With her latest novel, “Furysong,” the last fantasy in the trilogy that began with “Fireborne” and continued with “Flamefall,” author Rosaria Munda has claimed her place as a first class writer who can plan, plot, and execute a series of books wherein each approaches 500 pages—not one page of which feels unnecessary. Yes, the novels are lengthy, but they are chockfull of fascinating characters with whom we empathize, nonstop action, unexpected twists, heartbreaking turns, and dragons who bond to their specific humans. Be forewarned that if you start with the first one, you will probably want to read all three books in a row, and this situation might affect your performance at work or school.
The narration in this third novel is such that we are immediately drawn into the action and the characters, and her clever writing reminds us of who the characters are and what has happened, even if it’s been a year since we read the last novel in the series, “Flamefall.” Munda begins this book by taking us back to Annie’s childhood when her family is slaughtered by the dragonlord Leon Stormscourge, when he makes her watch as they are burned alive in their home, instructing her to tell the other villagers, “When you try to defy us, we take everything.”
In “Flamefall,” we witness a Revolution in Callipolis equal to that of the Russian Revolution, and in many ways similar. There are serfs who belong, literally, to the lords and can be slaughtered or starved because they are considered mere possessions. When they do rise up and kill their masters in the story, as in the real Russian Revolution and its aftermath, things aren’t perfect. In this fantasy series, there are also dragons. Pre-revolution, only the “dragonborn,” the elite, rode dragons. After the uprising, all children who passed a test were invited to see if they bonded with a baby dragon, thus making them dragon riders. Lee and Annie met at the orphanage and became friends, and each was chosen by a baby dragon.
At the end of the second novel, Munda creates a cliffhanger. The nobility who fled to a neighboring kingdom decided to retake their land at the same time those in Norcia, that neighboring kingdom, decided to stage a revolution of their own and take back their land from the Callopolian usurpers. That’s where the third novel begins, and as in the previous two books, there’s not a moment of inaction anywhere to be found. We connect again with these brave teenagers who are willing to sacrifice their very lives to do the right thing.
Fine authors create rich characters who are multidimensional, who are neither all good nor all bad, but have human flaws that make them one of us. That’s not to say there aren’t some really bad guys in the story, because there are. But even the noblest of the characters, Annie and Lee, have their flaws. As does Delo, a noble in love with a Norcian humble rider, Griff. The intricacies between those who are born to nobility and those who are considered “lowborn” are explored as are relationships between those of different classes, and Munda makes clear that birth does not define morality. There are those who are evil at all levels.
One of my favorite parts of the trilogy is when we learn about the connections between the dragon riders and their dragons, specifically the way they spill over and share emotions and thoughts. And what happens when a dragon dies and its rider is “widowed” is heartrending. It all makes you want to have a dragon of your own to ride and connect with. The best comparison, I think, is having a loyal dog, but a dog can’t get you into the air and can’t share thoughts with you.
I’m sad the series is over. I feel as if I’m leaving behind a magical place inhabited by people I want to keep in touch with. But isn’t that the way it is with the books we really love? And I can’t wait to see what new worlds Munda will come up with.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, the publisher, for review purposes.