Furyborn (Empirium, #1) by Claire Legrand
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on May 22nd 2018
When assassins ambush her best friend, the crown prince, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing her ability to perform all seven kinds of elemental magic. The only people who should possess this extraordinary power are a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light and salvation and a queen of blood and destruction. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven trials to test her magic. If she fails, she will be executed...unless the trials kill her first.
A thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a mere fairy tale to bounty hunter Eliana Ferracora. When the Undying Empire conquered her kingdom, she embraced violence to keep her family alive. Now, she believes herself untouchable--until her mother vanishes without a trace, along with countless other women in their city. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain on a dangerous mission and discovers that the evil at the heart of the empire is more terrible than she ever imagined.
As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world--and of each other.
Disclaimer: I received this ARC from NetGalley for review, and this in no way affects or shapes my opinions or rating on this book.
I heard a lot of amazing things about Furyborn, but I was leery to test the waters – I am not generally a fan of fantasy novels, especially high fantasy, and was not sure if I could commit to it, much less love it like it deserved to be loved. But I had had recent luck with being surprised by a sleeper hit in a genre I did not typically reach for, so I figured it was worth the try, requested the ARC … and received access! Quelle horror!
Yikes. Where do I begin? Let’s see.
How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend
Furyborn is a time traveling, high fantasy, girl power! novel with a heaping bowl full of romance as a side dish. The prologue on this book is amazing, by the way, and if it were published on its own as a short story I’d have demanded a book to go with it … which makes me wonder where, exactly, things went off the rails here. Let’s dissect it a bit and see, shall we? The prologue promises drama, introduces us in media res to some very interesting characters, and gives us a sneak peek of this whole concept of angel wars. Angel wars, now this I can sink my teeth into. In high school, I wrote an embarrassing number of short stories from the perspective of these guardian angels who adopted at-risk kids and I think one of them married his charge once she was of age and I don’t …. know. Anyway, suffice it to say, part of my head really enjoys Cool Angel Stories. Unfortunately, after the prologue we don’t get much of that at all.
We have two main characters: Rielle and Eliana. They live hundreds of years apart, and are separated by time, but still united by a prophecy foretelling that there will be two queens, one ~blessed~ and one ~wicked~. There are also a whole host of other, supporting characters, half of whom wind up just being there for lovemaking, but we’ll get to that.
Rielle is a BAMF, and for a long time she was the only character I was truly interested in. In the world she inhabits, there are seven types of magic one could possibly possess. Rielle, our darling female main character, has all seven. This is Very Bad, and she is often drugged and locked away by her family because they don’t want her having a temper tantrum and exploding the whole town, etc. Anyway, Rielle eventually – through some vaguely climactic events – reveals her powers to everyone in her kingdom, and has to undergo seven trials to prove that she is the real blessed sun queen. So she goes through seven grueling, copypasta trials wherein she doubts her abilities, excels anyway, and moves on to the next one.
Wait, don’t scroll up. Oh, did you already do that? Is it because you thought I was reviewing Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas? You wouldn’t be the first. But no, this is its own thing.
Eliana is The Best, and is The Dread of Orline [where they live]. She is skilled with a sword, takes no shit or prisoners, and is allegedly bisexual but we see this brought up twice maybe, and only once is it implied anything has ever happened between her and a female. Eliana and Rielle are both the most thirsty women on the face of the planet, but since they live far, far apart in timelines, they can’t ever be thirsty for each other. Also, at one point during some ~sexual escapades~, the ground shakes. This is not a metaphor. The ground literally. shakes.
Here? In front of my salad?
Angel wars? Glossed over. Prophecy? Confusing. Characters? A parade of them tromp through, and we barely see half of them again. Eliana could – would, and probably has – seduce a literal boulder if it meant getting something she wanted. I can only see home girl do this so many times before it’s like “Put your pants back on and just ask politely, girlfriend, I can’t deal with you any more.” Rielle … if you find animal abuse triggering, don’t read this book. That’s all I can say that is not a spoiler.
Oh wait, did you scroll back up again a minute ago after you read about who Eliana is? Joke’s on you! No, she’s not Celaena from Throne of Glass – made you look – twice! – but she is damn sure close! I didn’t like Throne of Glass either, and maybe that’s why I have no love for Furyborn. It’s just got such an interesting concept – angel wars, magic users, this whole dark undercurrent – and it’s turned into a High Fantasy Sex Party.
The Bottom Line
If you like your high fantasy with fighting, morally grey characters and interesting backstories, this is not the book for you. If you, however, like your high fantasy with lots of (literally) earth-shaking sexual escapades, barely-there bisexual representation, a girl who has seven kinds of magic at her disposal but still manages to be repetitive, and a girl who names everything she owns and therefore has a softball team’s worth of knives … this is the book for you!