Series: The Empirium Trilogy #1
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on May 22nd 2018
Source: Publisher, Netgalley
Genres: Action & Adventure, Diversity, Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult, Romance
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The stunningly original, must-read fantasy of 2018 follows two fiercely independent young women, centuries apart, who hold the power to save their world...or doom it.
When assassins ambush her best friend, the crown prince, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing her ability to perform all seven kinds of elemental magic. The only people who should possess this extraordinary power are a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light and salvation and a queen of blood and destruction. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven trials to test her magic. If she fails, she will be executed...unless the trials kill her first.
A thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a mere fairy tale to bounty hunter Eliana Ferracora. When the Undying Empire conquered her kingdom, she embraced violence to keep her family alive. Now, she believes herself untouchable--until her mother vanishes without a trace, along with countless other women in their city. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain on a dangerous mission and discovers that the evil at the heart of the empire is more terrible than she ever imagined.
As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world--and of each other.
There’s honestly so much that happens in this book that I have to kind of summarize in this review, so bear with me if you’re willing to stick with an in-depth review. (There may be slight spoilers, but just enough to give readers an idea of really what’s going, because there’s just SO MUCH to it.) I’ll try to organize it as best as I can!
Plot & Writing
There is no argument that Legrand is an exceptional writer. Her prose flows from beginning to end, and it was so easy to continue reading despite my initial disinterest in the book. With constant fast action and witty dialogue, readers will have no trouble keeping up with the story. But then comes my issue, which is that for all the action in the first half of the book, I felt like the storyline was going nowhere. It was easy to predict the background from the action-packed prologue, and from there I just felt very disinterested about the characters. It wasn’t until the second half – when the story actually started going somewhere – did I become more engaged in the book. The atmosphere is fierce, a bit dark, and wholly intense. The writing has an excellent balance of dramatic flare and emotional connections.
The story begins with the end of the Sun Queen Rielle, who is regarded as the Blood Queen in centuries to come. After the prologue, we get the alternating, third person limited POV’s of Rielle in the past and a girl named Eliana who lives ~1,000 years into the future. At the beginning of each chapter is an epigraph that tells some important background information if one pays close enough attention. Rielle has spent all her life hiding her special powers of controlling all seven elements of magic, which is unheard of except for in prophecies. When she attempts to save the Crown Prince Audric from an assassination, her powers are revealed and she starts the trials to see whether she is the Sun Queen or the Blood Queen. Rielle’s POV essentially serves two points: 1) give readers a glimpse of really cool elemental magic and 2) set a backdrop to the story that is happening. Each chapter (whether Rielle’s or Eliana’s) is packed with action and sexual desires and emotions.
To be sought after instead of hidden away, to protect her country instead of living in fear that she was capable of nothing but hurting people, to be loved instead of hated…
Tears stung her eyes.
I will be loved.
At Eliana’s time of the period, the Empire has taken control of the lands. Angels are a legend of the past, and are seen as the antagonists of the story (although it’s not as clear cut as that.) Magical powers are a legend of the past as well, especially since the Emperor controls everything. Not all is lost, as the Red Crown is a rebel group fighting against the mysterious Undying Emperor. Eliana is seen as a tough girl who hunts for the rebels in order to support her family: her mother, partner, and little brother. But when her mother disappears suddenly, she reluctantly makes a deal with the captain of the rebel group, the Wolf (his name is Simon), to join his side and figure out what happened to her mother. The majority of the story is basically a build-up to the sequel. There’s always action happening, but it’s a slow ascent into figuring out what’s going on in the elaborate world that Legrand paints.
The plot is actually really organized, and that extends to the world as well. It’s very easy for readers to follow the past and future timelines, as well as connecting the dots to figure out what’s happening. The map is complex enough to create a multi-dimensional world, but not too complex that readers get confused and have to reread sections.
Additionally, I’m quite happy about the many POC’s that are featured in the book, as well as the fact that pretty much none of the important pairs are heterosexual. There are skin descriptions across the spectrum. Eliana takes lovers that are men and women, and Rielle also fantasizes about her close friends, whatever gender. There’s an important gay couple in the rebel group. Everything is added neatly and smoothly into the story, and I love it when fantasies do that.
