A girl who has been used as a weapon her whole life must learn to fight for herself... Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova (Review & #Giveaway) @The_FFBC

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(Hollow Crown #1)
By Zoraida Córdova
YA Fantasy
Hardcover, Audiobook & ebook, 384 Pages
April 28th 2020 by Disney-Hyperion


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.

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My Review

INCENDIARY is a fantasy story full of romance, vengeance, and war. The characters are endearing as they fight for all they're worth against insurmountable odds. A definite page-turner!

I couldn't help falling in love with Ren's character. She literally doesn't fit in anywhere and has a past fraught with loss, mistakes, and danger that continues with her as she faces danger and makes mistakes in her present. She isn't accepted or loved by anyone except Dez and Sayida. She's really mistreated and abused by everyone else. Dez felt a bit one-dimensional to me, but he still played his role well as he leads his group and wields his magic. The other unit members have equally strong personalities and magics. They're very much a dysfunctional group who never completely run as they should—a unified unit. I did find Leo to be intriguing as he is on the page quite a bit. Castian is also a very intriguing characters. There's only glimpses of him too, so I'm hoping many characters will get fleshed out quite a bit in the next book.

There is a lot going on in this story.  There are different politics at play. Some appear as villains but are actually rebels or spies, and some who are are supposed to be the heroes, turn out to be villains and betrayers. We only get glimpses of all the players here and there, so you're never quite sure who to trust. It just shows how having something or looking a certain way doesn't prove your good or bad, but that there is a mix of both among all of us.

Now for some things that didn't work for me... I felt like the romance was really heavy for this story and very lustful. I could have done without it at all or at least would have preferred it be sweet if it was actually necessary (or maybe lead up to a sweet kiss in the third book?). It was to the point for me that it was almost a DNF for me. If it would have continued in that same strain, it would have been. It also made it a book that I can't recommend to actual young adult readers. I think at least 16 and maybe not even until 18. There are also sections where Ren is reading others' thoughts. Some I felt could have been left out and weren't really necessary to write all out in the story. The time could have been spent better developing the characters and the world-building and magic. I figured out the twist really early on (don't want to say anything more or else I'd spoil it). It was so easy to see and figure out and then I felt like it was dragged on and on through the rest of the story. I didn't understand how Dez could show Ren a memory that she doesn't somehow take and then without her control she takes others. Her magic didn't seem to completely get worked out logically. The whole time Ren is living in the palace she literally doesn't figure anything out. It's slow going for some time and then takes things literally being in her head for her to figure out anything. And then there's a loose prisoner and an easy kidnapping that didn't work for me either.

In the end, was it what I wished for? Overall, this was an intense, fast-paced fantasy with much more to come in the series. If you're a fan of this author and looking for a fantasy story that is also heavy on the romance side, then you will probably enjoy this one.

Content: A detailed love scene, other love scenes referenced to, and some brutal and gory violence (including torture), references to gay relationships but very mild. Definitely for mature young adult or adult readers.
Source: I received a complimentary electronic ARC from the publisher through NetGalley and the Fantastic Flying Book Club, which did not require a positive review. All opinions are my own.

About the Author

Zoraida Córdova is the author of many fantasy novels including Star Wars: A Crash of Fate, the Brooklyn Brujas series, and The Vicious Deep trilogy. Her novel Labyrinth Lost won the International Book Award for Best Young Adult Novel in 2017. Her short fiction has appeared in the New York Times bestselling anthology Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View, and Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft. Her upcoming books include Incendiary, book one in the Hollow Crown duology (Hyperion 2020) and she's the co-editor of Vampires Never Get Old (Imprint 2020). Zoraida was born in Ecuador and raised in Queens, New York. When she isn’t working on her next novel, she’s planning her next adventure.

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