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tl;dr: The Fireborne Blade is a fast-paced novella featuring dragons, ghosts, magical swords, and a sapphic romance. Bond weaves together old-school fantasy adventuring and dragon-slaying with a fresh modern takes on gender, sexuality, family, and status. This novella packs so much in, with twists, turns, betrayals, magic, cozy romances, and more without ever feeling overstuffed or erratic. I loved the way that Bond plays with the structure of the novella, using multiple timelines and in-universe histories to flesh out her characters and world. This is a fun way to spend a few hours, and should not be missed.

Cover of The Fireborne Blade

Full review:

If you have hit a heavy reading slump, The Fireborne Blade might just be the book to pull you out of it.

The Fireborne Blade is a fast-paced novella featuring multiple timelines, in-universe histories, dragons, ghosts, magical swords, lesbians, mages, and more. It is all packaged in a tight story that is simultaneously deep in its characterization and heavy in its plotting. If adventuring and dragon hunting is something you want more of in your fantasy, this is the perfect way to spend a (or a couple) of afternoons!

The Fireborne Blade tells the story of Meddileh, one of the only women knights who after a disgraceful event now must go on a special quest – to kill the White Lady (a powerful dragon) and retrieve the Fireborne Blade. This is an adventure that feels timeless and classic, hearkening back to old-school fantasy adventures, while also feeling fresh and modern with feminist and queer themes running throughout the book.

But don’t get me wrong, this is not some political treatise. The Fireborne Blade is a fun adventure that you will want to devour in a single sitting. Parts of the novella are funny, while others are socially insightful, downright harrowing and scary, and others quite sweet and cozy. How Bond was able to maintain a symphony of tones within a short novella without them feeling they were clashing (and without giving the reader tonal whiplash) is quite the feat – and made this such a bingeable book. Every time I started to feel a bit antsy, the plot and tone shifted and drew me right back in.

You also have to add on a plot that is PACKED with twists and turns, alliances and betrayals. Nothing felt out of pocket and every twist felt earned (some are more predictable than others). And the ENDING, oh my the ending. I won’t say anything more, but there were a few revelations that really got me that I didn’t see coming at all. These are twists that might have felt a bit contrived in a full novel, but as a novella they are perfectly executed.

Bond also expertly plays with the structure of the narrative, shifting between two slightly different timelines (the present story and what was happening with the same characters six months ago), along with some in-universe histories/biographies of dragons and dragon-slayers. By playing with the narrative like this, Bond demonstrates the power of the novella format. While the time-jumping or constant shifts to the histories (which are really just thinly disguised info-dumps) might be tiresome or convoluted in a 500 page epic, The Fireborne Blade is so fast-paced that the jumps don’t feel jarring, but elucidating. Bond is quite efficient in her storytelling, building out a world (and a rather unique take on dragons and spirits) in just a few pages while also crafting 3-4 memorable characters with full histories, personalities, and motivations. I love novellas because they get to be more experimental than full-novels, while giving us more depth and time to dwell in these worlds and with these characters than short stories. It also helps that the info-dumping histories are quite clever and at times hilarious in their dry wit. I mostly hate epigraphs and in-world encyclopedias, but Bond makes them work beautifully here.

I ultimately had to make this a four star over a five star read because there just wasn’t that extra little bit of *spark* that I usually look for in my five star reads. Everything on the page was technically well done, but I ultimately found this book to be really enjoyable rather than an “all-time new favorite read”. I hope this doesn’t come across as being too critical of this book; it is still a wonderful novella that demonstrates the power of a shorter narrative that doesn’t skimp on plot, worldbuilding, or characters. To me a four star book is still a VERY GOOD book, and this one is very much worth your time (especially considering that it is quite short).

Nathan

Nathan is a PhD Candidate in Anthropology where he specializes in death rituals of the Ice Age in Europe and queer theory. Originally from Ohio, he currently lives in Kansas where he teaches college anthropology, watches too much TV, and attempts to make the perfect macarons in a humid climate. He is also the co-host of The Dragonfire podcast with James Lloyd Dulin. He reads widely in fantasy and sci-fi and is always looking for new favorites!

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