You don’t want to miss reading “Flamefall” by Rosaria Munda, the sequel to “Fireborne” and the second book in “The Aurelian Cycle” trilogy. In the first novel, Rosaria Munda created an alternate world populated by overlords and serfs. The overlords could do—and did do—anything they wanted to the peasant families they “owned” in Callipolis. These rulers were aided by their dragons, who were feared for their ability to shoot flames. The revolution that ensued was reminiscent of the Russian Revolution both for its ideals and the blood that was shed. The dragonlord families were slaughtered.
We saw all this through the eyes of two teenagers who had both grown up in an orphanage together under the new regime. They both tested well and thus were included in trials to see if they could match with any dragons hatched from eggs. Both connected with a dragon, so they become dragonriders. Lee and Annie came from different worlds, but they united in the orphanage and became allies and best friends. Lee’s family was the dragonlord family that controlled and basically owned Annie’s, and we read with horror how Lee’s father killed everyone in Annie’s family except for her while she watched. Lee was the only one who escaped the slaughter of his family as well.
In this sequel, a third character, Griff, is introduced. He lives in New Pythos, the place to which the dragonlords who managed to escape during the Revolution had gone. Now, they have subjugated the population there and rule with ruthlessness and cruelty. Griff is a humble rider, a peasant who connected with a dragon and so is part of their dragon force. However, being a peasant, he is not trusted, and his dragon, like the dragons of all humble riders, is muzzled, a cruel practice. But nothing is too cruel for the dragonlords of New Pythos. They excel in keeping the Norcians cowed and frightened just as the overlords in Callipolis did before the revolution there.
There may be a new government in Callipolis, but people are still sorted by a class structure. Instead of the wealthy, landed aristocrats being in charge, there is a new system. The citizens are divided into classes by metals. They take aptitude tests, and those scoring the highest get gold bracelets, and those scoring the lowest receive iron bracelets. In the middle are bronze and silver. The dragon riders are the very highest. The wealthy from the last regime end up gold, and when there is a food shortage because of the war with New Pythos, food rations are determined by bracelets. Gold get the most food and iron class people get starvation rations. There is also the matter of the new regime’s refusal to allow a democratic system. There are no public assemblies, no voting, no free newspapers. So some begin suggesting another revolution, a revolution that will result not in all people getting what they deserve, which is the rallying cry of the current regime, but in each person getting what he or she needs. Equal rights for all. A truly revolutionary concept.
Between those pushing for a second revolution, those in New Pythos who want to come back to Callipolis and regain what was theirs, and the tension between the young dragonriders, Munda has a lot of plot threads to juggle. The action and plotting are magnificent, and it’s difficult to put the book down. We see the tension between Annie and Lee as they each are tugged in different directions because while they both have the same ideals, they envision different approaches to reaching a solution. There are those who are truly evil and enjoy cruelty, such as Ixion from New Pythos, to whom Griff must act as servant. Griff’s sister and her two children are constantly held as ransom for Griff’s good behavior. So while he might want to overthrow the cruel overlords, he doesn’t want any harm to come to his family. And then there are those back in Callipolis who appear to support the new revolutionaries but might just be the traitors who are providing New Pythos with inside information. We won’t know for sure if our suspicions are correct until the last book in the trilogy.
This is a young adult book that adults will enjoy just as much as younger readers. It is not a middle grade book and is not really appropriate for children younger than 13. But for those who enjoy historical fiction, action, books about dragons, and books about people who face almost unbearable circumstances and survive, this trilogy will more than suffice. The action is nonstop, the characters engaging, and the thrilling sequences compelling. I can’t wait for the third book.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, the publisher, for review purposes.