Author: Adrienne Woods
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Version: ARC – eBook (Uncorrected Proof)
Page Count: N/A
Publisher: Fire Quill Publishing
Notable Notables: Well, the cover’s nice
Recommended Readers: I cannot in good conscience recommend this to anyone
Thank you, NetGalley, for offering this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Okay, that was… Bad. Like My Immortal but with dragons bad.
I originally chose this ARC of Firebolt by Adrienne Woods to read for a few reasons. 1) I was a new reviewer, trying to bolster my review rate, and it was available to read. 2) The synopsis sounded pretty cool! A girl learns dragons exist after a group of them kill her father, who has secretly also been a dragon all this time, and now she has to cope with this new reality—and this new world—she’s been thrown into. Yeah, sounds neat. 3) The rating for it on Goodreads was solid, and that site’s usually harsher than others, so I figured it was a safe bet that this would be an enjoyable read.
But I was wrong. So very wrong.
It didn’t start off bad. Sure, the writing was a tad on the basic side, more suited to much younger readers, but the opening scenes with Elena and her father were fairly strong. A sense of urgency gripped the scene, with her dad warning Elena that they have to go now, and she’s never understood why her mother abandoned them both and why they’ve lived on the run, never staying in one place for too long. The dragon attack built up the action, and Elena’s disbelief was written believably and organically.
But then she’s taken to Paegeia, a land hidden on Earth by a magical barrier that separates dragonkind and the humans that know about them from the outside world, and everything goes downhill from there.
First, the land, including its school Dragonia, is floating in the air because of magic (right, of course), and Elena remarks time and again how she keeps looking in the sky for dragons, but she never sees any. Do you want to know why she never sees any, dear reader? Because every dragon is a shapeshifter, and they can look 100% human, and they decide to pretty much stay like that almost 100% of the time. They never just…fly around because, well, no logical reason is ever given, honestly. (In fact, logic and sense are missing from the majority of this book.)
What a completely boring choice not to mention completely unrealistic. What self-respecting dragon, a true force of nature, would want to look human all the time, especially all the teenage dragons? That’s not…a good time to be human. Teenage years are not and should not be your prime years.
Oh, and it gets better. What are these dragons’ names, you ask? Well, we meet one named Samantha, who is one of Elena’s roommates, and it was at that moment I knew this book was a joke. That was before I met other dragons named George and Brian (Brian???), who refers to himself in third person. For some reason.
But the one that I could not believe, that I could not abide, was the name of the dragon who is apparently going to grow up to be the evilest dragon ever if he doesn’t find his dent (I’ll get to that nonsense in a minute). And his name…is Blake Leaf.
Blake. Leaf. Are you fucking kidding me? Blake is what you name your prophesied evil dragon, and you’re completely serious about it?? I won’t even get into the Leaf thing because Blake???
I didn’t even care by this point that there was a human prince named Lucien (finally, a proper fantasy name) because his last name turned out to be McKenzie, and I cannot. I just cannot do this at all. This is ridiculous. It’s like the author looked up Top American Baby Names in the 2000’s and just went buck wild.
The rest of the plot is absolutely nonsensical, so I won’t get into it. Let me explain about the dent thing, though. This is basically some soulmate nonsense, just with a different word. Basically, a dragon has their perfect dragon rider floating somewhere out there in the world, according to prophecy or what have you. If a dragon finds their One True Love, er, I mean, rider and vice versa, they form a dent, a bond that is stronger than anything, so much so that they usually become lovers and blah, blah, blah.
The worst part about this? If a dragon hates their dent even after they’ve been Claimed, that literally doesn’t matter because they will become lovesick puppies over their rider in a few days, undergoing an entire shift in personality that is as jarring as it is permanent. Why? I have no idea. I don’t know if it’s the magic or the bond itself or some other bizarre thing because
As for our protagonist, Elena, she becomes completely intolerable to read very quickly. For one thing, she starts acting like an immediate brat, not wanting to learn anything. Not Latin which is required to do magic, not dragon biology which could help her understand them, and definitely not any history of this brand new world because she decides they’re “dumb,” “too hard,” and that “the past should remain in the past.” As someone who values knowledge and learning new things, particularly if it meant learning about something completely foreign to me, I wanted to dropkick Elena off the floating, magical continent and put us all out of our misery.
