Wednesday, May 30, 2018

ARC Review: Furyborn by Claire Legrand

Title: Furyborn (Empirium #1)
Author: Claire Legrand
Publication Date: May 22, 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 512
Add to Goodreads

Follows two fiercely independent young women, centuries apart, who hold the power to save their world...or doom it.

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.

If you had asked me at the beginning of 2018 what my most anticipated books were, Furyborn would've been in the top 5! I was lucky enough to end up with an ARC of this book pretty early and started reading it straight away... so why did it take until after the publication date to finish it? I don't think it's exaggerating to call this one of my biggest disappointments of the year.

Clocking in at over 500 pages and encompassing two different stories, 1000 years apart, Furyborn is just too much. It tries to be too much, while simultaneously not being enough. There are two protagonists in this story, as promised on the front cover - two queens will rise. Unfortunately, neither of these queens were written in a way that made me care much about them, a common theme throughout this book.

Rielle is the first queen, the one who lives in a medieval(ish) world where angels and magic, known as the Empirium, are reality. She has always known she could control all the elements and must prove that she has mastered them in order to be confirmed as the Sun Queen. She has a bit of a love triangle going on with the prince she grew up with (who happens to be betrothed) and another individual, who I can't say too much about. If I had to pick one of the main characters to care about, it would be Rielle, although I really don't know enough about her to have strong feelings either way, even after 500+ pages. It's a bit shocking to realize how little is really dished out over the course of such a massive book, to be honest.

The second queen is Eliana, an assassin who has some mysterious magical powers, but nothing near the level of Rielle, who is now just a story, along with angels and the Empirium. She runs into someone who she is unable to best, the Wolf, and is taken along with her brother to assist him in a mission. I didn't hate Eliana, but again, I didn't feel like I knew much about her. She also had some romance drama, although hers consisted of very quickly jumping from one love interest to another. At least there wasn't a love triangle, I guess?

The biggest issue with this book, as I've already mentioned, is that there isn't enough information, although how that's possible with a 500+ page book is beyond me. Furyborn jumps from action sequence to action sequence without giving the reader much actual information about the characters and the world, and the action itself quickly becomes repetitive. Rielle has to complete trials and we get a rinse and repeat of every single one. There are no stakes because we already know based on the prologue that she won't die. Although each trial attempts to make itself thrilling, and the first couple were, they quickly get old. Similarly, Eliana's chapters are a sequence of dumb decisions, fighting, and running.

This lack of information also applies to the world. Although the two worlds could be differentiated, they could really only be told apart by the fact that people believe in magic in one and don't in the other. There is no real description of the elemental magic, although the author did include a nifty chart in the back of the book, which feels a bit lazy. It would've added a lot more to the story if the elements Rielle was mastering had actually be explained instead of being plopped in a glossary. I also didn't feel like the difference between the different levels(???) of angels were explained well enough. Overall, there was just SO MUCH information that could've been given if this book had been written a bit differently.

Of course, when the characters and world aren't nearly well-defined enough, it isn't shocking that the plot also had its issues. By which I mean, what even was the plot? It seems that there's this grand thread tying both these girls stories together, but what is it? I get that both are supposed to be magical queens, but why are these stories told together? They don't flow together at all and each chapter took me completely out of the other character's story. There was once where the chapters got choppy as each character was going through a (particularly exciting?) action scene, but the two didn't have any cohesion whatsoever. It's just a very bizarre choice when two stories don't seem to have any overlap.

I'm no writer, and this isn't my story to tell, but as a reader, I think this story could've been saved had it been split into two books, with each one being better fleshed out. This really is two books spun together for a reason I can't fathom. Had book one been Rielle's story, with more world building and less repetitive action, and book two been focused on Eliana, I know I would have enjoyed it much more. I feel like there is a good story in this book somewhere, and I truly hope Claire Legrand is able to flesh it out more in book two of this trilogy, although I doubt I'll be reading it.