My dear bookish friends!
Do you know those kinds of books that the minute you start reading, you are totally in tune with the author and their voice and you forget about the world around you and are totally immersed in the story and its world? That’s what Fireborn was like for me. I raced through it because once I had started, putting it down was impossible.
Big thank you to Dave at TheWriteReads, the author Aisling, and Harper Collins for my ecopy and spot on this tour!
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.
I have to start this review at the start – namely with the cover. Isn’t it absolutely GORGEOUS? It was love at first sight for me, and I knew I would like this book the moment I saw it. And I wasn’t wrong!!
I pledge my life to the Hunting Lodge.
I vow to serve all seven clans as my own,
to protect them from what lies beyond.
I forsake all blood ties and blood feuds,
to offer up my name and my past.
The Hunters are my family now and always.
I swear before them that I will never lower
in the face of darkness,
nor allow tyranny to rise.
Twelve, our main character, has spoken the vow that made her a huntling. She had to give up her name and forget about her past in order to learn how to fight against the monsters of Ember and protect all the clans from evil (not just her own). Twelve, for her young age, comes with quite a lot of emotional baggage, but it is only slowly revealed bit by bit what happened to her and her family in the past. By speaking the vow, she and the other students in the lodge are forbidden from speaking of their past. But whatever it is that’s happened, it made Twelve hard. And a bit cold, at least on the outside. She is brave, she is determined, she is strong, and she has a plan – one we find out about only later in the novel. I have to admit, she isn’t amazingly likeable at first, even though through her hard outer shell I could see some light, some softness, though well hidden at first.
Most of the other students in the lodge dislike Twelve. Not so Seven, a shy, kind, clumsy girl that annoys Twelve. Or so she acts, but you could tell from the start that deep inside, Twelve cares about Seven, too. And then, suddenly, their camp gets attacked by a group of creepy goblins and stinking ogres. And they take Seven. A hunt begins… and of course, Twelve isn’t leaving the search for Seven to others… Will she find her before it’s too late?
I loved how the world building is done in this book. It is very detailed without being too ‘info-dump-y’, and I could see everything very clearly in front of me. Set in a cold, dark, bleak world, there is not much to smile about in the lodge. However, Seven made it a much better place in my opinion. I was feeling sad for her – nobody seemed to recognise or appreciate her kind spirit. I also loved Widge, Twelve’s pet squirrel. I loved that she was given Widge by Seven who thought Twelve would be better at taking care of the little munchkin than herself. Seven has many weaknesses, all of which make her an easy target and a liability in the lodge. Nobody really knows why she is there – she is clumsy, she can’t hold a weapon, and worst of all, she can’t fight. On top of that, she also has a stutter. She made me feel protective of her the second we met her character.
We meet some other characters early on, too. Five and Six, two boys who seem to be best friends but are very different from one another. Five is strong and mean and comes across like a bully. Six is understanding and kind. Of course, Five doesn’t like Twelve – she is the best fighter in the camp, even the weaponmaster says so. So when the three of them have to fight as an unlikely team, it makes for a very interesting situation. Will they get over their differences in order to find Seven, or will they rip each other’s heads off first?
I really liked that Twelve had to go on the journey with Five. We learn early on that she is not a team player, but we don’t know why. Five, of course, isn’t in any way up for teamwork with her either. The cold, dark landscape they have to travel, where prying eyes and dark monsters could be behind every tree, hiding behind every bush, the coldness and the ice make for an interesting backdrop. I liked the detailed description of the weapons, the lodge, the fighting classes, and later the journey. It made me feel like I’m part of the story!
I loved that Twelve goes through some great character development, something I really want from a main character in a book. On her journey, she learns a lot about the importance of allies, but also of friends, about letting go of old grudges and about forgiveness. I loved that she had her little squirrel as company through most of the book, it added some warmth in the otherwise rather bleak and cold and lonely times she felt herself in.
I have read a LOT of middle grade in the past couple of years and there were some rather spooky and also some darker ones amongst them, and with Fireborn I had the feeling it might be rather for older children, teens or adults. I can’t pinpoint exactly what made me think that, I think it’s just the overall themes and the setting all in all. But older kids or adult readers and fans of fantasy will definitely race through this book just like I did. For myself I just wish we had some more bits like Seven and Widge that would have given the book a bit more lightness and taken away from the sometimes rather heavy feeling, but that is just personal preference.
I was a bit confused about so many of the names being numbers in the beginning, but then again every single one of the students is so distinct, so unique, that keeping them apart is not really a problem at all. Some of the monsters we encounter are harder to fight than others, and some of them were really horrible! Twelve remembers what she learned about them in class upon meeting them, and so they come with a number of how aggressive they are out of ten and how hard it is to fight and incapacitate them. If anyone has ever tried Ringfit Adventures on the Switch – it reminded me a bit of that lol.
Without giving away too much, I loved the ending – it made me think of possible next adventures to come! It definitely sounded like there would be more, so I’m really hoping we get a part 2 (and 3 and 4)! The world Twelve lives in seems so big and while we traveled with her through it I had the feeling there will be much more to discover. I’m really excited to see where the story goes next!
4.5 stars from me for this captivating high fantasy adventure!
Thank you all so much for reading, and don’t forget to mark your calendars – Fireborn will be out on September 30th, and it’s perfect for the colder season!
About the Author
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.