I also couldn’t go a few pages without reading about the “one lone tear falling down her cheek before she wipes it away.” God, I got intimately familiar with that phrase, and it bred so much contempt within me. Elena cries about everything. She cries because dragons are real. She cries because something scared her. She cries because she fell down. She cries because Lucien doesn’t like her. She cries because he does. She cries because Lucien’s a prince, and they shouldn’t be together. She cries because she doesn’t know how she can live without him. She cries because a mean girl said something super mean to her (wow, what are the odds?). She cries because she’s going to fail her dragon classes. She cries because she thinks she’s losing her mind. On and on, she cries and cries. I wanted to reach into the book and give her something to actually cry about.
And oh, the falling down thing… She’s clumsy, to the point where she can’t seem to stay on her feet without someone’s help. Because, hey, if I didn’t hate her enough, let’s just tack on this awful character trait to give to a whiny girl. Only Usagi Tsukino aka Sailor Moon can get away with that and make it charming, and that’s because she’s actually likable and competent at the end of the day.
After Elena and Lucien start dating, which happens early on and out of nowhere, I spent the remainder of my time nauseated. Seriously, how can anyone write a book that involves dragons and then decide to focus the majority of the text on a flaccid romance between two irritating and tedious humans? If for some reason you still want to venture forth and read this, prepare for endless times where he kisses her shoulder to comfort her, where he puts his arm around her, where they “kiss passionately” (that’s it; that’s all the description you get), or they say shit like, “I only have eyes for you, Lucian McKenzie.”
Or they have bizarre exchanges like this (bold mine):
“THREE!” I yelled at him. (Why are you yelling?) “So he’s got more?! Lucian, what if you’re just wasting your time? I mean, you know of only three abilities. What if he uses another one that might claim your life?” I could feel my voice rising. (Girl, you’re already yelling. Where are we going?)
“Elena, I have no choice. I promised him!” Lucien threw his hands up in aggravation.
“You were only kids!” I shook my head, trying to understand.
“I can’t break my promise and let him become evil. Urgh! Forget it. You’re just a girl who knows nothing. You’ll never understand.”
Elena, I don’t even like you, girl, but dump him.
As badly written and not charming as Lucien turns out to be, Elena steals the spotlight from him time and again with how unstable she is. I’m not sure she could function if she was real.
“Do you think you’re up for a fancy affair at the palace next weekend? It’s my mom’s birthday, and you would do me such a big favor if you came.”
“Lucien, please,” I begged. “I’m not ready to meet your parents or go to a fancy party. Sorry.”
“It’s fine. However, it’s something we need to fix. Otherwise it’s going to become a huge problem.” I had to suppress my smile. “You know, if it was any other girl, they wouldn’t hesitate to come.”
“I’m not any other girl,” I snapped back, hating how people always compared me to others.
“That you aren’t,” he agreed, and I laughed at how formal he sounded.
How many emotions did we just run through in one short exchange? Four? Jesus. I just got whiplash. Is she okay?
Every character and relationship in this book was like watching cardboard interact, and not the fun, stand-up kind of a favorite character you can buy and put in your house. Everything was either repetitive, super emotional and dramatic for no reason (see above, or below, or anything in this review, really), or just plain absurd. I did not believe anything about this world or the over-hyped stakes in it. I didn’t believe the prophesies or the supposedly evil villains that were waiting to swoop in. I especially didn’t believe in the Harry Potter-like attempt at magic classes because there wasn’t any magic in the text to be found, and that’s a sad thing to say about a book that has dragons in it.
I truly do not care to read any more of this series, and I regret reading what I already have. I can’t think of a single person on which I would willingly subject this entire book.
I will, however, continue to subject you, dear reader, to parts of it. Oh yes. If I had to suffer, then you are going to suffer with me. Let’s look at some more of these finely written passages together, shall we?
First up is how Elena feels about her dragon classes. You know, the ones she’s failing and won’t pay attention to ever because she’s too busy daydreaming about Lucien or looking forward to lunch.
