Title: Fireborn (Book 1 in the Born Prophecy series)
Author: Katie MacAlister
Publisher: Rebel Base Books/Kensignton Books
Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Summary: Twin goddesses Kiriah and Bellias created the Fireborn and Starborn, respectively, but the two have been at war with each other. A child has been fated to bring the Fireborn and Starborn together, but, before that can happen, the Harborym invade the home of the Starborn and the child, Deo, is sent to be raised by his Fireborn father. As the Fireborn fail to drive out the Harborym, Deo grows up and learns to wield the invaders’ chaos magic against his father’s wishes and sets out to free his Starborn mother. Allegria, a priestess Deo once met as an adolescent, carries a special magic that could be key to driving out the Harborym and believes in Deo’s mission so much that she falls in with him and becomes one of his Banesmen. Hallow was the apprentice to an archanist, one who can wield the power of the stars, and finds himself in Deo’s father’s company, likewise seeking to drive out the Harborym at the same time Deo and his men are trying to. A chance encounter between Allegria and Hallow brings him into Deo’s company. Together, the three are destined to fail or succeed.
Overall, this was an interesting fantasy book. It had all the standard characteristics including magic, a prophesied child, and a battle essentially between good and evil, or chaos magic and forms of light magic. I also loved the magic that was introduced, being able to shape animals from light and drawing power from the stars. But I also felt that this book added little to the genre as a whole. It was a fairly standard fantasy leaning towards epic fantasy, but, overall, doesn’t stand out.
The setting was interesting, but I felt it wasn’t fully developed. The book description mentioned the Fireborn and Starborn were at war with each other, so I pictured a world where half of it was bathed in sunlight and half bathed in moonlight. Of course, the rational part of me knows that’s absurd, but I was disappointed that there didn’t seem to be any difference between the two and their lands other than where they draw their magic from and what they look like. The worldbuilding was lacking and I have no clear idea of what much of it looks like and how it functions.
The story also felt a little disjointed. It flowed extremely well for the first two-thirds of the book. There was conflict and action and an exciting, if bloody, battle that really introduced the invading Harborym and put on display what Deo, Allegria, and Hallow were capable of. I fully enjoyed it, but, as the battle came to a close and I realized there was still a good third of the book left, I was a little dismayed. Turns out the last third felt more like a extended epilogue and simultaneous setup for a second book. It was far flatter than the first two-thirds and was not as interesting.
For the most part, I enjoyed the characters, especially Hallow. He was the most level-headed and offered some levity. In the last third, Deo also provided some amusing comic relief, but was otherwise more of an angry young man during the first two-thirds. That isn’t to say he wasn’t interesting, but I don’t enjoy overly angry and arrogant characters. The most problematic character for me was Allegria. Even though Deo and Hallow also served as narrators, she was the main one. I liked how fiery and stubborn she was, but, when Deo or Hallow were narrating, she somehow felt meeker with less fire in her. It seemed like her inner life was much richer than her outer life.
What really bothered me, though, was the romance. I don’t mind romance in fantasy as a rule. What I do often mind is the pacing. One of the primary reasons why I don’t read YA is because of the insta-love everyone who does read it talks about. Sure, it makes the romance clear-cut, but this book took insta-love and took it above and beyond straight into insta-fall-into-bed. It was a very sudden, very intense romance that didn’t seem to add much to the story. I could have done without, or to a much lesser degree.
What I did enjoy was that the story moved along at a good pace, even the last third of it. Something was almost always happening and the interactions between the characters kept the story moving. Nothing was superfluous and the writing was relatively tight. Conflicts peppered the book and forced the characters to evolve and learn new information.
While there were several things I didn’t enjoy, I still appreciate that this is a well-written book with a good pace, an interesting premise, a clear idea of what the second book will bring, and some interesting characters. Honestly, the bird character is my favorite, but Hallow was definitely worth reading about. For a standard fantasy, this wasn’t bad, but wasn’t exactly spectacular, either.
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Thank you so much to NetGalley and the publisher for a free copy of this book. All opinions are my own.