The Firedragon: A Flynn Nightsider Tale by Mary Fan
Publisher: Glass House Press
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure
Length: Short Story (67 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe
Almost a hundred years ago, the Enchanters defeated the Lord of the Underworld in one of the most fearsome wars the world had ever seen. The public thinks that this victory means the people are safe. But they’re wrong. The supernatural beasts the Lord unleashed remain on the earth, multiplying and ravaging what’s left of civilization. As long as these monsters exist, mankind will be in danger. And though the government, ruled by the magic-wielding Enchanters, seeks to protect their people, they are too few in number. They need the Defenders – a special class of non-magical humans – to fight the monsters. The Defenders are an elite force, and mankind’s only hope against the horrors that live beyond their gates.
Fourteen-year-old Aurelia “the Firedragon” Sun has been training since she could walk to become a Defender, and her extraordinary combat skills have earned the attention of the powerful government. In fact, she’s been tapped to represent her nation in an international monster-fighting competition, which pits champions from across the globe against creatures of the Underworld in a violent spectacle. If she wins, she will become a full-fledged member of the Defender force.
But as Aurelia moves deeper into the competition, she realizes that all is not as it appears. There’s something sinister behind the competition, something that could change the way she sees everything … and the Enchanters, it seems, are not the heroes she thought. Aurelia begins to ask questions. But before she can discover the truth, she is pitted against the most dangerous monster in the competition – one that will take her life if it can.
It’s never easy to crush stereotypes, but that’s what Aurelia will need to do if she has any hope of becoming a Defender.
The monsters Aurelia encounters during the competition made my skin crawl. Some of them were introduced without any explanation at all of what Aurelia was facing. This made figuring out why they were such a threat even more intriguing. Their abilities – magical and otherwise – are a big reason why the age recommendation is 14+. Some of the scenes that describe them would definitely not be appropriate for younger readers, although older teens and adults will find a lot of creepy stuff between these pages.
It would have been helpful to have more world-building as the plot progressed. The glimpses into Aurelia’s society were fascinating, and I hope they will be more fully explored in the full-length sequel that will be published early next year from what I’ve read. I understand why the author wouldn’t want to give everything away so early, but there were a few times when I really could have used slightly more detailed explanations about exactly how their institutionalized discrimination affects the daily lives of everyone who isn’t born with magical powers.
While I’m looking forward to seeing what Aurelia does next, I was quite pleased by how well everything was wrapped up in her first adventure. The Firedragon is most definitely a standalone story, and that’s something that matters a lot to me when I’m debating whether or not to continue on with a series. My appetite has been whetted for more!
I’d heartily recommend The Firedragon to anyone who loves science fiction that’s set in the distant future.