Monday, December 2, 2019

Fireborne (The Aurelian Cycle, #1) by Rosaria Munda

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Game of Thrones meets Red Rising 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.
"I haul Aela to a halt midair so hard that I rock forward in the saddle and she hawks against the bit."
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

First of all, Fireborne was nothing like Game of Thrones. It's a terrible comparison. Yes, they both have dragons, but that's where the similarities stop. Second, there's some rivalry, but it's definitely not full of romance and dragons. The cover and synopsis are very misleading, which I think does this book a disservice.

I went into this one thinking it was going to be a book about dragons. Were dragons present? Yes. Were they an important aspect of the story? Not really. I like my dragons fierce and capable, or sentient and conversational. The dragons in Fireborne were neither. They were essentially glorified horses with wings, and I really struggled with how they were portrayed. They were more like pets than companions.

Basically, a dragon selects a human when they're young, and then the two form an unbreakable bond. Their owners are given whistles that summon their dragons to them (the whistles create a sound only the dragons can hear, and each dragon responds to a different whistle). How did the humans create these whistles, since they can't hear the frequencies? They also saddle the dragons and place bits in their mouths, which isn't a very dignified existence for the dragons. Some of the riders would spillover while flying with their dragons (meaning their minds and emotions were linked), and that's the closest thing to a conversation anyone had with a dragon. It was super frustrating to see the dragons being used this way, and how they were held responsible for their owner's actions. It would be like punishing a dog for attacking someone when they were trained to obey a specific command.

As for the romance... it was seriously nonexistent. Lee gets handsy with someone as a distraction, but it's obvious he only cares about one person. Their histories make their friendship complicated, and Annie can't get over the face from her past. Her reservations made sense at first, but once we learn about everything Lee did for her, I no longer understood her hesitation. Her actions actually started to irritate me, and I never really liked her as a character. She wants to overcome the obstacles of her past, but she's unwilling to commit to her present. When she finally takes some initiative, it makes her sick (as it should), but neither she nor Lee challenge the decisions of others (even though they don't agree with what they're being asked to do).

Lee is understandably conflicted, and he's torn between what he knows and what he knows to be right. However, the people he's currently fighting for don't always make the best decisions, so it's hard to really choose a side. It seems like death is inevitable, and I disagree with the concept. The author said this book was loosely based on Plato's The Republic and Virgil's Aeneid, but that didn't make the story more enjoyable. Honestly, I thought the book was way too long, and wish it had been condensed for a quicker pace.

I almost gave up on this book, but instead took about two months to read it. I never wanted to pick it up, because I knew it was going to be a long and arduous process. Reading a book shouldn't feel like work, and that's exactly what Fireborne felt like to me. It didn't help that the dragon's played a minor role, and the characters were unbelievably frustrating.

12 comments:

  1. Oooh that's too bad! I think it's the first "not enthusiastic" review that I have read about that one ! Thank you for your honesty!

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    1. Most of the reviews I've read were really positive! It's crazy how we can all read the same thing and have different experiences. There were just too many things about this one that irked me, and I never felt fully invested in the story.

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  2. The dragons definitely sound disappointing and under utilizd in this. what a bummer.

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    1. I've just always seen dragons as fierce and formidable creatures, and they didn't come across that way in this book. They followed orders without questioning their owners/masters, but were able to able semi-coherent conversations/shared feelings when spillovers occurred. It was more intuitive, I think. It was really frustrating how they were used for battle, intimidation, and doing the dirty work of humans. Someone's withholding some of their crops? Burn them and their family as an example. A dragon could also be killed or punished for their human's crimes, which is unfair and ridiculous. They're just following orders, and doing what they're trained to do.

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    2. Yeah that sucks. Dragons should be way more independent and dangerous, to their riders/ owners/ whatever as well as to enemies!

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    3. Yes! The dragons were waaay too docile and dependent on humans, and that didn't feel realistic to me. They're ancient, vicious creatures, so to "tame" them like that felt insulting to their nature.

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  3. Oh, bummer. Reading a story shouldn't feel like work. Hope your next book is amazing, Lindsi! :)

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    1. Thanks! I did enjoy it enough to finish the book, but it's not something I'll revisit or continue in the future. I never wanted to pick it up, which is telling for me, but it wasn't terrible enough to DNF. It fell somewhere in the middle.

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  4. Comparing something to GoT never really ends well, does it? Sorry this was such a miss for you and hope you are now reading something fantastic!

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    1. I honestly cannot find another similarity other than the dragons. People are fighting, yes, but nowhere near the scale of battle seen in GoT. There are maybe two scuffles in Fireborne, and only a few causalities (none of the main characters).

      I'm currently reading A Heart So Fierce and Broken and it is FANTASTIC! <3

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  5. I've seen quite a few reviews on this one have been full of similar frustrations and quite a few that love it.

    Personally, I was so excited for to read this at some point but I'm thinking it'll now be a pass.
    If I'm promised rivalries, passion and dragons that's what I want front and centre! And a book shouldn't feel like work unless, you know, it IS work.

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    1. Most of the reviews I've read have been very positive. I definitely felt like the black sheep on this one. The rivalries were small and really inconsequential. Their "battles" were scheduled and observed by a crowd. The large "opposing force" never engaged with the dragons directly and just took out essential trade routes and stuff. No massive battles or wars. Lots of remembered tortures, though. It shows you how the current regime used blood and fear to get where they are for their "better tomorrow". UGH.

      The dragons were definitely in the background and mostly irrelevant to the story. It was a shame to see them so underdeveloped and underused.

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“Stuff and nonsense. Nonsense and stuff and much of a muchness and nonsense all over again. We are all mad here, don't you know?”
― Marissa Meyer, Heartless