Review: Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova

Incendiary

Author: Zoraida Córdova 

Published: April 28, 2020

Publisher: Hyperion

Number of Pages: 450 pages

Format: Hardback

Source: Purchased

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. 

Incendiary is a well written YA novel from a best-selling author!  A few things I want to say at the top:  warnings for torture, some violence, perceived abuse in childhood, and of course trauma.  I’d also like to point out the fantastic Latinx representation in this book.  Zoraida Córdova brings various YA fantasy tropes, molds them into something brilliantly new, and gives us deeply flawed but also deeply human Latinx characters in a world filled with villas, palaces, citadelas, cloisters, and safe houses. 

Getting immersed in this world was so fascinating!  Starting with the magic system, it’s a duel between the haves and have nots.  The Moria are magic users with incredibly interesting abilities that manifest in individuals.  Some are gifted with powers of illusion, emotional influence, mind reading, and the most rare are those who steal memories.  The Whispers, Moria’s military or what is left of it, work in shadow and attempt rebellion over the ruling Kingdom of Puerto Leones.  The conflict is old, with many clashes and many deaths.  The Leonesse do not have magic and revile those who are Moria.  This system of magic and conflict is really interesting and I loved the way that the Whispers were able to work as teams, particularly in the beginning chapters.

The political aspects are intriguing and I wish there was a little more development of the overall political situation.  The novel is written from the perspective of a teenager who doesn’t have as much interaction with the overarching political system, so it makes sense that this was missing from the narrative.  Enough information is provided through discovery or spying that the reader gets a good picture of what is going on as it unfolds.  There is exposition, but it is very skillfully wrapped into the narrative through memory, after all Renata’s powers are memory-related!

Renata is an incredibly complex and tortured character, she runs through the gamut of emotions throughout the novel.  Elation, contentedness, frustration, anger, rage, and she feels these things seemingly moment to moment.  My other favorite character is Leo.  He is kind, intelligent, and cunning.  Leo doesn’t arrive in the narrative until midway through the book, but he is a fantastically written person!

Overall, this is a great start to a series and I am very happy that I picked this up!  Another great YA fantasy novel!  This is perfect for fans of Victoria Schwab, Leigh Bardugo, Roseanne A. Brown and others! 

I purchased this book and this review is my honest opinion.

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