YA Fantasy

My Review: Incendiary (Hallow Crown #1): by Zoraida Córdova

Publish Date: April 28th, 2020

Number of Pages: 450 Pages

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Genre(s): YA Fantasy

Total Star Rating: 3.5 Stars

They tell me my power is a curse, but they keep presenting me as a gift.”

– Zoraida Córdova, “Incendiary”

While it’s nothing quite really too original or innovative within the YA Fantasy genre, Incendiary was still quite a captivating read that was inspired by Spanish Inquisition era Spain. With its historical influence, this book was incredibly well written and is a great story for anyone to add to their shelves if they like an entertaining book filled with adventure, courtly intrigue, rebels with magical abilities and a cause, betrayal, ambition, love, and war.

For me, Incendiary has been tossed around as one of the most anticipated releases for the YA Fantasy genre of 2020, and I was just so lucky to be able to get my own exclusive signed copy from Owlcrate, a top tier YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy box subscription. It was the mystery book revealed for their May 2020 box theme: “Rebels with a Cause,” and you can see their exclusive cover design in the image below:

I for one am a big fan of this design, and may even like this version better than the two other designs. Owlcrate’s edition is playing off the Disney-Hyperion cover design at the top of the post, but one thing I don’t like for that one is how cartoony the girl looks floating above the title. I think she would’ve looked better if they kept her more realistic and similar to Cassandra Clare’s Lady Midnight cover model with a similar aesthetic.

I will be honest, reading through this book was easy for the beginning and end, but the middle really slowed down for me. The initial set up was so exciting and thrilling, and it was the same with the ending but with an elevation of it all because you’re familiar with the characters by then and are (hopefully) invested into the story, but man oh man was the middle kind of a drag… just not as much happens in terms of excitement, swordplay, epic battles, or even romance. It’s more about courtly intrigue and attempting to find out secrets, but none of it was incredibly memorable for me. None of the big reveals were all that shocking or mind-blowing, and I’d say even a huge occurence in the story becomes downplayed as a “shocking” reveal turns out to make it not actually true.

One could also argue that the story was filled with many stereotypical tropes of YA Fantasy, and I do agree with the fact that they’re there, but tropes aren’t necessarily a bad thing. We as readers know what aspects of a story we like, and we continue to find other stories that include those for our own comfort and personal enjoyment. The point of them still being loved by readers is that they are still familiar while bringing something new to the table, but this story doesn’t go far enough on the originality factor, at least with its plot. It’s a variation of so many other stories out there of a young girl who must defeat an evil lord/king in order to save the land, and has several handsome suitors with secrets of their own to help her along the way and make her feel desirable. Like I said, it’s familiar and I have liked stories like that in the past, but this particular title didn’t have anything that explicitly stood out, even if the author’s writing was incredibly well done. This may just be because I have already read so many similar titles before it’s publish date; someone who’s not as familiar are has read a whole lot of Fantasy will enjoy this title tremendously!

Overall, I was intrigued but never blown away by Incendiary, but I can say I am curious enough to want to read what happens next when the next book comes out in 2021. Hopefully the second part of this duology will escalate with more brow raising antics and overall maybe just have more fun with the characters and the plot twists. I felt like this one played it too safe, so my fingers are crossed for the author to go further out with it.

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

I am Renata Convida.
I have lived a hundred stolen lives.
Now I live my own.

Renata Convida was only a child when she was kidnapped by the King’s Justice and brought to the luxurious palace of Andalucia. As a Robari, the rarest and most feared of the magical Moria, Renata’s ability to steal memories from royal enemies enabled the King’s Wrath, a siege that resulted in the deaths of thousands of her own people.

Now Renata is one of the Whispers, rebel spies working against the crown and helping the remaining Moria escape the kingdom bent on their destruction. The Whispers may have rescued Renata from the palace years ago, but she cannot escape their mistrust and hatred–or the overpowering memories of the hundreds of souls she turned “hollow” during her time in the palace.

When Dez, the commander of her unit, is taken captive by the notorious Sangrado Prince, Renata will do anything to save the boy whose love makes her place among the Whispers bearable. But a disastrous rescue attempt means Renata must return to the palace under cover and complete Dez’s top secret mission. Can Renata convince her former captors that she remains loyal, even as she burns for vengeance against the brutal, enigmatic prince? Her life and the fate of the Moria depend on it.

But returning to the palace stirs childhood memories long locked away. As Renata grows more deeply embedded in the politics of the royal court, she uncovers a secret in her past that could change the entire fate of the kingdom–and end the war that has cost her everything.

Maybe when I take everything from them, they’ll take a little piece of me.”

– Zoraida Córdova, “Incendiary”

What I Liked:

  1. The Beginning! The beginning was honestly perfectly done for anyone to instantly be pulled into the thick of the corrupt kingdom, and then following the small group of rebels as they fight and plot for their freedom. Violence and death happen within the first chapter, even the prologue, and meeting Renata, Dez, and the other rebels was thrilling and exciting with complex relationships and the danger they all face. For people that rely on the very first few pages in order to decide if a book is worth reading, the author did an amazing job of providing an obvious YES to that within the first chunk of this story.
  2. The Ending! Just like the beginning, the last chunk of this book was so incredibly fast paced, full of betrayal and broken alliances, so much more excitement, and plenty of well done characterization too. Prince Castian was surprisingly a big component of all that I loved about how this book ends, but I’m not going to give too much away on that!
  3. There’s Plenty of Secrets & Betrayal! Like any good fantasy story, you can’t trust anyone. Everyone has an agenda, some more obvious than others, and Renata struggles to see who she can rely on or who she should seriously watch her back against. It made the book so twisty and fun!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Lack of Prince Castian…For such a key character, the wicked prince has a major hiatus within this book because he’s off at some undisclosed location for the entire middle of the book. You see him in plenty of flashback scenes, but nothing in present time until the big climax of the sun festival. As he makes his reappearance back into the story, he really shows some unexpected depth to his character and proves there’s MUCH more than meets the eye, so it made me disappointed we didn’t see him as much.
  2. THERE’S NO MAP…I will always point this out when it’s missing from a Fantasy novel! Especially when the story refers back to the history of the land and the many cities, battles, territories, etc. like this one does. It says the stories based off the Spanish Inquisition era Spain makes me just fall back on a map of Spain to use as a map, although it’s not canon whether that’s true or not. Maybe there’s not a map in the Owlcrate edition I own, I don’t know… all I know is, I don’t have an official map, so I’m gonna say something about it!

Conclusion:

Definitely a more well written YA Fantasy title to add to the collection, this one will surely be well received by many who read it! It honestly doesn’t offer anything too new or have many memorable characters, but it’s still enjoyable nonetheless; I know I will checking out the sequel when it comes out in a year from now, which will hopefully have some more fun and go a little more wild the next time around.

I recommend this to anyone who loves the female led fantasy series/books where with the help of friends and several love interests, they rise up against an oppressive ruler like Throne of Glass, Truthwitch, and Ash Princess. It’s brutal, there’s genocide and torture, but together they can rise and make their world a better place.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

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