Book Review \\ Incendiary (Hollow Crown 1)

This is a Spoiler Free book review for the first book in the “Hollow Crown” series,Incendiary*”, by Zoraida Córdova.

One Liner:

A dark Young Adult Fantasy rebellion story with hispanic/latin influences that explores the heavier experiences of humanity, betrayal, court politics, and deception while subverting common YA tropes.

Content Warnings

Death, Torture, Gore, Violence, Child Abduction, Genocide, Prejudice, PTSD-like symptoms, Betrayal, Death of Children, Battles/War, Bullying, Suicidal Thoughts, Mourning, Depression, Alcoholism, Vomit, Child Abuse, Medical Content, Colonisation, Confinement…

Goodreads Synopsis

I am Renata Convida.
I have lived a hundred stolen lives.
Now I live my own.

Renata Convida was only a child when she was kidnapped by the King’s Justice and brought to the luxurious palace of Andalucia. As a Robari, the rarest and most feared of the magical Moria, Renata’s ability to steal memories from royal enemies enabled 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 and helping the remaining Moria escape the kingdom bent on their destruction. The Whispers may have rescued Renata from the palace years ago, but she cannot escape their mistrust and hatred–or the overpowering memories of the hundreds of souls she turned “hollow” during her time in the palace.

When Dez, the commander of her unit, is taken captive by the notorious Sangrado Prince, Renata will do anything to save the boy whose love makes her place among the Whispers bearable. But a disastrous rescue attempt means Renata must return to the palace under cover and complete Dez’s top secret mission. Can Renata convince her former captors that she remains loyal, 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 entire fate of the kingdom–and end the war that has cost her everything.” –Goodreads

The Breakdown:

My Rating: (8.29/10)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Characters (8.5)

Córdova has created several beautifully flawed and realistically strong characters. It is easy to find a character to relate to somewhere in the story, and no character is without flaw. Córdova has shown the duality of human emotions and complexity of human individuals with a heavy hand in grief and pain but not without the presence of hope and love. She is also the master of deceit. You never know who to trust or even who is who, which does wonders for building reader intrigue.

My favorite characters are Castian and Leo, so far. I think Leo is funny and a needed light of joy in this otherwise very dark book. I love Castian, because there is so much depth to his character, and I can feel that we are on the cusp of experiencing that depth in the sequel.

Atmosphere (7)

The world that Córdova has conjured in this book is dark, brutal, and frankly realistic. There is always a vivd description of what the characters are experiencing in their environment that lends to the reader’s experience. This fantasy world isn’t only a beautiful one with magic and stunning culture, because at the same time it is steeped in a history of colonisation, war, violence, and poverty. Sounds a lot like our world, doesn’t it?

Writing (8.5)

In addition to an intriguing plot and characters, the writing is another thing that keeps the reader hooked. The writing is accessible, easy to digest, and of good quality. Not only is the writing easy and fun to read, but it also translates well into a listening experience with the audiobook.

I really enjoyed the writing in both the audiobook and physical book forms. For me, this book was a super quick read, but that may be because I listened to it on double speed…

Plot (9)

This rebel story is fast paced with a decent balance of character to plot. The action in this book is fun and keeps the reader fairly entertained when the story isn’t focusing heavily on character. Córdova has really mastered the balance between plot, world building, and character development. Nothing super riveting or unique happens in this book, but everything that does happen is well done and believable. The author made tasteful decisions that make sense with the story, so naturally it is a bit predictable. Predictable doesn’t have to equal bad or unsatisfying, because this book gets to those plot points in an interesting and unique way.

At no point did I feel bored during this story, and the pacing was just fast enough to feel action packed, and slow enough to properly develop the characters. I did predict most of the plot points in this book, but I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing.

Intrigue (10)

Because the fantasy world Córdova has created is so interesting, the plot well paced, and the characters so real, this book is highly addicting. It will be difficult to put this book down, because every chapter leaves you wanting more. The plot/tropes within this novel are not super unique or new, but they aren’t basic or overused either. It is a story we are familiar with in YA, but there are still so many intriguing parts and questions left unanswered, that it is still a satisfying read.

I had a hard time putting this book down, because I had to know what was going to happen next.

Logic (6)

At no point in this story did I question the logic of the world/plot, although this book does fall into the YA trope of a bunch of teenagers saving the world. Where are all the adults? Why are adults not helping?

Enjoyment (9)

I thoroughly enjoyed this reading experience and look forward to the sequel. This book surprised me in the best of ways and got me out of a reading slump. That’s all I can really ask for from a reading experience. I will definitely check out some of the author’s other series now that I know I enjoy her writing.

Thank you for checking out my review of Incendiary! If you enjoyed this piece, please consider checking out my other recent review for the graphic novel Star Beasts!

-Knight of Cups ❤

* Indicates affiliate links which help me to review more books and try more stationary. Thank you for supporting this passion of mine.


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