I requested Fireborne by Rosaria Munda from NetGalley simply because it was about dragons. I love stories about dragons—How to Train Your Dragon, Eragon, The Last Namsara, DragonKeeper Chronicles, etc. But I’ve also read a lot of books about dragons that were disappointing. (Either they didn’t contain enough dragons or the writing was too poor for me to enjoy the story.) So while I knew I wanted to read Fireborne, I didn’t realize I needed to read it in order to restore my faith in YA books about dragons.
In the aftermath of a bloody revolution that promised equality for all, Annie and Lee have trained to become the top dragonriders of the new regime. But when survivors from the past come back, bent on revenge, everything changes. Lee, who was once the son of a powerful dragonlord, must choose between loyalties to his surviving family and the city that raised him. Annie, whose family was destroyed by the same dragonlord, must choose between protecting the boy she grew up with or becoming the leader her city needs.
As I read (and squeaked and squealed), I found myself longing to scribble down my own stories about dragons. To express the emotions rumbling through me about what it would be like to ride a dragon through the sky or fight side-by-side with wing and scale. The characters, the setting, the dragons—all of it deeply spoke to me as a lover of fantasy and a writer.
Annie, one of the main characters, is shy and quiet. She struggles to find her voice among the crowd and she never believes she is good enough to become a leader. I felt such kinship with Annie. Reading about her, about her struggles and her stubborn determination despite the odds, felt as if I was reading about myself. I rooted for her victory even when things got bleak, even when she failed or made mistakes. Because I knew that if Annie could succeed in what she wants, maybe I could succeed to.
As for Lee, the other protagonist, his character arc ripped me to shreds. While some of his actions made me want to reach into the book and strangle him, I understood where he came from. The turmoil of emotions he felt were evident through Rosaria’s writing and descriptions.
The story and world-building are phenomenal. I love the idea that this book takes place in the aftermath of a revolution. That we see a new society struggling to its feet and make the new system work for those who grew up under a different regime. I love seeing how the characters grow and change, stretch and learn as they try to balance their past with their new life and come to the realization that their new society may not necessarily be better than the old. So much is packed into this story, and Rosaria did a fantastic job bringing it to life and making me understand how the world works, how the characters think, how the dragons breathe without it coming across overbearing or boring.
And then there are the dragons. Every time I read a book about dragons, I crave the mythology and explanation of how the dragons work in this world. In Fireborne, riders connect with their dragons on an emotional level, understanding each other based on feelings and sensations. There’s a concept in the book called “spilling over” where if emotions run too high, it causes the duo to lose focus—or perhaps to become stronger. This is such an interesting twist on the connection between a rider and their dragon that I wish I had thought of it first. I also appreciate that even though the story focuses on war and alliances, relationships and the shift of society, the dragons aren’t left behind. They are at the front of everything that happens, and it’s so cool. I just can’t get over these dragons.
Fireborne didn’t blow me away; it scooped me up in its talons and swept me away. Aspects of it reminded me of all my favorite dragon stories (especially How to Train You Dragon movies) while other parts were reminiscent of The Hunger Games. If you love stories about dragons or daring young ladies proving their worth or broody boys struggling between loyalties, read this book.