Ember is full of monsters.
Twelve gave up her name and identity to train in the art of hunting them–so she says. The truth is much more deadly: she trains to take revenge on those who took her family from her.
But when Twelve’s new home is attacked, she’ll find herself on an unexpected journey, where her hidden past is inescapably intertwined with her destiny–and the very fate of her world.
One of the nicest things about being part of the gang over at The Write Reads has been rediscovering my love of Middle Grade and YA fiction – and of Middle Grade fantasy in particular. Having read and loved Amari and the Night Brothers earlier this year, I was eager for more epic Middle Grade fantasy in my reading life – and Aisling Fowler’s Fireborn: Twelve and the Frozen Forest definitely scratched that itch!!
Twelve is one of the best huntlings at the Lodge. But her refusal to get close to her fellow Hunters means that her mentors despair of ever passing her Blooding. Because the job of a Hunter isn’t just to fight the dark things of the world but to broker peace and negotiate treaties between the clans of Ember – and to stop the Dark War from ever happening again.
But the Hunter’s Lodge is only a means to an end for Twelve. She doesn’t want to be a Hunter – and she has no time for making friends or finding a replacement for the family she has so tragically lost. When the Lodge is attacked by a dark magician and his followers however, Twelve is swept up into a quest to rescue a fellow huntling and prevent the darkness returning to Ember. With the aid of the Lodge’s guardian Dog and two of her fellow huntlings, Twelve will soon have to make a choice between isolation and friendship – and learn to contend with her own hidden and wildly dangerous powers.
Any Middle Grade fantasy always has to contend with comparisons to Harry Potter and, although very different stories (and with very different protagonists), Fireborn does have that compulsive ‘one more page, one more chapter, one more book’ quality that held me in its grip and had me fully immersed in the adventures of Twelve and her friends – and in the world of Ember more widely.
Twelve is a fantastic protagonist. I really empathised with both her stubbornness and determination, and her desire to avoid further hurt by cutting herself off from those around her. Aisling Fowler has said that Twelve was partly inspired by her love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I can certainly see elements of Buffy’s courage and determination, as well as her anger and protectiveness in Twelve. I also really enjoyed seeing Twelve grow and develop as a character throughout the book, shedding her hard edges and learning – little by little – to trust and love others again.
The other characters in the book are equally well drawn. From brash, confident Five to shy, dreamy Seven, cantankerous Elder Hoarfrost, and even Twelve’s pet squirrel Widge, I came to feel like I knew – and cared about – all of them, and I loved watching their relationships with both Twelve and with each other develop.
Aisling Fowler has also created a truly magical world in Ember. There’s such a huge amount of lore that goes with the world but she’s managed to weave this in and give a real sense of the place and the society without resorting to large infodumps or long, complex exposition. Instead the world is built alongside the story and we’re gradually introduced to the clans and their history, the role of the Hunters, witches, magic, Ygrex, Cliffcrawlers, Deathspinners, and the threat of the Dark Wars.
Fireborn is such a compelling and compulsive read – a real page-turner! With plenty of adventure and a good dose of magic, intrigue, and friendship to boot, it really is perfect for anyone looking to fill a gap in their fantasy reading life! Fans of the boy wizard are sure to enjoy Fireborn – as is anyone who enjoyed BB Alston’s more recent Amari and the Night Brothers with its similarly determined female protagonist, and the epic adventures of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. I can’t wait to see what Twelve and her fellow Hunters get up to next!
If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green Bookshop, Sam Read Booksellers, Book-ish, Scarthin Books, and Berts Books.
My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review and to The Write Reads for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 28 August 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content by following #UltimateBlogTour and #TheWriteReads on Twitter and Instagram.
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