Series: Hollow Crown #1
Renata Convida is one of the Moria, a person with magical abilities, and her talent is one of the rarest of all. She is a Robari, a memory thief, and for years she was raised in the palace as the weapon of the king. She is the reason hundreds of Moria have died. Now, rescued by a rebel group of Moria known as the Whispers, Renata seeks to atone for her past by trying to depose the king. But, to do so, she will have to return to the palace, and make her former captors believe that she can still be trusted.
Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova takes a number of YA fantasy tropes and makes them feel new. The story of a group of magic workers oppressed and hunted by the king, Incendiary focuses on a teenage girl who possesses unique abilities that may prove the key to winning the war. Though the formula is standard, Córdova’s richly detailed world, her sympathetic characters, and her fast-paced plot will have readers longing to immediately pick up the sequel.
Stories of oppressed groups who wield magic are extremely common in YA fantasy, as is the convenience of having the protagonist possess rare powers. However, Córdova does something a little different by giving readers a protagonist who was raised in the palace by the enemy. Rescued years later by the rebellion (known as the Whispers), Renata Convida must now prove her worth to the Whispers and try to make them forgive her for her past. Renata herself struggles with extreme guilt, pushing her memories away so she can no longer access her time at the palace and racing into danger to try to gain the rebellion’s approval. At the heart of the story is the question of who Renata really is when she is not being used as a weapon for either side, but is simply herself.
This character portrayal gives the book a certain richness, even if the rest of the plot line is not particularly surprising. The twists and betrayals in YA fantasy have become so commonplace that “twist” is probably no longer an accurate word to describe the trajectory of the plot. Even so, I wanted to keep on reading, to find out what Renata would do, to learn if she would ever find the confidence to believe in herself and accept her abilities.
Incendiary is a solid YA fantasy, one that provides enough detail for readers to immerse themselves in the world, without ever sacrificing action or drama. Renata and her friends will win over readers, making them want to cheer her on, even as they wait desperately for book two to be released.