May 23 2018

Furyborn (Empirium #1) by Claire Legrand

You know there’s a problem with a book when you get to the end, find out it’s the first in a trilogy and groan out loud. I mean, the prologue essentially tells you the main plot of not only this book but the next (and who even knows, maybe the third given how dragged out this book felt!) I felt that the prologue itself was rather overwrought and was happy to settle down quietly into the next few chapters, but as I kept reading, I found myself growing steadily more annoyed with Claire Legrand’s choices. She kept pulling focus to the least important parts of scenes instead of maintaining dramatic tension, often with minor character interjections or, less frequently but also less forgiveably, with just bad writing. It made for a narrative that was at once chaotic and desperately dull, because most of the chaos came from wildly unimportant things suddenly thrust into the limelight for no reason I could think of besides a weird attempt at verisimilitude (tho which, staaaahp. It’s fiction: the minor character doesn’t have to pull focus in the conversation just to remind the reader he’s there when important characters are talking. Yes, that happens IRL but real life is messy and not a freaking novel.)

Essentially, this is the story of two women divided by a thousand years. While I can accept, somewhat grudgingly, the idea that the main technological change in that millennium was the loss of magic and the discovery of gunpowder, the idea that The Empire as it’s described in the book had essentially stood for that length of time is laughable. This book would have been so much more plausible given a shorter time gap. That said, of the two women, I found Eliana to be the slightly more bearable one. Forced to serve the Empire in order to protect her family, she’s conflicted about her role as a bounty hunter, even before her mother becomes the latest victim in a series of unexplained kidnappings. Eliana throws in her lot with the rebels to seek out her mother and protect her younger brother, and discovers her connection to a woman out of legend: Rielle, the long-dead Sun Queen.

Or Rielle, the incredibly tedious, as I prefer to think of her. Basically, she’s the only person ever to have access to the seven elements, as everyone else gets just one and needs to use a physical object to focus their castings through, a limitation she does not possess. Rielle’s life is somehow strictly controlled by her father and a priest because she’s oh so dangerous, yet she runs freely around the palace with her best friends, the crown prince and his cousin/fiancee? When her powers are discovered, she’s put through seven unlikely but life-threatening trials where Ms Legrand’s horrible mastery of priorities shines through brightest. Rielle is all-powerful! But she can’t control her powers! But she can’t access her powers! But she doesn’t know what to do with them! But she’s afraid she’ll harm people when she uses them! If she can use them! There’s no consistency, and it’s all a hot, muddled mess.

And ugh, the sex. I thought it was oddly graphic in a bodice-ripping way, not in the down-to-earth manner that I expect from good YA fiction. As a boy-crazy lady myself, I totally get having a thing for any hot guy that crosses your path, but Furyborn was just Too Much. There’s a huge difference between thinking a dude is hot and wanting to bone him as soon as your current love interest walks off-screen. Someone more socially conscious than I am pointed out that the women being ostensibly bi but really just acting like cats in heat all the time was actually damaging to bi rep, and I would tend to agree. I was especially annoyed by Rielle’s inappropriate urges in inappropriate places: not as bad as in some trashy romances I’ve read but still an annoying trope. Oh, and the way her powers manifested in response to her sexual urges (and vice versa) was absurd to the point of laughable.

There’s a lot of potentially interesting stuff going on in Furyborn (even if I did think the introduction of wraiths was way too deus ex machina) but the world-building could not withstand the really poor narrative choices. I won’t be reading the rest of this trilogy when there are so many other actually good books to read, I’m afraid. I’m disappointed because this sounds like exactly the kind of book I love reading but it’s executed so horribly that I just can’t even.

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