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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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
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 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, is willing to sacrifice himself for others. Annie struggles with always playing second fiddle but learns 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. Most adults are mysterious with motives that are hard to figure out.
Violence & Scariness
Characters cope with memories of past atrocities, some in fantasy realm (dragons) and some in real world (tortures, massacres). Descriptions are vague, pain is sometimes described, 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 used in coercion. Past bullying and beatings mentioned. Verbal hostility, bullying. A struggle with punching, arm twisting, tying hands with rope. Fighting with dragons mentions pain from burning. One beating with repeated punches is briefly described.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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Strong language is very rare but includes "s--t," "bitch," "bulls--t," and "bastard."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A few mentions of social and celebratory wine, whiskey, and drinking from goblets. A few mentions of hangover symptoms. Mention of pipe smoke filling a tavern.
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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.
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, dragons aren't characters who speak but instead are more like horses that form a psychic bond with their chosen rider. 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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.