August 3, 2022

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

Fireborne (The Aurelian Cycle #1) by Rosaria Munda
Rating: 4 Stars
Release Date: October 15, 2019
Format: eBook (Personal Library) + Audiobook (Borrowed from Library)
Publisher: G.P Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers 

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If you introduce a book to me and say it has dragons, I’m pretty much always down to read it. Rosaria Munda’s Fireborne, the first book in The Aurelian Cycle series is no exception. It’s a powerhouse debut young adult fantasy, and it’s filled with great worldbuilding, lots of political intrigue, and engaging characters. 

At its heart, this is a book centered around the idea of a found family. On paper, the two main characters are on opposite ends of the power spectrum, yet they must work together as fellow dragon-riders. Annie is an orphan whose family was killed by dragons; Lee is one of the last surviving members of the former ruling class, who was forced to watch his family be killed by rebels. They grew up together, and when we meet them in the story they are working towards their shared goal of becoming the first rider. When tensions erupt in the city, they must decide what they truly care about and what side of the struggle they want to find themselves on. 

Annie and Lee grew up together, and that lent itself to a simmering slow burn romance subplot. They know each other better than anyone, and that leads to some very fun tension-filled moments. Admittedly, I was a little surprised with how things ended up (the romance was a little lacking compared to my expectations) but it's possible that the author is simply building towards a bigger moment in one of the sequels. I’m rooting for Annie to get a happily ever after ending because she was the character I connected to most in the book. I would also love to see more scenes featuring her fellow dragon rider Duck, cause he was quite entertaining as well (and he ended up getting the short end of the stick many a time).  

Dragons make every story better, and this one is no exception. I loved how dragons are also featured in the found family aspect of the book. It was exciting getting to learn about the different classes of dragons, and what the bond between dragon and rider is like. The bond between rider and dragon is sacred and plays a big role in the book. I was especially curious to learn more about the idea of “spillovers” - a phenomenon where a dragon or rider is overcome with emotion, leading to dangerous results. It’s detrimental for some, but others learned how to use it to their advantage. 

The class structure and power dynamics in this book were unique. Callipolis is coming off of a revolution, having disposed of the cruel dragon lords and introduced a new system of government. Dragon riding becomes available to all classes (instead of just the elite), and people are sorted into different metal groups based on their skill and profession (Iron is for unskilled laborers, whereas gold is for politicians, poets, and the like). On paper, it's supposed to be better than what they had previously but that’s not quite the case. The poorest of the poor still suffer the most whenever there are hard decisions to be made, and the ruling class still uses their power to intimidate and control the others. I’m curious to see how Ms. Munda will evolve on this in future books, especially with the shifts of power that occurred at the end of Fireborne

If you’re a fan of books like Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games, Christopher Paolini’s Eragon, or Shina Reynold’s A Light in the Sky, then this is a book you need on your TBR list. Fireborne would also be a great choice for fans of Dreamwork’s How to Train Your Dragon. Audiobook listeners will be pleased to know that Christian Coulson, Candice Moll, and Steve West did a great job with the narration. Overall, a fantastic young adult fantasy novel - I’m eager to get my hands on the next book, Flamefall, as soon as possible and have more dragon content to read!

About the Author

Rosaria Munda grew up in rural North Carolina, where she climbed trees, read Harry Potter fanfiction, and taught herself Latin. She studied political theory at Princeton and lives with her husband in Chicago. Her debut young adult fantasy Fireborne was published in 2019 to critical acclaim, with sequels to follow.

For book recs and updates, follow her on instagram: @rosariamunda

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