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Fireborne: The Aurelian Cycle, Book 1

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Fireborne:  The Aurelian Cycle, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Dragon fantasy series start has compelling action, intrigue.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Fantasy meant to entertain. A brief Author's Note explains how Virgil's Aeneid and Plato's Republic influenced the story and the fictional world, and urges those interested in how she created the world of Callipolis to read Plato's Republic.

Positive Messages

Family is the people you choose to share your life with and to love, and who love you; they're the ones who deserve your loyalty. You don't owe any loyalty to blood relations just because you're related. Main characters Lee and Annie grapple with whether it's OK to be the lesser of two evils, or whether they should avoid doing bad things even though that might cause more harm. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lee is torn between loyalty to his original family, whom he misses even as he learns of some of the terrible things they did, and his loyalty to his friends and the people he lives and works with now, even as he learns that they aren't perfect, either. He's strongly committed to justice and fairness, and is willing to sacrifice himself for others. Annie struggles with always playing second fiddle but learns that she's capable of assuming leadership and to trust herself in leadership roles. Other characters run the gamut from loyal, supportive friends to hostile enemies, and most adults are mysterious with motives that are hard to figure out.

Violence

Characters cope with memories of past atrocities, some in the fantasy realm from dragons and some in the real world from tortures and massacres. Descriptions are vague, pain is sometimes described and blood is mentioned, but most of the horror and trauma are implied and cause emotional damage. Large-scale destruction from dragons including death. Burning with dragon fire is used in coersion. Past bullying and beatings mentioned. Verbal hostility and bullying. A struggle with punching, arm twisting, and tying hands with rope. Fighting with dragons mentions pain from burning. One beating with repeated punches is briefly described. 

Sex

A few kisses mentioned but not described, except one mentions tongue, caressing, and lying down on a bed. A sexual relationship is implied from overheard sounds and hand-holding. Others seen kissing once. An instance of implied sex, but nothing's described. Some descriptions of emotions leading to or becoming love.

Language

Strong language is very rare but includes "s--t," "bitch," "bulls--t," and "bastard."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A few mentions of social and celebratory wine, whiskey, and drinking from goblets. A few mention hangover symptoms. Mention of pipe smoke filling a tavern.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Fireborne is the first in a planned dragon-fantasy "Aurelian cycle." Fantasy violence includes dragon riders attacking and torturing with fire, and tournament bouts and sparring to determine the best. Attacks mention destruction, burning, pain, and death but there are no gory descriptions. Several characters grapple with past atrocities they witnessed during a violent overthrow of the ruling class. Sexy stuff is mild with some kissing and making out described vaguely and a couple of sexual relationships implied but not directly narrated. Strong language is very rare but includes "s--t" and "bitch." A few celebrations mention drinking wine and whiskey, and hangover symptoms afterward are mentioned. Themes explored include conflicting loyalties, believing in yourself and your capabilities, and whether it's OK to do bad things that at least aren't as bad as the perpetrators from the past. Loyalty conflicts and whether it's OK to be the lesser of two evils aren't fully resolved, probably because the story hasn't ended yet. 

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What's the story?

FIREBORNE tells of Lee and Annie, who grew up together in an orphanage after both lost their entire families in horrific acts leading up to a violent overthrow of the ruling classes. Because they were each chosen for bonding by a dragon, they're now part of an elite corps of young people training to be guardians of the new government and all its citizens. Lee's hiding a dark secret from his past that, if revealed, would jeopardize everything he's worked hard for in his bid to become Firstrider, or leader of the dragon-riding guardians. Annie has always played second fiddle to Lee, but she's also always needed his protection. Is she really destined to be his lieutenant, or does she have what it takes to become Firstrider herself?

Is it any good?

In her fantasy-series debut, author Rosaria Munda successfully combines several classic elements, including dragons, dystopia, government intrigue, and blossoming romantic love. Dragon fans should note that here they aren't characters who speak but instead are more like horses that form a psychic bond with their chosen riders. Some of the world-building feels a bit long, but assuming we'll see two or three more volumes, it makes sense to spend some time at the beginning to help the reader understand the world and get immersed in it. Patient readers will be rewarded with compelling, fully explored, relatable characters and a building sense of action and suspense.

Fantasy fans will relate to Lee as he struggles with conflicting loyalties between family and friends, and between government and citizenry. They'll also relate to Annie as she develops confidence and a sense of her own self worth. And it's a good opportunity to think about bigger questions whether it's OK to be the lesser of two evils, and whether harmful actions taken today are justified if they help bring about positive changes. The ending satisfies while leaving plenty of room for the story to continue.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Fireborne portrays Lee and Annie. What are their character strengths and weaknesses? What do you like or admire about them? Is there anything you don't like?

  • The society of Callipolis after the revolution has some dystopian elements. What are they? What are some of your favorite dystopian novels, movies, or videos?

  • Why are dragon fantasies so popular? What do we love about them? If you've read any other dragon novels or series, which are your favorites? How does this one compare? If you haven't read any before, would you like to now?

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