Book Review : The Fireborne Blade

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review : The Fireborne BladeThe Fireborne Blade (The Fireborne Blade, 1) by Charlotte Bond
on May 28, 2024
Genres: Fantasy, LGBTQ
Buy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Bookshop.org
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three-stars
Source: NetGalley

Slay the dragon, find the blade. True love can't be far behind...
Maddileh is a knight. There aren’t many women in her line of work, and it often feels like the sneering and contempt from her peers is harder to stomach than the actual dragon slaying. But she’s a knight, and made of sterner stuff.
A minor infraction forces her to redeem her honor in the most dramatic way possible, she must retrieve the fabled Fireborne Blade from its keeper, legendary dragon the White Lady, or die trying. If history tells us anything, it's that “die trying” is where to wager your coin.
Will Maddileh prove her mettle? Or will she end up like countless knights before her―as a puddle of gore and molten armor?
In Fireborne Blade , Bond creates a rich history of dragons, ill-fated knights, ghosts, scheming squires, and sapphic love to tell a story of the place we make for ourselves in the world, and the roles we refuse to accept. With deceptions and double-crosses that will keep you guessing...

The Fireborne Blade instantly sucked me into its world. I was immediately captured by the serious business of dragon-slaying, which was presented in alternating perspectives—one from woman knight Maddileh and one from the dragon slaying Bible of sorts jam packed with the experiences (and often, the untimely deaths) of other knights. The parts of the novella excerpted from this dragon slaying handbook really put me to mind of A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir of Lady Trent, because a lot of the gruesome deaths are presented as unavoidable and well, darkly comical.

 

“Dragons and humans have always been enemies—both love gold too much.”*

 

While I didn’t have trouble jumping back and forth between Maddileh and excerpts from the handbook, the latter of which really rounded out the world-building, I wasn’t the biggest fan of moving forward and backwards in time during Maddileh’s perspective. I’m a simple girl that prefers a linear timeline with maybe a flashback or two thrown in to show crucial glimpses of a character’s past, but The Fireborne Blade changes the complete time and place multiple times. Luckily, Maddileh, her quest, and her mysterious new squire with murky intentions were interesting enough to make the time jumps bearable for me.

 

“‘Master,’ she said curtly. ‘Not mistress. Mistresses run houses or warms beds. A squire calls his knight master, and that’s what you will call me.'”


I was really excited to read about a lady knight, as one of my favorite series growing up,
The Song of the Lioness, was also about a young girl determined to become a knight at any cost. While Maddileh is already a knight, she is in a bit of a pickle reputation-wise, and has to prove herself and her worthiness as a knight in some sort of grand gesture or go back home in disgrace. Though I really liked the idea of Maddileh, she wasn’t as fully developed or as complex as I would have liked. Her reasons for becoming a knight, something socially unacceptable for a woman, are rather basic, merely explained in a passing comment that she always felt different. While entertaining, she lacks the depth of her more famous contemporaries like Brienne of Tarth.

 

Maddileh’s quest, to restore her honor by stealing the eponymous Fireborne Blade from the legendary dragon, dubbed the White Lady, and to restore her honor after a romance gone wrong felt a little basic (not to mention sexist–how many male knights have to restore their reputation after they were abused in love?). But how much of a reason does a knight really need to slay a dragon? And how much of a reason does a reader need to go along on adventure? I’d argue not much of one to both questions, and part of the appeal of The Fireborne Blade is that it isn’t an absurdly complex fantasy story with maps, alternating perspectives of a mass of different characters, or intricate political alliances. It is instead a classic fantasy story, knight sets out on quest to slay dragon, and readers are able to enjoy it at face value. The Fireborne Blade is a cozy tale for fantasy fans and a breath of fresh air in a genre that often takes itself incredibly seriously.

 

By far my favorite part of the novella was the portrayal of dragons. I found the description of the different types of dragons and how their mere deaths were so deadly to the slayer to be very unique. Not only did slayers have to kill the dragon, but they had to survive its actual death, complete with fatal outpourings of magic. The lore Maddileh describes surrounding the creation of the eponymous Fireborne Blade had me super invested as well and I honestly would jump at a chance to read this campfire story told as a whole fantasy novel. It’s clear that this author has a lot of really promising ideas, but The Fireborne Blade was so short, a mere 176 pages of fun, that it was limited on how much it could explore.

 

“There were two schools of thought as to when to hunt a dragon. Villagers were more likely to complain about an awake dragon and would declare the knight who rid them of it a hero. But an alert dragon is suspicious and cunning; a deadly foe. Killing a sleeping dragon was easier, but the way into their lair was more perilous as a dragon’s dreams could take form and stalk the tunnels. But in either case, the dragon-dead were an ever-present danger….”


The novella’s pacing did leave a little something to be desired. It seems much of
The Fireborne Blade is set up for its conclusion and I spent a lot of time wondering how all of the time frames were connected and why they were important. Then suddenly, The Fireborne Blade hurtles to an abrupt end. Because of how fast paced the ending was, I felt a little bit hazy on the details of what was actually happening, and the twist didn’t have quite as much impact as it should. Though the ending was not entirely dissatisfying and I was happy to see the setup for a possible sequel, I found myself in disbelief that The Fireborne Blade was over just like that and saying, “well, okay, then.”

Regardless of how quickly it was over, I’d happily return to the world of The Fireborne Blade and delight in Maddileh’s adventures in the future. Readers looking for a fun and lower-stakes fantasy read with unique ideas and world-building should check out The Fireborne Blade immediately. 

*All quotes taken from an ARC and subject to change at time of publication.

 

three-stars
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Book Review: The Fireborne Blade - Blogging with Dragons

Posted March 1, 2024 in ARCS, Book Reviews, Fantasy

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5 responses to “Book Review : The Fireborne Blade

  1. I’m tempted to try this, especially with different types of dragons. It sounds like the world building is very well done?

    • I thought it was a fun read! I’ll be looking out for the author’s other works. I hope you enjoy it, if you decide to pick it up ?

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