Firedragon Rising

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for The Firedragon. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Firedragon Rising was written by Mary Fan and first published in 2015. It is a fantasy novella that is set in a world where the magical elite rule over powerless “Norms” with an iron fist. The novella follows on from where The Firedragon (2014) left off and the two stories combined form a prequel to Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil, which was published earlier this year.

It has been three months since Aurelia Sun survived the International Challenge, becoming the first Norm to ever defeat a Fangbeast in combat. Yet she is the only person who knows this. The Triumvirate have done everything in their power to hide her victory, claiming that she was saved from death by a Sentinel. Now she knows for sure that they cannot be trusted. Problem is, they know that she knows.

Following an act of defiance towards Headmaster Everett, Aurelia realises that she has to escape. Helped by both Williams and Connor, she arms herself and steals a motorcycle from the school. Her goal is to reach a safe-house used by the Rising which is hidden deep within the Wasteland. Yet getting there will be difficult, even for her. The Wasteland is filled with supernatural monsters and the Sentinels are hot on her tail. If she is captured, it will likely mean the end for her and all that she holds dear.

However, Aurelia is the Firedragon and is confident that she can defeat anything that stands in her way. Her years of Defender training have taught her everything that she needs to know to go toe to toe with horrible monsters. But it has not prepared her for all the horrors that lie outside of the city. What will she do when she finds herself faced by Dark Enchanters and spirits that are immune to all physical attacks?

If you enjoyed reading The Firedragon, chances are very good that you will also enjoy this second instalment of the series. It does not really stand on its own very well as it feels a lot more like the second half of Aurelia’s story. In The Firedragon, we witnessed the moment that she discovered the corruption of the Triumvirate – the trio of powerful “Enchanters” who rule society. In Firedragon Rising, Aurelia finally makes her stand in the form of a daring escape to join the rebellion against them.

The setting of this novella shows just as much promise as the first instalment, but also shares the same flaws. Fan’s world-building seems very impressive. It introduces a dystopian setting that feels refreshingly different, in the form of a world that feels like a cross between Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. The social strata has a strict hierarchy, with the magical Triumvirate at the top and orphaned Norms at the bottom.

However, the ideas did feel a little too big for such a short novella. The 80 pages of Firedragon Rising just are not enough to give more than a whistle-stop tour of Fan’s world. For example, we still don’t know exactly how magic works in this world. There is no reason why some people have magic and others do not, or what it involves beyond wand-waving. It’s also kind of vague how the world came to be as it is. It’s implied that this story is set in our far future, yet it’s not really explained how society broke down, or how much of the world has been affected.

The plot also takes a little while to get moving, which is problematic in such a short story. As with The Firedragon, the early chapters are a bit of a slog to get through due to the sheer amount of exposition. For example, the first chapters is devoted to detailing a conversation that Aurelia overhears between two characters. This conversation purely exists to summarise the world-building and events of the previous novella. While this exchange is clumsy at best, it is made all the worse for the fact that it begins with the words “as you know”. This further emphasises the fact that this lengthy exchange is just for the reader’s benefit. Why else would two characters openly discuss matters that should be common knowledge for them?

I also found that Aurelia’s chain of consciousness could be tiring to read due to the sheer number of colloquialisms that she uses. I appreciate that this is a personal gripe but the text, including the non-dialogue, was littered with colourful little turns of phrase that were repeated constantly over the course of the short novella. Aurelia never slays a monster, she always “ganks” it. The man who murdered her mother was never a monster or bastard, but was a “slime-ball”. This never really sat right with me as it didn’t feel natural for a teenager – even a future teenager – to talk in this way. Every time the text used a slang term like this, it took me out of the moment.

Still, as Aurelia’s quest got underway, the story did speed up significantly and became a rather exciting read. Although a couple of new characters are thrown in at the eleventh hour, I presume that their roles are going to be expanded in the first true Flynn Nightsider book. The story ends at the perfect moment, bringing this mini-adventure to a close but leaving me curious about what will become of Aurelia next.

Unfortunately, my biggest issue with Firedragon Rising is still the fact that I could not connect with Aurelia at all. She was a bit too strong – a character who was so aggressively written that she did not seem to have any flaws. She was brave to the point of rashness, insolent and had complete confidence in her mastery of all weapons. She knew that she was the most skilled and powerful cadet – even stronger than the students who could use magic – and was portrayed as having a near photographic memory. Any one of these could have been turned into a character flaw but, no, Aurelia was just portrayed as being all powerful. This quickly became tiresome.

Because Aurelia was so over-powered, she did not even need to worry about her complete lack of common-sense. In an early chapter, she openly threatens the Headmaster of her school – something which Fan tells the reader moments before could spell death for a Norm – and naturally just walks away from this. Because she can. Because she is the protagonist. I don’t really have any explanation other than this. Actions like this just made Aurelia feel young. Despite the fact that she was supposedly fifteen, Aurelia talks and acts more like a child.

Anyhow, I don’t really have a lot more to say. Firedragon Rising is very short and certainly has its flaws but it did serve to whet my appetite. It left me curious to find out how Fan will expand her world in Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil. Watch this space to find out what I think after I tackle the first full-length instalment of this series in a few weeks’ time.

Firedragon Rising can be purchased as an eBook on

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil | Arkham Reviews

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