Incendiary (Hollow Crown #1)
I am Renata Convida.
I have lived a hundred stolen lives.
Now I live my own.
Renata was only a child when she was kidnapped by the King's Justice and brought to the luxurious palace of Andalucia. As a memory thief, the rarest and most feared of the magical Moria, Renata was used by the crown to carry out the King's Wrath, a siege that resulted in the deaths of thousands of her own people.
Now Renata is one of the Whispers, rebel spies working against the crown. The Whispers may have rescued Renata years ago, but she cannot escape their mistrust and hatred-or the overpowering memories of the hundreds of souls she drained during her time in the palace.
When Dez, the commander of her unit-and the boy she's grown to love-is taken captive by the notorious Principe Dorado, Renata must return to Andalucia and complete Dez's top secret mission herself. Can she keep her cover, even as she burns for vengeance against the brutal, enigmatic prince? Her life and the fate of the Moria depend on it.
But returning to the palace stirs childhood memories long locked away. As Renata grows more deeply embedded in the politics of the royal court, she uncovers a secret in her past that could change the fate of the entire kingdom-and end the war that has cost her everything.
Years ago, she was rescued by the rebellion, along with other Moria children being held in the castle, and she is now a part of this rebellion, the Whispers. Focused on her missions, she mostly ignores her feelings for Dez, the charismatic son of the leader of the Whispers. When he is captured by the prince, Castian, Renata knows that his death will be on her hands. Defying orders, she heads back to the castle, first to save him and then to avenge him.
As she reenters the court and tries to decide who is friend and who is foe, she must also contend with her own emotions, overwhelming hatred, and the memories she has stolen that threaten to overwhelm her.
What I loved: The world-building in this book was really fantastic, and I loved that we get both the political background as well as a bit of the mythology behind the magic that she and the Moria possess. The themes around memories, emotions, betrayals, revenge, and the complicated nature of all of it were particularly interesting, and I appreciated seeing Renata's inner struggle and her attempts to view those around her as evil or good. Her personal growth happens by leaps and bounds in the story, and her character was particularly compelling. I was also intrigued by other characters, and I am curious to see whether/how they will develop in the next book.
What left me wanting more: As a small point, there were a few points in the book that felt particularly slow compared to the rest of the pacing, and I am not sure I fully understand their significance as the story seemed to stall out a bit. I also wanted to understand a bit more about Ren's magic and how she has learned to control/use it as well as the storage of memories (we hear a bit about the Gray, a mental barrier she has built, but I was a bit confused about why/which memories were there).
Final verdict: With intriguing world-building and compelling characters, INCENDIARY is an engaging YA fantasy that I am eager to continue. I will definitely be seeking out the second book. Recommend for fans of FABLE, THE SHADOWS BETWEEN US, and ASH PRINCESS.