The Gate will fall.
You will know this time by the rise of two human
Queens—one of blood, and one of light.
Two Queens will rise.
They will carry the power of the Seven.
They will carry your fate in their hands.
—Furyborn by Claire Legrand
A very long time ago, angels walked among humans, sowing disaster and chaos. They were defeated and imprisoned by the Seven Saints, the Gate to their prison the last line of defense between humanity and ruin. But the Gate will not last forever—a prophecy pronounces that the angels will be set free with the rise of the Blood Queen, who will possess unrivaled power over all seven elements. The prophecy also foretells of a Sun Queen, who will possess the same powers but will banish the world of its darkness.
For Rielle Dardenne, daughter of the king’s most trusted General, and the most powerful creature of generations, the prophecy is something she has lived in fear of her entire life. After burning her home as a result of an argument when she was just a child—and subsequently killing her mother in the flames—Rielle’s powers have been kept secret by her father and her teacher. But when her best friend (and secret beloved), crown prince Audric, is seized by assassins, Rielle unleashes the full extent of her power to save him…and becomes known as one of the Queens of the prophecy in return. But which Queen will she be—the Sun Queen, who will save the kingdom from eternal darkness, or the Blood Queen, who will cast magic and order asunder?
A thousand years later, another young woman, Eliana Ferracora, prowls the streets as an assassin under the moniker “the Dread of Orline.” Eliana’s kingdom is one without magic at all—hers is ruled by an Emperor who never ages and who holds the fate of the world in his hands. As one of the Empire’s loyal bounty hunters and hitmen, Eliana has done terrible things, but she also knows it is the only way she can protect herself, her younger brother, and her mother. So she kills, and steals, and hides in the shadows. But Eliana has a magical secret of her own that no one can know. When a job to kill one of the leaders of the Rebellion goes south and her found family’s life hangs in the balance, Eliana finds herself at a crossroads: to continue to serve the Empire, or to seize an unlikely destiny 1,000 years in the making.
I've read many of Claire Legrand’s novels before, but Furyborn promised something irresistibly exciting: a feminist take on the prophesied Chosen One trope, against a magical high fantasy setting, AND a post-apocalyptic reduced-magical fantasy setting. All in one! Furyborn alternates between Rielle and Eliana’s timelines, showing us the Trials Rielle endures to prove her skill and loyalty, earning her rightful coronation as the Sun Queen, as well as the unfolding mystery a millennium later as Eliana snarkily cuts her way through her marks. On the bright side, Rielle’s storyline is enthralling and made of awesome—she has been told her entire life by her father that she is dangerous. He's never forgiven her for killing her mother and he fears what else she might do. But though we know from the very first page that Rielle is the Queen of Blood, as her story unfolds before her fall we can't help but feel for her. Rejected by her family, mistrusted by the king and the church, Rielle wants nothing more than to help her people, her beloved, and to be loved. Add to this, the awesomeness of the secondary characters in Rielle’s life: Audric and their tortured love, for Audric is engaged to their best friend, Lady Ludivine (and Ludivine is actually the sweetest, kindest, best friend anyone could ask for). Instead of a nausea-inducing love triangle, Legrand opts to strengthen the friendship between these three characters—and it works beautifully in the context of Rielle’s story.
In contrast, Eliana’s story is kind of a let-down—the snarky assassin with a conscience archetype has never been one of my personal favorites, but even so, objectively, Eliana and her story are just not as interesting. Most of Eliana’s plot is spent running around the kingdom, meeting the Rebels, betraying the Rebels, running away from the Empire, betraying the Empire, and so on. Seeing the ravaged world after Rielle’s fall is terribly tragic, and knowing that Eliana will be the One To Save Them All is…well, disappointing. Sure, it's nice to see a character so invested in her family above all others but from a basic motivational standpoint, Eliana’s flip-flopping loyalties are less than inspiring. Additionally, the side characters in Eliana’s timeline are similarly lacking—there’s the bland Simon, aka the Wolf, who is tortured and sad and lusts for Eliana. Navi, the stolen and lost queen from a neighboring kingdom, is a far more interesting character (probably my favorite in this particular timeline, aside from Eliana’s younger brother).
Furyborn suffers because of this lopsidedness—a thrilling older timeline which I wanted to keep reading uninterrupted to figure out how Rielle could possibly have fallen so low (with Audric and Ludivine by her side, how could she have! I need to know!), and a frustrating, boring timeline with a character I had far less investment in as our future Sun Queen.
All that said… I devoured this book and eagerly look forward to the next one to get those answers we so desperately need to understand Rielle’s story.
In Book Smugglerish, 7 Blood Prophecies out of 10.