Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Last of the Firedrakes (The Chronicles of Avalonia #1), by Farah Oomerbhoy

Wise Ink Creative Publishing, ISBN 9781940014708, August 2015

So much fun.

And so much idiot plot.

Aurora Darlington is sixteen years old, and, after having been adopted by loving parents at about two years old, has recently been orphaned by the deaths of both her parents and is now living with her aunt and uncle.

Her aunt, uncle, and cousin Cornelia are not at all affectionate or kind, but she's safe, warm, and fed. Things could be worse. The only thing she knows about her original parents is that she was found with a note saying her name was Aurora, and with the medallion she still wears all the time.

It's a surprise when Uncle Christopher pulls her and her cousin Cornelia out of school to go on a family trip to a manor house outside London, putatively owned by Christopher's boss at the bank where he works. It's a bigger shock when she finds out the purpose is for Christopher to effectively sell her to Lord Oleck, who arrives through a tapestry that is a gateway to an alternate world.

Oleck says she's Aurora Firedrake, only survivor of the Firedrake dynasty that ruled the kingdom of Illiador, until her father was betrayed by his half-sister Morgana. Morgana, who has suspected for years that Aurora was alive, has finally tracked her down and wants her back so she can be safely and finally killed. This is obviously a terrible development for Aurora, but it also answers some questions she's had for a long time.

There are more revelations to come. Aurora escapes from Oleck with the help of a fae named Kalen and a mage/apparent outlaw named Rafe, who goes by the colorful name of the Black Wolf. When she tells them what Oleck told her about her family, they take her first to Kalen's mother Mrs. Plumbleberry, and then to her granduncle, the Duke of Silverthorn.

Aurora still has living family.

She also has mage powers of her own.

And her living family intends, after she's had an education that will equip her for life in Illiandor, to overthrow Morgana and place her on her father's throne.

I love the characters. Good and bad, friend and foe, they have plausible motivations and mostly not-crazy plans. The magic system is interesting, and while I've only mentioned Illiandor, the world is plausibly complex, with countries that seem to be of plausible size given the state of the technology.

But.

Aurora, much as I love her, keeps doing willfully stupid things. Yes, this is a whole new world she doesn't know anything about at first, and a lot of this is "smart, idealistic, headstrong teenager" kind of stupid. That is, it is stupid, but it's totally believable given the kind of smart kid Aurora is. Yet there's too much of it, and some of it is Aurora continuing to apply the standards of 21st century suburbia in a world where she's had several very direct, personal experiences of people trying to do her serious harm because she's a political threat.

There are also fiddly bits that I think a stronger editor would have caught, such as Aurora being very surprised that her uncle's boss, apparently a very senior bank executive (since Christopher himself does not appear to be at all junior), is titled. Perhaps I'm wrong, but that seems to me to be not surprising at all.

It's also worth noting that this is the first in a series, and while some story lines are tied up in this volume, the big ones are not, and we are left at the end with Aurora and friends heading off into fairly reckless danger.

Still, this is a fun book, and I look forward to more. Recommended for light reading.

I received a free electronic galley from the author.