This book also adds a new perspective of Griff, a dragonrider who is also a servant and lives a life constantly under threat of his own well-being and that of his family. Though he had been somewhat protected by the head of the dragonriders, Julia, her death sparks even more dangerous changes for New Pythos and for him personally as her cruel and vindictive brother, Ixion, takes the lead. As a lower class dragonrider, Griff's dragon is muzzled, and he can only follow orders. He also spends all the time not riding tending to the higher born dragonriders. Although it may have seemed like a great opportunity, it was really another form of oppression.
All three are evaluating, fighting, and trying to do their best for their countries and friends - with political plots, rebellions, and the dangers of power, this is no easy task.
What I loved: FLAMEFALL is so much more than just a middle book in a trilogy. This book is absolutely fantastically written and thoroughly plotted. It is riveting right from the start and keeps the reader turning pages all the way until the shocking, cliffhanger end. The characters here are beautifully developed with complexity, realness, and multi-faceted personalities. The reader can understand their motivations, the difficulty of the decisions they face, and their reasons for their paths forward - as well as the complexity of the paths to get there. In an uncertain world with problems on every side, the enemies here are less clear than they may have seemed.
The themes of the book were really thought-provoking and beautifully displayed. These included discussions around war and the balance of win/loss, where even a "win" may feel like a loss with the toll and lives it can take. The stratification of society and systematic oppression was also really clear. Although no longer determined by socioeconomic class, the metals system of Callipolis introduces a new form of systematic oppression for people who do not take standardized tests well. It simply has a different veneer. In New Pythos, we see another example where those who are born into higher socioeconomic classes have all the power and control, simply because of their birth. The discussions around these are anything but simple, and the book raises some really great discussion questions about equality, distribution, and the trouble with politics/political power.
Classism is pervasive throughout as well, and in New Pythos, this is confounded with race where the Norcians are servants/slaves to the higher classes who have the dragons- but are the dragons merely the tools of oppression or are they part of the problem? That is a question that all countries will have to answer, particularly considering the way that other surrounding countries are run.
The complexity of rebellion, society, politics, and decisions in this series is really intriguing. Nothing is black and white, and I appreciated the way the sides are presented and the understanding that leads characters to make their own decisions about where they will stand when everything collapses around them.
As someone who appreciates romance as a secondary plot, the new romance we see, as well as the way consent develops and the ripples it has for the events about to unfold, was a great addition to the story. I also really enjoyed the plot twists throughout- this book shocked me and left me reeling several times. I also actually cried at a few places - this story is so immersive and the emotions so strong that it is hard not to get pulled into these characters' lives and grief.
Final verdict: Riveting, atmospheric, and thought-provoking, FLAMEFALL is a stunning YA fantasy read that will leave the reader breathless. Highly recommend for fans of RED QUEEN, SHATTER THE SKY, and THRONE OF GLASS.