Title: Fireborne (Aurelian Cycle #1)
Author: Rosaria Munda (Debut)
Genre: YA Fantasy
Release Date: October 15th 2019 from G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (Penguin)
Format: Audible Audio Book
Narrators: Candice Moll, Steve West and Christian Coulson
Listening Time: 13 hours, 34 mins
Goodreads Synopsis: 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.
When I heard that this was another YA book with dragons, I wanted to give this a shot. I had seen solid reviews from some blogger friends before this came out and when I saw that Steve West was one of the narrators, I immediately got it on Audible when I had a credit. I had a long drive ahead of me, so this book helped with both sides of the long drive. I will say that while some aspects of this book were good, this was too long and way too angsty. This was a disappointing book for me in regards to the relationship between Annie and Lee and some very slow pacing.
- World building: I do give Rosaria Munda props for a great world for a debut novel. The lore, history and politics feels very well structured and thought through. There’s a distinct difference between the dragon lord nobles who used to rule and the lower classes who rose up. There’s still a lot of prejudice, anger and hurt after this bloody revolution and the author shows you both what is better and still what needs work to help the people better. Things aren’t as black and white with what’s happened after this revolution and I liked that the author shows that.
- Narrators: This was a great audio book that I would recommend if you want to check this story out. As always, Steve West is amazing and Candice Moll who also voiced Cat in Aurora Rising is also great. But this was my first time listening to Christain Coulson who voiced Lee’s chapters and he was good. All three brought forth all the emotions of class, poverty, pain, anger and uncertainty so well. These narrators were the main reason I didn’t DNF this book, since I think I would’ve if I had just read it. Since I do want to give this series one more try, I’ll check out the audio book if it is available.
- Descriptions of the dragons: There’s at least three different types of dragons in this book: a Sky Fish, an Aurelian and Stormscourge. All three have different appearances, backgrounds and personalities. They also have a bond with the human they choose to bond with and I did like seeing the bonds they had with each character. I liked how Lee’s connection with his dragon also helped him remember his past and remind him of his goals. This bond does remind me of the How to Train Your Dragon movies which was also fun. I hope these bonds are explored even more in the later books.
- Most of Lee’s character arc: I think out of the two POVs we get, Lee had the best chapters. Since he’s secretly the last son of the last dragon lord who was slain, he remembers his family that he loved and how he was raised. He’s still traumatized with how his family died and he is conflicted with how his dad raised him (only dragon riders are from noble blood) in contrast to the revolutionaries who only saw the nobles as awful people that deserved to die and that anyone should have the chance to ride dragons. I liked seeing how Lee was trying to make his own choices despite these opposing ideas. He had the best character growth in my opinion.
- Not the book I thought it would be: This book didn’t end up being the type of book I thought it was going to be. This book is way more human character driven and politically driven than I had expected. I’ll be honest and say that the dragons are mostly tools in this first book and aren’t in it as much which was a disappointment. I wanted to explore the three races of dragons and also see the bonds with their humans. This very much felt like a set up book which made it feel so much longer.
- Lots of filler: While I do understand that if you have a large fantasy world and that you have to lay a good amount of ground work, I felt like the politics took a lot of the “present day” story line. While we get some good insight on this revolution that happened a decade before the book stars, this book felt like it had too much filler. It felt like the same ideas were brought up over and over again without moving the story along. The story thread about the old regime rising up and how they want to reclaim the city felt less important compared to the political scheming and romantic angst and that ticked me off. When we did deal with this old regime, it was interesting and it should’ve been the main focus.
- Lee and Annie’s relationship: This was another thing that really frustrated me. So Annie and Lee met in an orphanage when they were young and they looked out for each other. Despite some of their differences, they’ve been there for each other for years. But their bond felt so fake to me at times! Whenever they kept secrets or didn’t communicate or just assumed what each other thought, they’d get so offended and storm off. If you know someone so well and you trust them, with all that you’ve been through, shouldn’t you trust them more? They never really sought each other out to know the truth and get their side of the story. While there were a couple reasons why one of them couldn’t speak the truth, it still made me so mad that they didn’t trust each other amidst the rumors and lies that were being spread. Then Annie was so daft about Lee’s feelings that it also frustrated me. While I get that their circumstances forced them to put their emotions aside, she still didn’t feel as consistent as Lee did.
- Anti climatic Ending: The way this first book deals with the old regime plot line was so anti climatic! The way this book ends is so unexpected and didn’t lack any punch. Some of the things that were brought to light didn’t feel like they made much impact and the actual ending itself was kinda abrupt and boring. This is the first in a trilogy, but the ending just seemed off to me and I’m not sure how the next book will progress the story.
Overall: I wanted to like this, but it was a disappointment. I would go into this book knowing that it’s more politically driven and doesn’t have much of the dragons. The characters weren’t as good as I had hoped and I really wish some more editing had been done to make some certain plot threads more important and the emotional angst not a major focus. If you like books with dragons in it, I would suggest The Last Namsara instead. I will try the next book, but it’s not high on my TBR.
Audio Book Narration:
Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Are there other YA books with dragons that you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments!