Fantasy, Review, Young Adult

[Review] Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova

Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova
Publisher: Hodder (Apr 28, 2020)
Series: Hollow Crown #1

Received a review copy of Incendiary from Definitely Books in exchange for an honest review

Prior to reading the first instalment of Zoraida Córdova’s Hollow Crown series, I’ve only read Labyrinth Lost because I was intrigued by the premise of brujas living in Brooklyn. Though I saw a lot of potential in her debut novel, however, it did leave me wanting more. Though I am very happy to share that after reading Incendiary, I decided to give her Brooklyn Brujas series another chance and enjoyed the sequel, Bruja Born!

“Flames as large as houses don’t crackle – they roar.”

Incendiary is a high fantasy that is inspired by the Spanish Acquisition but with magical elements, where the stakes are high for the Whispers, a group of rebels and freedom fighters, dedicating their lives to overthrow the tyrannous crown of Puerto Leones. It is a time where magics of the Moria are forbidden. Enter Renata Convida, a former servant of the crown, she is feared for being a Robári, one of the rarest Moria where she has the ability to steal memories. Now she fights against the kingdom as a rebel spy for the Whispers, avoiding the king’s wrath and preventing the end of the Moria in the hands of the ruthless Prince Castian.

In Incendiary, Córdova successfully created a fantastical and richly immersive world where I found myself transported to a time where magic was forbidden and people were living in fear. I lost myself to the pages of Incendiary, the mission of the Whispers to overthrow the king and Renata’s top-secret mission to rescue the boy she loves, Dez.

Between Córdova’s masterful storytelling and intriguing premise, I was completely absorbed in the story and I can very proudly admit that it took me fairly quickly to finish this 450-page tome which, I have to admit, is no small feat since it’s huge! Just when I found myself anticipating where the story was going, I was proven wrong time and time again with the multiple twists, which only kept me going as I was already wholly engaged with the story. The plot unraveled so unexpectedly and the revelations were just so well-timed and plotted, especially that ending that really shocked me but that’s to be expected since I am already excited to pick up the sequel, Illusionary.

The exploration of the magical system in Incendiary was interesting and left me wanting more, as I was very intrigued to find out the abilities of the Moria, particularly Renata’s since she was initially very tentative with using her abilities as a memory thief but gradually, we find out the reason behind it and that magic always has a cost.

“No matter who we are we are breakable.” 

In terms of the characters, I felt like they are rather nuanced and they had their own motivations to serve their purpose to the rebellion. Ren was a bit of a “special snowflake”, even though she is the focal point of the story, but I guess that can be overlooked since I enjoyed her ability of stealing memories and how it was explored. Aside from that, I thoroughly enjoyed her determination and the burning fire buried deep inside her to prove herself as part of the Whispers despite being mistreated and distrusted as a former “pet” of the king.

On the other hand, I found the prince, Castian to be a bit of a mystery from the beginning. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I do love a brooding hero with a tormented past and I will happily report that Castian is a cinnamon roll through and through! However, my favourite has to be Leo who surprised me every single time – such a cleverly written character who has a deeply grounded back story which made me root for him even more and I do hope to see more of him in the sequel.

Enchanting and incredibly well-written, Incendiary brought a whole new experience of reading fantasy for me as I was inexorably drawn into the mystery and intrigue of Renata and the Whispers’ story. With the story ending on a high note, I can only imagine how much more the sequel will further expand the universe and explore the characters’ motivations.

about the book

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. 

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