building. Munda does an amazing job of setting up believable political systems--and I was not surprised to discover she studied political theory at Princeton--and even more believable reactions to them by not just her main characters, but the privileged elite, the rulers of the new regime, and the commoners. She weaves these reactions into the story effortlessly, by giving all of her characters relevant and differing backgrounds or traumas--the whole way down to the most loathsome of characters and those with even the smallest of roles.
“The lesser of two evils. It’s a far cry from what I had hoped we’d be.”
I loved the political backdrop of the new Regime and the slow realization of the main characters, who find themselves thrust into positions of powers, that newer isn’t always better. So often in novels and popular culture, we see that Rebellion is the only Answer that Solves Everything and to see the main characters question that everything they believe in--the censorship, the newly established class and worth system--isn’t any better than the one they left behind is the kind of idea you see more often in adult fantasy novels than in young adult ones. I honestly cannot wait to see where future installments in the series takes this idea and what it means for Annie and Lee and their dragons.
But the author isn’t just fantastic at developing political foundations for Fireborne--she does a great job at establishing her fantasy world too. In a post Dragonriders of Pern and Game of Thrones world, there is a wealth of dragon fantasy in popular culture and it is hard to incorporate these mythological creatures in stories in a way that hasn’t been done before. But the author still managed to utillize her dragons in a fresh way. In Fireborne, children are brought to dragons for a Choosing ceremony, to see if they can form a bond with what dragons are left and become Guardians of the new Regime.
“He’d heard it said before that a kind of magic came with a dragon Choosing you--that the dragon bound you to it, that you formed a connection that was deep and full of an old magic.”
Though a Choosing ceremony isn't exactly new, what is innovative about this resulting bond between dragons and their Chosen in Fireborne, is that the pair can become even stronger in what is known as a “spillover.” When strong emotions flare in the rider, the dragon and the rider, share everything. It can be a great advantage or a great weakness, but it allows them to communicate seamlessly. Throughout Fireborne, there are hints to the past, when Dragons could be summoned without a whistle and as the bonds between Lee and Annie and their dragons grow, I think we will see new abilities emerge. I also liked the interesting nature of dragon’s “sparking” or maturing enough to breathe actual fire, rather than simple ash. Most dragons in popular culture are born with the ability to breathe fire, so I thought it was a unique mechanism, especially with how it related to the military might of the new regime. I also loved how the author incorporated the separate language of Dragonstongue simultaneously to allow riders to communicate with their dragons and also as a product of the old Regime and its supporters.
Though I loved Fireborne and its world-building, politics, moral dilemmas and portrayal of dragons, I struggled at times with just the codependecy of Annie and Lee’s relationship. Finally, I realized that this exposition made the characters even more believable, given the trauma that they had been through, but it is certainly not the healthiest relationship I’ve ever read. Despite this, I’m still very interested to see what future ramifications will come of their attachment to one another. Similarly, I also did not enjoy the love square that Lee and Annie found themselves in with fellow Guardians and friends, Crissa and Duck. It’s obvious to readers that Lee and Annie will be end game, so I found the introduction of other love interests rather tedious, tropey, and a waste of time. These are the main reasons I had to drop my rating to four stars. Otherwise, I cannot say enough good things about Fireborne and highly recommend picking this novel up if you’re looking for a richly imagined fantasy novel, with not only complex characters, but also far-reaching moral and political themes.
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"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. Don't open this spoiler unless you have read the book I really love how the book took its time praising how different the new regime was post-revolution and then reality smacked us all in the face at the first sign of trouble (aka war from the old regime survivors). Then it is like the reality of power and rule sets in and we & the characters are left wondering which is worse? I can't wait to see what happens next oh my god
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 Repubplic 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.
---✨ Fireborne is one of the Reader Voracious Novel19 Books! More information about this book and the rest of my Novel19 class can be found here, and you can read my interview with Rosaria here!
Annie, who was a serf and who's parents were murdered by the previous rulers (/tyrants).
Lee, who is the son of one of the higher ups in the old regime. He's now "working for" the new regime, but has a constant internal battle with himself because the new regime murdered his family, but he's also starting to realize that maybe his family actually did some bad stuff.
Oh, and Lee's dad killed Annie's parents. Oop. Awkward friendship.
I think Lee's battle with picking a side was the best part. On the one hand, he remembers his family fondly, because although they may have been bad people they were always kind to him and he was just a kid. On the other hand, he realizes his family actually did awful stuff and maybe he should forget them and join the new regime. But on the OTHER hand, the new regime starts doing some sketchy stuff too. Suddenly it's like neither side is that great?
