Firstly, thanks to Netgalley and Sourcebooks Fire for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Furyborn is the first in Claire Legrand’s Empirium Trilogy of YA fantasy novels which introduces the story of two young women 1000 years apart but both embroiled in the same conflict. Legend has long foretold the arrival of two queens with the ability to manipulate all seven elements of magic; one is destined to become the Sun Queen and one the Blood Queen (you can guess which is good and which is evil – although perhaps it’s not so simple…).
Enter Rielle and Eliana, you find out pretty quickly that adult Rielle has become the Blood Queen (I promise that isn’t a spoiler) therefore the sensible conclusion is that Eliana is to become the Sun Queen.
Rielle is a nobel and best friend to the crown prince, Audric – enter hunky love interest – she has known about her powers from a very young age when an argument with her mother caused her to burn down their home and also kill her mother. Over the years her father has fought to supress her powers and keep them hidden from all but a trusted family friend, often drugging Rielle as a means of achieving this. Then one day Audric’s life is threatened by assassins and Rielle unleashes her powers to save his life, since only the heralded Sun and Blood Queen are supposed to be able to wield more than one form of elemental magic Rielle is forced to undergo a series of seven trials to determine which of these queens she is. We meet Rielle as a victim, supressed by her father and living with the guilt of her mother’s murder, she finds it difficult to reconcile the power inside of her and is determined to prove herself as the Sun Queen and a force for good.
Eliana is a bounty hunter 1000 years in the future from Rielle’s storyline and is known as The Dread of Orline for her unparalleled success as said bounty hunter. The legend of the Blood Queen is just that to the people in Rielle’s timeline and most don’t believe in the tales of magic. However, Eliana has the ability to not be hurt, or rather to heal very quickly when hurt, so that’s obviously a bit unusual and in one of many parallels to Rielle’s story she is forced to keep this gift hidden from everyone except those closest to her. Then one day her mother is kidnapped in a series of kidnappings that having been plaguing the town and she sets off with hunky love interest, Harken, her younger brother, Remy, and a sworn enemy known as The Wolf (and also Simon – I did find his name particularly out of place considering the high fantasy setting and rest of the names Legrand chose). Eliana has had to become hard fast and has been taught to kill under the tutelage of her mother, she is shown to be cold and ruthless and is even complicit in the execution of a teenager early on in the book.
I should also mention the angels, there are angels who appear to be able to inhabit people’s minds and interact with them from far away, it is also clear that angels are feared and at the route of the overarching conflict that the Queens are to play a role in. Anyway, that’s probably enough plot without giving too much away.
I actually quite liked this book, being fairly new to YA and especially the high end fantasy side of the spectrum I found it quite enjoyable, fun escapism with lead characters that were not total carboard cut outs, although the romantic interests of both Rielle and Eliana were typical personality-less heroic male types – however I didn’t mind this too much as I was far more focussed on the storyline and the two main protagonists. The writing is good YA writing, fast action, quick dialogue and enough decent worldbuilding and description to create a realised fantasy setting. Some of the themes are quite dark, neither of our heroines has had an easy time of it growing up and Eliana in particular has spilled her fair share of blood.
I did, however, have a couple of issues with this book. First, although action is a plus in YA fantasy there just seemed to be a little too much happening all the time in this book, often the action seemed to get ahead of itself and became difficult to visualise. It was also non-stop with no real opportunity to allow the reader to take a breath and reflect on what had happened before the next high-speed fight scene and/or trial had broken out. The structure of the book is that of alternating viewpoints between our two protagonists, every chapter is fairly short and almost every chapter ends on a cliff-hanger – I understand this being utilised as a tool to keep the reader turning the pages but it’s overuse became a little draining and meant that the impact was somewhat dulled every time it was employed.
The nonstop action and cliff-hangers also meant that there was a lack of character development and reflection. In the case of Rielle, who is being put through a series of gruelling trials where she is finally able to openly utilise and explore her powers for the first time, I would have thought this would have meant her character would have a lot to think about and would have been good to have had a little more on how this power was influencing her. We know almost straight away that she is to become the Blood Queen so I was expecting more inner turmoil as she begins to understand the power that she has within her.
Eliana, on the other hand, having started out as my preferred storyline quickly became irritating and showed even less character development as the book went on, her reaction to everything was to threaten violence and there were very few moments where her violent past seemed to affect her. Again, the assumption is that she is to become the Sun Queen so I would like to have seen her character perhaps soften more or at least express guilt for the many deaths she has caused to date. That being said, this is only book one in a trilogy and therefore there is definite room for this to be rectified and I’m inclined to think that I’ll be checking out the next instalment to see how these characters develop into what we assume they are going to be.