Firebrand: Elemental, Book 2

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Firebrand: Elemental, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Dystopian fantasy displays sharper edges in second volume.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Although it's a fantasy novel, author Anthony Johns roots Firebrand's action in the real geography and history of North and South Carolina, particularly Roanoke and Fort Sumter.

Positive Messages

Trust is a strong theme in Firebrand, with Thomas, the protagonist, always needing to re-evaluate whether those around him deserve it. His growing romantic relationship suggests that there might be an alternative to constant suspicion.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Thomas feels, and acts upon, a tremendous sense of responsibility for his fellow refugees, even those who treat him badly. Constantly worried about their welfare, he never shies away from putting himself between them and trouble when it comes around.

Violence

The refugee characters' desperate straits drive much violence in Firebrand. Characters use guns and knives often, and some suffer serious wounds. One character dies in a fall from a tall mast. A villain's shot in the head and devoured by rats.

Sex

In Firebrand, the characters have more time than in Elemental to indulge in romantic experimentation and the jealousy that can come from it. Sixteen-year-olds Thomas and Rose share a night of physical intimacy, although it's not clear how much it progresses beyond kissing and making out.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Firebrand, the exciting second volume of a fantasy series set in a dystopian near future in North Carolina's Outer Banks, features pirates, a colony of treacherous refugees, and a group of survivors with the power to command the elements. Beatings, gunshots, and stabbings are common, but gratuitous description is rare; one scene shows a villain being shot in the head and then eaten by rats. Three characters form an awkward romantic triangle, but there's little sexual content; in one scene, two teens spend the night together, but the details of their physical intimacy go undescribed. 

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What's the story?

Having saved themselves at great cost from Roanoke Island's pirates in Elemental, Thomas and his fractious crew of friends and family members, now in the pirates' commandeered ship, still need a new place to call home. Using his newfound elemental powers on the ship's radio, Thomas hears a message urging all refugees to head to Fort Sumter. But as they head south, he and his crew discover their powers fading; by the time they reach the refugee colony, they fear its distrustful, rather sinister inhabitants. Is Fort Sumter the haven they've been searching for, or have they stumbled into an even worse predicament?

Is it any good?

A nonstop adventure fantasy with an intriguing near-future setting, FIREBRAND mixes history and fantasy to present a fresh take on the standard tropes of apocalyptic fiction. The series' second volume is a little harsher than the first in its presentation of violence, but not excessively so. The plot offers plenty of twists, as well as a deepening sense of the characters. Author Antony John inspires confidence that he'll be able to carry this saga to its conclusion with inventiveness and skill.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why post-apocalyptic stories in books, movies, and TV are so popular. What's going on in our world that makes readers want to imagine a near future in which everyone's struggling to survive?

  • How do you develop trust with people? What characteristics make one person more trustworthy than another?

  • Why do people resort to piracy, even today? What sort of economic conditions encourage it?

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