Fireborne (The Aurelian Cycle #1)
By: Rosaria Munda
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 15th, 2019
Game of Thrones meets Red Rising in a debut young adult fantasy that’s full of rivalry, romance… and dragons.
Annie and Lee were just children when a brutal revolution changed their world, giving everyone—even the lowborn—a chance to test into the governing class of dragonriders.
Now they are both rising stars in the new regime, despite backgrounds that couldn’t be more different. Annie’s lowborn family was executed by dragonfire, while Lee’s aristocratic family was murdered by revolutionaries. Growing up in the same orphanage forged their friendship, and seven years of training have made them rivals for the top position in the dragonriding fleet.
But everything changes when survivors from the old regime surface, bent on reclaiming the city.
With war on the horizon and his relationship with Annie changing fast, Lee must choose to kill the only family he has left or to betray everything he’s come to believe in. And Annie must decide whether to protect the boy she loves . . . or step up to be the champion her city needs.
From debut author Rosaria Munda comes a gripping adventure that calls into question which matters most: the family you were born into, or the one you’ve chosen.
1) A book goes through a lot of different versions and rounds of editing before it’s complete. What are some “fun facts” or behind the scenes info you can share about the characters from your book or the world you created for it that may or may not have made it to the final draft of the book?
Well, in the very very beginning, the dragons were fighter planes! The original idea was sparked by a summer spent listening to audiobooks about the Blitz while driving to my summer job. But dragons ended up being more my speed—and more fun!
Two big elements of Fireborne—the Firstrider Tournament and Julia—used to have much smaller roles. The tournament was over in the first chapter or so, and Julia didn’t appear until the very end of the book. A big part of revising for publication was stretching both events in both directions.
2) Who was your favorite character to write and who gave you the most trouble?
Crissa was probably my favorite. She’s a secondary character but she’s just an all-around great person with a good sense of humor. I always felt I could hear her voice so easily whenever I wrote her dialogue.
Probably my hardest was Annie! I wanted to balance courage and ambition with self-doubt, and that’s a tough balance to make. But I was really happy with the way her arc ended up when revisions were done.
3) What scene from the book are you most proud of (because of how you handled the atmosphere, characters, dialogue, etc)? Is there a scene that you had difficulty with and just had to “power through” to finish the book? Or a scene that made you very emotional?
I think the scene in the book that I remember most vividly writing was Chapter 16, Holbin Hill. It’s really the scene that I gets the heart of Annie and Lee’s relationship—when she takes him home to the village where she once lived, that was once ruled by his father, and they finally confront the history of what his father did to her family. It’s a confrontation they’ve been avoiding since they were kids, and it’s both very painful and very cathartic for both of them. In a way, it felt like I was writing the entire book to get to this scene, and when it was time to write it, I wrote the whole chapter in one sitting—which I rarely do. It has remained the emotional heart of the book even as so many other parts of it changed in revisions, and is probably the chapter that has changed least since the first draft.
4) You have mentioned before that Plato’s Republic inspired your novel, can you elaborate on that, what other research or reading did you do? What were some go to books that were staples during your research and were there any deep dives you took into research for specific scenes or aspects of the book’s world?
Sure! So I studied the Republic in college and remember thinking, this would make a great YA dystopian novel! A big concept in the Republic is that, in order to set up a perfectly just city, you’d have to choose a few promising youngsters early and raise them to become leaders of the new regime—they’re called Guardians. Most scholars agree Plato intended the Republic as a thought experiment rather than a blueprint for a workable political structure, but I found myself wondering—why would a culture ever consent to pick its rulers as children? And then I thought of dragons, and the trope of dragons choosing their riders as children. I imagined that perhaps, in a dragonriding society, Plato’s plan would seem like a good option.
Another text I drew from a lot, on a very literal level of quotations, was Virgil’s Aeneid. The students in Fireborne are enrolled in a translation class not unlike the one I took in Latin as a high schooler, and the lines they translate in that class are adapted from my high school translations of the Aeneid!
You also can read my more detailed explanations of the influence of the Aeneid and Republic on my website.
5) What else inspired you to write FIREBORNE? A personal experience or memory, an idea to turn a trope on its head, an innocuous thought that turned into something larger?
Fireborne has been bouncing around in my head in different forms for years. Most early on, I was inspired by military academy stories like Ender’s Game, and histories of fighter pilots during the Blitz—I’ve always found stories of lost innocence and difficult choices in the face of wartime pressure deeply compelling.
Another big influence was also the time I spent working in Paris. Learning about the Terror and the ways its imprint could be found all over the city—in churches that had been destroyed, or royal graves that had been exhumed—was fascinating. I’d always been sceptical of the YA formula of revolution as a panacea to corrupt regimes, and I wondered what a YA novel looked like that explored the dirty underside of revolution—the excesses that often followed the deposing of the old regime and the cyclical nature of violence.
And I wanted to explore how teens would navigate inheriting that kind of world. Particularly Lee, who is really stuck between a rock and a hard place—as an aristocrat from the old regime, he lost everything during the Revolution, but that’s what makes him relate so well to Annie, a peasant girl who lost everything before the Revolution—whose own suffering forces him to reevaluate whether he should be seeking vengeance for his family’s murders, or atonement for their crimes.
6) Before you go, can you describe FIREBORNE in five words or less? How about your main characters, Annie and Lee?
I usually describe FIREBORNE as either “Ender’s Game with dragons” or “Plato’s Republic with dragons”! My shorthand for Annie and Lee is usually, a former serf and a dragonlord’s son.
7) Finally, what is your favorite quote from FIREBORNE?
I don’t know if I have a favorite quote, but I do like this paragraph. It’s a moment when the protagonist and antagonist finally realize that they have come to a permanent impasse—but they’re still filled with respect for each other, even at the end.
“I had meant to add more, to explain myself, but I realize now there’s no need. She does not agree with me; she will not. We’ve reached the bounds of reason and have come to the threshold of belief. I would not do her the dishonor of imagining that her beliefs have been any less hard-won than mine.”
Rosaria grew up in rural North Carolina, where she climbed trees, read Harry Potter fanfiction, and taught herself Latin. She studied political theory at Princeton and lives in Chicago with her husband and cat.
For book recs and updates, follow her on instagram: @rosariamunda
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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us. The author info, image, giveaway, and more were provided by The Fantastic Flying Book Club.