Welcome to Ember. An icy, pre-historic land of feuding clans, dangerous monsters and a brave collective of warriors and warriors-in-training who have vowed to give up their lives, forgo their pasts and to train in the art of defeating beasts and keeping the peace.
Having taken the pledge, Twelve is now a Huntling - a hunter in training - who has given up her identity and her life to protect the seven clans from monsters and tyranny. When her home, the Hunting Lodge, is attacked by outsiders and a young girl is taken, Twelve is determined to get her back. Accompanied by the Stone Guardian of the Lodge, Dog, her trusty squirrel, Widge, and two other Huntlings, Twelve sets out on a dangerous rescue mission that will forever change her life…
I do not read a lot of fantasy middle-grade stories but having heard so much about Fireborn on social media I wanted to see what all the hype was about. Marketed as the ‘Middle-grade debut of the decade’ I was expecting some very big things from Aisling Fowler and boy does she deliver. Does it live up to the hype? Yes. Am I glad I read it? Yes.
From a land of monsters, goblins and magic comes a thrilling fantasy adventure and an absolutely epic quest. Fireborn is an exciting, adrenaline-charged read with relentless action, twists and turns, bombshell revelations, deceit, heart-racing battle scenes and some truly terrifying creatures. Right from the get-go the plot burns with danger and darkness, fleeting moments of light and hope briefly lifting the mood. Ember is a dangerous world, weapons need to be mastered and constant vigilance is needed.
Intense and gripping from beginning to end, Fowler takes readers on a non-stop thrill ride from the safety of the Hunting Lodge to the mortal dangers of the Frozen Forest, which is no place for young Huntlings, and where trouble lurks at every turn. When it’s not an Ygrex, the cliffcrawlers or a nightspinner threatening to destroy the group then their own hostility towards one another threatens to do so. On more than one occasion it seems impossible that everyone will come back from the rescue mission alive.
At the centre of this hostility is a loner, an outsider, a Huntling who distances herself from others at the Lodge and seemingly goes out of her way to cause problems. Twelve is a deeply troubled and conflicted character with a tragic past that is shared through flashbacks and dreams. Whilst other Huntlings at the Lodge have aspirations of becoming a hunter and offering their services to protect all of Ember, Twelve has reasons much more personal. Out to avenge the death of her family, the anger and bitterness that burns inside her is constantly threatening to explode and when it finally does it is most unexpected.
It is hard to believe that this is Fowler’s debut, she is incredibly talented. The storytelling has you on the edge of your seat one moment, laughing the next and then an in instant she delivers a sucker punch that has you dabbing away the tears. There is so much I love about the book, the rich world building, character development is superb and monsters are described to the point where they feel all too real. I may need some dream milk to ensure a peaceful night’s sleep.
An outstanding first part in what I have no doubt will be an exceptional trilogy. I am fully invested in the future of Twelve and this new fantasy world and look forward to heading back there again soon. Fireborn is a firecracker of a debut!
With huge thanks to Harper Collins for this thrilling story.
Recommended for 9+.