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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

If magic sets the world on fire, something new is born from the flames. When an old, dying wizard steals magic from his young apprentice, Bee, he changes his own life and nearly destroys hers. But he also releases something new into the world - a wild magic that turns fields to flames and upsets the order of the world. It will take another apprentice, Cabbage, to find Bee and try to set the world right again. Remarkable for its deft, dramatic prose and thrilling magical adventure, Toby Forward's Dragonborn delighted critics and fans. This companion novel, set in the same world in a different time, is a breathtaking work of magic and suffering, friendship and transformation - and the new power that rises from the ashes of a terrible deed.…


by Toby Forward

Overall Book Review:

I had a difficult time deciding how I felt about Fireborn. There were parts of the story that captivated me, and kept me mulling over them long after I’d closed the book—but there were also a number of things throughout the novel that I found unsettling or unsatisfying. 

I was fascinated by Toby Forward’s interesting world, especially the role that magic played in that world. I also loved the characters of Cabbage and Bee, and found myself wanting to know more about their stories at the close of the book. There were times that Forward’s descriptions—especially of the wizards’ college—completely enspelled me, and those descriptions stayed with me for weeks after I’d read Fireborn. I thoroughly enjoyed the inventiveness and originality of Forward’s world, and was continually intrigued by the fascinating snippets that made Fireborn different from most middle-grade fantasy I’ve read before.

However, there were also a number of things that made it difficult for me to really connect with the story and characters. At times Forward’s language was so spare and unadorned that it was difficult to really experience the story; sometimes the sparsity of the language even made it hard to follow the action, particularly when there were long conversations between characters without much dialogue attribution. I also found much of the central plot a little unnerving, particularly for the intended middle-grade audience; although the protagonists are all twelve, and the language certainly suggests a middle grade reader, some of the violence and avarice in the book seemed fairly mature for such a young demographic. I also found the climax and end of the book a little unsatisfying, as neither seemed to have enough impact to balance the buildup of the first sections of the story.

Fireborn will likely appeal to middle-grade readers (particularly boys) who enjoy fantasy and magic.

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  1 mild obscenity.

Violence/Gore:  Throughout the book, there are several instances of characters being injured by fire, including two cases in which characters are severely burned and disfigured by fire. An adult has ill intent toward his apprentice. Two different characters accidentally sever their fingers while using knives. A boy is threatened and almost attacked by a magical beast. A man is unintentionally killed by magic (the description is brief but rather unsettling). An army of magical creatures wipes out several settlements; there isn’t a lot of description given, but it is hinted that there’s a lot of suffering and carnage. Two characters seem, throughout the novel, to take a fairly sickening degree of delight in causing violence and hurt to others. A magical creature attacks and kills several animals and humans. 

Reviewer’s Note:  As mentioned above, the nature of the violence in this book seemed in general to be quite mature for the young demographic of the story.

Sex/Nudity:  None

Mature Subject Matter:

Abuse of power (from adults toward children), severe injury, war

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Adults drink alcohol.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

As a kid, I used to tell people that I wanted to be a “professional book reviewer” when I grew up (along with writer/ballerina/figure skater/mom). I thought that any profession that involved the full-time reading of books was my idea of heaven. Getting the chance to review books is a little dream come true!