Review: Furyborn, by Claire Legrand

furybornWhen assassins ambush her best friend, the crown prince, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing her ability to perform all seven kinds of elemental magic. The only people who should possess this extraordinary power are a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light and salvation and a queen of blood and destruction. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven trials to test her magic. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

A thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a mere fairy tale to bounty hunter Eliana Ferracora. When the Undying Empire conquered her kingdom, she embraced violence to keep her family alive. Now, she believes herself untouchable–until her mother vanishes without a trace, along with countless other women in their city. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain on a dangerous mission and discovers that the evil at the heart of the empire is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world–and of each other.

(Sourcebooks Fire, May 22, 2018.)
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It’s been a bit since I’ve read pure fantasy, by which I mean something that is not in a modern or even futuristic setting — more magical-realism or urban fantasy than epic. The genre is one of my favorites, but it can go seriously awry or simply unbelievable. So that said, I was delighted by Furyborn. It appealed to the parts of me that enjoyed Six of Crows, The Hunger Games, even Game of Thrones in places, and I think The Mortal Instruments fans would enjoy it as well (I don’t read the books, I admit, but I do watch Shadowhunters!). The novel pulled me in, and I fell in love with its detailed, thorough worldbuilding and vivacious, conflicted (anti)heroines.

Lush worldbuilding and sensible magic are a must-have for me, and I found both of those in Furyborn. Though the magic in the books can do quite a lot, it has rules, and it seemed easy to follow for me as well as enticing. Meanwhile the world feels like a whole world, with nations, politics, and history. The pieces of information from various texts at the beginning of each chapter both filled out our knowledge and made me want to learn more — I really wanted to live in this world of angels, men, wraiths, and godbeasts and read all about it.

Rielle and Eliana provide two very different, but interwoven, young women to follow, both vibrant, interesting and morally grey. We find out from the very first chapter that Rielle is not destined for any easy life — we see the end of her story (hunted by a supernatural force, having murdered the King, and trying to protect her baby girl) and then jump backwards to work up to it. Though this could be boring, I was actually thrilled trying to figure out how a girl with magic she’s not allowed to use, who — though rebellious and impulsive — seems to mostly want to do the right thing, finds herself Queen and in such a situation. She’s a tenacious, passionate and very understandable character and I found myself rooting for her despite some dubious decisions and through very tough odds.

Meanwhile, Eliana, far from palace life (except by hire), lives thousands of years in Rielle’s future as an assassin. She likes to think of herself as someone hard and uncaring, as well as self-sufficient. Despite her skill at killing for hire, she finds herself drawn into the rebellion against the Empire mostly to protect her little brother and to find her mother, and learning to sympathize with the victims of the Empire’s cruelty. (This was the Star Wars-y part for me! In a very good way.) I really loved her badass exterior, interactions with other characters and the eventual revelations about her, as well as the world. This part developed the world even further as we see how the various nations develop in time.

Also, BOTH heroines are bi/pansexual, and it’s very casual and normal in the book, which is great! There’s definitely a lot of shipping material in here for those who enjoy fanfic in their fandoms…

This is not a book for someone who needs all their main characters to be eminently likable, but for me, that was a bonus. Life isn’t always easy and full of good decision-making, and it kept me reading avidly. In fact, at first I was a little annoyed because the chapters alternate — and I wanted to keep reading about each girl once I started. LeGrande is an artist of cliffhangers, and I tore through the book to get through both stories. Eventually I realized this just made me love reading the book more — I wasn’t bored by one woman to read about the other — and started noticing the complimentary themes of the adjacent chapters.

I’m not sure I would actually classify Furyborn as a YA, or at least, it’s a mature YA – kids who frequently read above their age level may want to wait a little. There’s a lot of pretty graphic violence, and quite a bit of sexual content (although that bothers me less – most teenagers have uh, had those feelings).  However, for me it was perfect, and I can’t wait to read more about these and related characters!

The Verdict: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Trigger Warnings for this book: lots of violence; death and near-death via fire, animal death, child abuse, some emotional abuse including using sexual feelings as leverage


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