Incendiary has neatly shelved itself among my favourites. I immediately knew I would love this book when I read that it was inspired by the inquisition era of Spain. Much of my own country has been shaped by conquest, so I wanted to read Incendiary because I believed that I would find hope among its pages. Incendiary is a deeply written story of the horrors power inflicts upon the oppressed, the lives of those who survive through it and fight against it. At the centre of Incendiary is the story of a traumatized child who is guilty and raging for what was done to her. The story of a child who wishes to be seen as more than a weapon as she steps back into her nightmares to protect the vulnerable.
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INCENDIARY BY ZORAIDA CORDOVA
BOOK ONE OF HOLLOW CROWN
cover design by Aaron Munday
published on April 2020
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 // STORYGRAPH // AMAZON // BLACKWELL’S
TRIGGER WARNING: A SCENE DEPICTING EXECUTION, BLOOD, TORTURE, FOOD SCARCITY, BRAINWASHING, EMOTIONAL ABUSE
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Incendiary is story of oppression, revolution and hope. I had so much fun reading this book and I can honestly say that this will influence much of my future writing. Now, for the review.
In Incendiary, there a group of people called the Moria who have the ability to psychologically affect your mind. There are those who can peer into minds, those who can cast illusions, those who can persuade one’s senses and actions, and the rarest of them are those who can steal memories. The Moria are looked down upon because their powers are considered to be a sickness. Because of this belief, the Moria are hunted down and slaughtered. Even as this goes on, the King of Puerto Leones keeps what he calls the Hand Of Moria, the king’s private collection.
Ranata Cordova is a Moria who can steal memories, and is part of a group called the Whispers. The Whispers are rebel spies who work against the crown to protect the vulnerable citizens. When her commander and lover, Dez, is taken captive, Renata has only one goal in mind: kill the Bloodied Prince.
Incendiary begins with high action where we meet a unit of the Whispers, then slows down as Renata works to infiltrate the court life in Puerto Leones, and finally ends with spilled secrets. I love books that write about the oppressed fighting back and how hope can be found even in the smallest actions. Incendiary does much of that.
The main character, Renata, though a part of the Whispers is not trusted due to her history of having been used by the King when she was a child. The Whispers have not completely forgiven her for helping the King carry out many sieges and for the people whose memories she completely stole. The emotional manipulation Renata faced at the hands of the court and the constant reminder of what she did has pretty much messed Renata’s emotional and mental well-being. From what I’ve read, Renata seems to be suffering from the childhood trauma and the realization of the deaths she had caused. She believes that she doesn’t deserve kindness or forgiveness, much less the friendships that people like Sayida or Leo try to form with her. Having been used as a weapon by the King and now by the Whispers, Renata doesn’t see herself as anything more than that.
But when Dez is captured, Ren has to return back to the court, back to her abusers, in order to fulfill the mission of the Whispers and to find this secret weapon that is said to “cure” the Moria of their sickness. I noticed while reading that Renata’s perspective is laced with so much anger and self-deprecation. So, I would definitely caution you to keep that in mind before going into this book. She also tends to make plans without thinking them through, running into said plan only to end up in trouble. Even when people try to be friends with her Ren doesn’t trust them because she has been seen as a weapon or something to despise. The way the author wrote about how Ren deals with the trauma, with her missing memories, and the people around her was, in my opinion, quite emotional. Despite Ren’s mistakes, I really rooted for that girl because all she’s wanted was for people to see her not as a weapon or a Moria, but as a girl desperate for forgiveness.
The Bloodied Prince is not someone who gets much page time but through other’s memories and conversations, his presence is as strong as Renata’s. There are so many conflicting stories told about the prince, so many memories that seem to contradict each other that Renata is unable to puzzle out who the man behind the title is. Even without the page time, I love how the author was able to flesh out his character.
The writing in Incendiary was gorgeously gritty. I didn’t find it to be overly descriptive or flowerly but deep enough to convey emotions. I love the world we were introduced to; the politics, the Whispers and the Moria, and the dynamics of the society. The intrigue in the story kept building and building and even though I was able to figure out some of the plot twists, I was still surprised and impressed by how well they had been written. As I continued to read, I was constantly gripped by the mystery and the need to know what was happening! I can attest to the fact that this book made me hold my breath.
However, in spite of the grittiness and the brutality of the king’s rule, the author was still able to give so much hope through her character – main characters and side characters both. If you love books about spies, hard won friendships, morally grey characters, and stories about revolution, I highly recommend reading Incendiary!
🌺 What’s your recommended book with spies and betrayal?
🌺 Which historical event would you like to read a fictional retelling of?
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