I was lucky and received an ARC of Furyborn from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I’m a little late on posting this, but here it goes.
I’ve previously read Claire Legrand’s Winterspell. I didn’t exactly love it, but I didn’t hate it either. When I first heard about Furyborn I knew I had to read it. With Furyborn Legrand was playing with all of the tropes that I love, things that have appeared over and over in my own writing. The premise was interesting and it hit me with a massive wave of nostalgia. This was the type of story that would have kept younger me up all hours of the night reading. That feeling is a high that I’ve been chasing for what feels like years. Despite my previous reading experience I went into this book with high expectations.
Before I say anything, understand that Furyborn is a massive undertaking. I have nothing but respect for Legrand for trying to tell this story. This novel has to serve as an introduction to the trilogy and set up two very different and complicated worlds. These worlds have to different enough to stand out from one another but similar enough that you can believe that they fall in the same timeline. Events that happen in the past (the Rielle timeline) have a ripple effect to the future timeline (Eliana’s timeline, set 1,020 years later).Not only that, this alternating timelines per chapter has to be able to work for the rest of the novels in the series. Legrand manages to not play all of her cards, leaving room for the past timeline to develop without spoiling the surprises in the future timeline and vice versa. It’s dizzying.
The two main characters of Furyborn are Rielle and Eliana. Rielle is the daughter of the General and has grown up in close quarters with the Crown Prince and his betrothed. She also harbours a secret: her magical gift is extraordinary. Unlike everyone else she has mastery over more than one element of magic and she doesn’t need an object to help her channel her power. Rielle has kept her powers secret until the Prince is attacked and she instinctively blows her cover to rescue him. The Crown and the Church then force her to undergo challenges to prove her control over her abilities and loyalty to the Crown.
Rielle is ambitious and slowly comes into her own over the novel. Her repression of her powers have affected all aspects of her life. She feels the need to not only prove herself to the world, but for vengeance against those that have wronged her. Rielle’s story is tragic in this sense because the reader knows that her actions will eventually bring about the end of her world. No matter how hard she is fighting against the darker sides of her personality to be a good person she will ultimately fail. Only time will tell how much of her monstrous legend is truth versus exaggerated by hundreds of years of it being retold.
Then there is Eliana, right from the start she is introduced as a morally grey character. She’s a bounty hunter for the Empire, tracking down rebels and turning them over to the authorities. Legrand makes it clear that Eliana isn’t exactly loyal to the Empire, she only is looking out for her family, her actions do make her complicit and she lives with the guilt. I found Eliana’s character the most interesting but her narrative felt a little forced. Her story starts when she is approached by the rebel leader Wolf. He offers to help her find her missing mother if she helps him rescue a Princess. Which she does.
As an inciting incident goes I don’t understand why Eliana accepts with no offer. One does not just decide to work with their greatest rival. I understand it gets the plot moving but wouldn’t it make more sense for her to go to the Empire? Which she does later and at that point it feels kind of forced.
I can’t decide which timeline and story I like more. Rielle’s is full of magic with a heavy religious presence. The multiple temples in her city representing specific Saints and the magical abilities that they wield. Then there is Eliana’s timeline centuries in the future where magic no longer exists and the world has been conquered by the Undying Empire. Eliana’s world reminded me of the vibe of the Dishonoured game series which felt like a nice change from the usual fantasy setting. I love seeing a fantasy world taken past the usual medieval world into a Renaissance-like era. Eliana’s world had a more gritty lived in feel. The majority of the people seem to have accepted their fate as a conquered nation. I’m a sucker for stories where the villain has already won and the heroes have to fight that extra mile. Yet I was still interested in Rielle’s world and wanted to know more about the way the religious orders were structured and how that affected the rule of the country and the daily lives of the people.
With Furyborn you get the best of both worlds: the standard fantasy novel with an idealized world and then an inversion of it. Knowing the future adds a level of tragedy to Rielle’s story but that also makes the reader root for Eliana’s success more.
This novel is not perfect. Besides the awkward iciniting incident for Eliana’s story, sometimes the pacing is off. Every once in a while the story would drag for ten to twenty pages while groundwork would be laid. Rielle’s trials also slow the plot right down. It felt like Legrand spent more time describing Rielle’s trial outfits than actually describing her experiences in the trials. Yet, my overall interest kept me coming back for more. I wanted to see how the story would end and that got me through the slower bits.
Furyborn left me with a lot of questions I desperately want answers for. How did the country of Celdaria lose to the Empire? How was the Empire formed? What happened during the first angel war? What does the Empire do to make the adatrox so alien? SO MANY QUESTIONS.
Furyborn was a bit of a hot mess, but in the best way possible. Legrand loves this story and it really shows. Because Legrand is passionate, it’s easy for the reader to be as well. This series shows a lot of promise and if it only delivers on half of it, it will be worth it. There’s a lot more than I want to talk to about but that involves some serious spoilers, so look forward to that after this book releases next month. if you love fantasy battles on a cosmic scale, then you have to pick this one up.
- I love the cover for this book. It’s absolutely stunning
- I know a lot of books the rushed setup/info dump could be distracting and off putting. It’s kind of fun here.
- Has a pretty solid opening scene. It sets the stage and the sense of dread. When I finished the novel I went back and re-read the openning scene.
- I want to learn more about Rielle’s world.