Characters & Relationships
I think Legrand did a great job on characters. However, I wasn’t a fan of Rielle’s POV (which is interesting, because it’s the other way around in some reviews.) Readers already know the end of Rielle’s story in the prologue, and I found myself sighing when we came to her chapters. There’s no denying that she’s very well-written though, flawed and on the path of becoming almost an anti-heroine. Rielle’s powers come with high costs as it’s made people close to her die, or come close to it. Despite this, she always revels in her elemental magic – much more powerful than anyone in the kingdom. She has a forbidden romance with the Crown Prince Audric, as he is betrothed to his cousin and her best friend. When a voice inside her head starts messing with her, she finds herself torn between the light of Audric and the dark path that the cajoling voice offers. I didn’t really care about her romance, as two potential love interests offer two futures that could decide the fate of the kingdom. This trope grows tiring the more I read it, and the fact that I know what happens at the end due to the prologue kind of takes the intrigue and turmoil away from it.
‘Sometimes your goodness shines so brightly that I want to devour you. Maybe if I have enough of you, that light you shine will stave off the wickedness that lives inside me.’
I enjoyed Eliana’s chapters a lot more, although it took a very long time to get her up to speed on the main conflict of the book. Eliana is also flawed like Rielle, and she is very stubborn. She sacrifices a lot to support her family – even to the extent of killing people and masking her emotions. However, we see a gradual character development as her soft side comes out when she joins the rebel and slowly shifts in defending them rather than capturing them. She and Rielle are both very strong characters that go through an emotional journey in their narratives. I loved Eliana’s devotion and loyalty to her family, and especially her bond with her younger brother Remy, who is a dreamer and believes the old tales of Angels and Saints. She forges a friendship with fellow rebel Navi that is well-incorporated into the story. Her romance, on the other hand… Okay, so she has several love interests as well that have more potential than the other based on her circumstances. Towards the end though, Simon’s character does a complete 180 degree turn. He goes from barely tolerating her to almost devotion like a snap based on one event. It was jarring and could have been handled much better in my opinion: more gradual and justified. For some reason I just couldn’t get onboard with either perspective’s romances.
‘We are all of us dark creatures,’ Navi said, ‘but if we linger in those shadows, we’ll be lost. Instead we must seek the light when we can, and that’s just what you’re doing. I see it happening.’
‘You believe too easily,’ Eliana muttered.
‘And you don’t believe enough.’
‘Belief doesn’t keep you alive.’
‘But, given time, it can win wars.’
Speaking of romances, I enjoyed the healthy dialogue of sex and contraceptives in this book. Rielle’s POV is charged with the sexual tension of a young girl learning her desires, while Eliana is familiar with sexual acts because of her manipulation being a part of her job and surviving. Thumbs up for the author taking the straightforward route in this aspect of the book.
Furyborn would have impacted me more if the story moved along quicker. But I also think the slow pace works for this introductory book of a trilogy, forming a solid background of the story to come. It just made me very disinterested and impatient in the first half of the book. Also, the alternating POV’s did tend to make it drag. Oddly enough, it reminded me of Strange the Dreamer – perhaps not plotwise, but with the same veiled secrets, hidden powers, and tangled relationships thrown in with the hinted strength of magic, hope, and survival. Definitely a magnet for fantasy readers.
‘In these dark times, not even the light of the Sun Queen is as powerful as the light waiting inside our deepest hearts, if we only have the courage to look for it.’
Wow, that was a lot to get through! Thank you, if you stuck with me. To sum it up though: wonderful writing, awesome world-building, fun yet familiar magical elements, flawed and multidimensional characters and lots of action make up Furyborn. However, it acts as a very long background for the events to come as both reader and character figure out what’s going on in the grand scheme of things. I’m actually quite excited for the sequel and want to see how the story will progress. Fantasy readers should definitely give this one a try, and perhaps stick with it despite the lackluster first half. There’s a lot of detail and discussion in the story, as well as character growth, that make it an intriguing read.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Content Warning: abuse, animal death, violence, sexual content
Thank you Netgalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the review copy!
Thank you NewSouth Books for the review copy as well!
Furyborn will be available in bookstores in Australia for $17.99 AUD and bookstores in America for $18.99.