“I can understand why people from the other side are going mental. Subjects here are completely the opposite of what we’re used to. If I told them that we fight here with swords and axes and it is mandatory, they would think I’m nuts.”
But then a few pages later, this happens:
“What did you learn in school then?” [Cheng] asked.
“Almost the same as in Dragonia.”
Elena, sweetie. You literally just said that the subjects in dragon land are completely different from what you’re used to. But it turns out you’re just talking about the one single combat class you have. Okay, okay, okay.
This same character, Cheng, she goes on to describe as:
He wasn’t oriental, as I imagined he would be, and looked like he was a true ethnic mix.
1) Writers everywhere: Do not refer to any Asian character you have–or any character, really–as “oriental” omg that’s so bad.
2) What the fuck is a “true ethnic mix”???
I don’t think I’m really selling to you, dear reader, on how bad this writing is, so check out the following passage. This is what a typical dialogue exchange looks like between Elena and all the other cardboard characters:
“Then why don’t I get anything, Cheng?” I said, tossing my hands in the air.
“Give yourself some time, woman. You’ll get there,” he assured me in a very patient tone. It was as if he knew something I didn’t.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day, or so I’ve heard,” he joked, and it worked, making me smile. “You put so much pressure on yourself, why do you do that?”
“It’s stupid, you’ll laugh,” I spoke, turning my face away.
I took a deep breath. I might as well tell him. I had told him everything so far, and I felt as though I could trust him with my life. “I’ve never felt so alive.”
He just looked at me and frowned.
Yeah, me too, Cheng.
God, where do I begin? The fact that she actually believes she can trust this side character with her life, but they’ve only been talking for maybe an hour tops? The cringe-worthy delivery of the dialogue? The comma splices? The way Elena puts pressure on herself because it “makes her feel alive,” as if that reason makes any kind of sense on both a literal and narrative level? The “woman” comment and how Cheng is, for some reason, talking to her like a very simple child? (Which, okay, fair. She is an idiot. Everyone knows something she doesn’t. It isn’t difficult.) Do you get why this was agony to read yet?
This isn’t counting the annoying way a character in this book comes up with her own words like verautiful (that’s a cross between “very” and “beautiful” for all you uncool kids out there not hip to the latest lingo); how the principal of the dragon school repeatedly airs Elena’s dirty laundry for some inconceivable reason, informing the entire student body at one point that Elena’s mother, who abandoned her, died from the plague (this book is taking place in modern times, despite the fantasy world, and he goes with the plague??); or how the novel values a girl’s “maidenhood” and whether or not she’s still “intact.” Someone please gag me, and explain to this author that virginity is a myth, and it doesn’t even matter. For God’s sake, the main character is sixteen! Maybe we shouldn’t emphasize a minor’s sexual purity as being an actual plot device.
Oh, yes, Elena’s virginity is extremely important. It’s the reason she can enter a magical cave from which only five other women before her have emerged alive (because, you guessed it, they were virgins, too). It’s the reason why she’s allowed to clear these rigorous and dangerous tasks, which include:
- A sliding tile puzzle
- One door that tells a lie and one that tells the truth
- A straight and narrow obstacle course, of which American Ninja Warrior puts to utter shame, that has some blades coming at her sometimes
- An excruciatingly difficult riddle, a true mindbender: It is greater than God and more evil than the devil. The poor have it, the rich need it, and if you eat it you’ll die.
A little fun fact about me. I suck at riddles. I am so bad at them because I think too hard about them. But even I know this one, and this was supposed to be the ~final test~. Are you serious?
There are a million more complaints about Firebolt and how bad it was I could make, like how I legit read with my own two eyes:
Compared to the other dragons, her lips were lush and full, as defined facial bones highlighted her fiery eyes.
Wow, a dragon with lush, full lips; that is terrifying and disgusting. Have we learned nothing from Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? It’s choices like these that are the reason why God no longer talks to us.
Instead of rambling on, I’ll leave you with this final piece of attempted poetry:
The leaves of change will come at last, when the fate of two heart’s bond is cast. Souls intertwined and hearts no longer torn, through their love Paegeia will once again be reborn.
“This is beautiful,” I said after reading the paragraph.
No, it really isn’t.