Hello, hello friends! I’m so excited to be back with another blog tour with @TheWriteReads gang! Today I’m sharing my review for an awesome middle grade fantasy: Fireborn by Aisling Fowler. Don’t forget to check out all the other bloggers participating in this tour: here! 😍
Special thanks to Harper Collins Children UK for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Harper Collins Children UK
Publish Date: 30 September 2021
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Lyra. Lucy. Percy. Once in a generation, a hero emerges whose story enthralls readers worldwide.
Fireborn is an epic quest, perfect for fans of the His Dark Materials and The School for Good and Evil series, that will spin readers into a magical world like no other–and introduce them to an unforgettable new heroine named Twelve.
Ember is full of monsters.
Twelve gave up her name and identity to train in the art of hunting them–so she says. The truth is much more deadly: she trains to take revenge on those who took her family from her. But when Twelve’s new home is attacked, she’ll find herself on an unexpected journey, where her hidden past is inescapably intertwined with her destiny–and the very fate of her world.
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Aisling was born in 1985 and wishes that she had grown up in a magical, mountainous kingdom, but was actually raised in Surrey on a diet of books and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her early ‘adventure’ stories involved surprisingly little action and her first novel (3 pages long) was politely declined by publishers at age 11. After earning a BSc in Biology and working as a support worker and then a nurse, the idea for her debut novel, Fireborn, came to her as she moved back and forth between London and the US. Now based in Hackney, when she is not reading or writing, Aisling loves cooking and plotting adventures (for herself as well as her fictional characters). Fireborn will be published by HarperCollins in 2021.
Note: The quotes below are taken from an advanced/unfinished copy and are subject to change in the final version.
TL;DR: Fireborn has everything I love about the genre! This is a story with found family vibes, heartwarming friendships, realistic characters, funny (animal and magical) sidekicks, vivid world-building, and plenty of fast-paced action! Twelve was a strong character who experienced a lot of satisfying growth throughout the story, but the side characters are a joy to learn about as well. The world itself is a bit on the dark side, with plenty of monsters, and wonderful and scary magic, and writing is so atmospheric it’s not difficult to fully immerse yourself in the story. Long story even shorter: can has the next book now, pls? 😍
CW/TW: Death of parents and sibling, kidnapping
I’ve come to really enjoy middle-grade fantasy in the past year and this was no exception! Had I not had a busy work week, I would’ve devoured this in one sitting but it’s the kind of story that once you put it down, you can’t wait to pick it back up (at least it was for me)! It was silly of me to think that I knew what was going to happen because there were also some twisty turns that surprised me! While I do wish that the reasoning behind some of those twists had been better explained, I know this is just the beginning and I have no doubt we’re going to find out much more in the book(s) to come. I can’t wait!
The world-building is naturally woven into the plot and it was done very well, plus the writing was very atmospheric and really made the story come alive. I will say that it is a fairly bleak atmosphere at times—this is probably one of the more grim MG fantasies I’ve read in a while—but it fit the story perfectly. I don’t know what it was about the Hunting Lodge but the whole thing kind of reminded me of the Night’s Watch and I was here for it. What I really enjoyed was how we learn about some of the monsters/creatures encountered in the quest through ‘A Magical Bestiary’. This book gives us brief snippets about the creature plus stats (on a scale of 10) on aggression, the danger posed, and difficulty to disable, and it reminded me of video games where we have the same type of monster index that gets filled in after each battle. Some of the monstrous creatures in this were really horrifying, like the Ygrex and Cliffcrawlers (omg, those things were nasty!), but we also had some mischievous firesprites, malevolent tree spirits, and the adorable and magical moxie, Foxpaw. There’s also some lore about witches and their magic which wasn’t explored in much depth here but I have a feeling we’ll learn much more about it in the next book, especially with what we learn at the end!
“We fought each other cruelly and loved each other completely. We were sisters. You must know that?”
There are strong themes of grief and loss in this story and it’s especially prevalent in Twelve’s arc. That said, all of the characters in this story are intriguing and complex—they are flawed and they feel real. While on the surface it might seem they have no commonality except for giving up their lives and identities to become Hunters, they all have dark pasts that see them having to overcome loss and grief, and it comes out in each character in very different ways. In Twelve, it manifests as a bitter and burning anger and I have to admit that there were moments where I had a hard time liking her character because some of the things she’d say were sharp and hurtful, making it hard to look past that despite her tragic past. She also carries a lot of guilt at the loss of her family, especially of her sister Poppy, but as she dives into her quest to save Seven, and reluctantly gets to know Five and Six, the more she has to reckon with her past in order to ensure her future will be different (and better).
“Forgiveness is not the same as indifference. There is always a choice…”
Aside from Twelve, we get to know more about Five and Six, who join her in the rescue mission. There’s a lot of antagonistic vibes between Twelve and Five and those two did say pretty nasty things to each other. Despite really disliking a lot of what Five said and did at the beginning, it wasn’t hard to see who he really is underneath. I was surprised by how he grew on me! In contrast to Five’s somewhat obnoxious personality, Six is more like a quiet and dependable defender. He’s very loyal, especially to Five, but he also speaks up when something is wrong and I admired that about his character. It was nice to see him open up more as the story progressed but I wish that we learned more about him and the complicated relationship he has with one of the characters.
Also accompanying them were Widge, Twelve’s adorable sidekick and squirrel companion, as well as Dog, Glorious Guardian of the Hunting Lodge (oh, how I laughed at that!). There’s nothing I love more than cheeky and loveable side characters, and these two fit that bill to perfection! I loved them so much and I can’t wait to get more of them! 😍 I also have to mention that although I disliked the villain, obvs, I was intrigued by their motive and I’m very curious to learn more about them in future books to see what what exactly led them to choose this dark and hateful path.
Have you read Fireborn or is it on your TBR?