The story is just so INTERESTING!! And on top of that, we also have Annie's anxiety, her struggle to realize that YES SHE'S GOOD ENOUGH! (she's actually great), and dragon riding!
I think this author's explanation of her inspiration from the book is a pretty good idea of what it's all about:
"Later, working in Paris, I wandered streets whose legacy from the French Revolution was written in defaced tombs and unmarked sites of guillotines, and I knew I wanted to write about revolution. Not about the beginnings of one--the bloody aftermath. So many beautiful YA novels have been about kids starting a revolution, but I wanted to explore the other side of it. I wanted to write about kids who had to pick up the pieces afterwards. And I wanted to inverse a closely related trope. Deposed and orphaned aristocrats seeking vengeance we have seen before--and love. But I wanted to push that further. I wanted to imagine an orphaned aristocrat who has every reason to seek revenge, until he realizes that maybe, his family did wrong, too.
And then what pulled it all together was Plato's Republic, which I studied a bit in college. I was captivated by its dystopian/utopian approach to propaganda and meritocracy. What would a society look like that granted political power unequally according to intelligence, rather than unequally according to birthright? And--even more intriguingly--what would that look like in a society where rulers ride dragons? What if a revolution transformed hereditary dragonriding into a test-based selection process?
That's where Lee and Annie's stories start. An aristocrat in hiding and a former serf who meet in the orphanage, test side by side into their new regime's dragonriding program, and have to decide if they really can leave the past behind them--and if the new regime really is better than what came before. "
From here: https://www.goodreads.com/questions/1415435-what-inspired-you-to-write-this-particular
In short, this book was an absolute pleasure to read. Every word was worth something and it got me thinking a lot. I can't wait for more!
Fireborne is the first novel in a new series called the Aurelian Cycle. And it's a series perfect for dragon fans. Set in a world in which Dragonriders are the real thing, this fantasy tale is one of political revolution, of loss, pain, and revenge. And so much more.
Oh, and did I mention that it's been described as being perfect for fans of both Game of Thrones and Red Rising? That was enough to sell me on this read. Though the cover was a nice touch.
Annie and Lee may have ended up in the same place together, but they come from vastly different backgrounds. Both have lost the family they hold dear, and all thanks to the violence prevalent in their cities.
That's why they're fighting so hard to become Dragonriders. To make a change in the world. And okay, they also want to prove something to themselves along the way. But even their battles to get to the top are different from one another.
Annie is a lowborn girl who ended up in an orphanage after her family was slaughtered. And she's perhaps the most loyal person you'll ever meet. She's also an exceptionally talented dragonrider, carrying all the confidence she lacks when on the ground.
Lee was forced to watch his family die during the revolution. His life may have been spared, but it was mostly due to an oversight. Now he's fighting to become a dragonrider. Though he doesn't know what he'll do when he's forced to make the hardest decision of his life.
“Instead of listening, he remembered. He remembered his family around him, his sisters' laughter, his brother's teasing, his mother's voice.”
Warnings: This is a novel involving Dragonriders. As such, you should probably expect to hear a graphic description or two about deaths by fire. These scenes aren't pretty, but they are vital to the plot.
Fireborne was a shockingly intense read, one that I found myself almost immediately sucked into. It was impossible not to get emotionally invested in this tale, as I quickly found out. I'll confess that I'm already more than a little bit anxious to hear news about the next novel in the series.
I don't know who's story tore me up more; Annie's or Lee's. Though I suppose there's really no reason to compare the two. They both had awful lives, but they also both made something of their pasts. Though I think I personally found myself a bit more connected to Annie and her side of the story. But there was something about it that just resonated so deeply within me.
I loved everything about this book. From the characters to their interactions, to the politics they had to deal with. It was all brilliantly complex and well thought out.
Even though I loved the ending, I'll confess that I also have found myself coming up with more questions the more time goes by. I guess I'll have to try and be patient while I wait for the next book, huh?
For more reviews check out Quirky Cat's Fat Stacks
The characters were my favorite thing about this book. Sure, the plot was amazing with its high action-packed tournament duels and its realistic drama however what really sold it to me was the fully-developed characters. Annie and Lee felt real. I struggled when Lee was dealing with the biggest decision he will ever have to make, and I related to Annie when she felt like she couldn't do anything.
All I can really say about this book is that it's amazing and by far one of the best books I've read this year. I'm so excited for the rest of this series and what is to come from this amazing author. I believe everyone should pick up a copy and dive into the world of Fireborne.