Illusionary by Zoraida Cordova – A Review

Hi! It’s been a while. I’ve fallen into a creative slump, and then it was my birthday (I turned 28!) so this review is a few days late.

Illusionary by Zoraida Cordova
  • Publication date: May 11th 2021
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • Genre: Fantasy

Reeling from betrayal at the hands of the Whispers, Renata Convida is a girl on the run. With few options and fewer allies, she’s reluctantly joined forces with none other than Prince Castian, her most infuriating and intriguing enemy. They’re united by lofty goals: find the fabled Knife of Memory, kill the ruthless King Fernando, and bring peace to the nation. Together, Ren and Castian have a chance to save everything, if only they can set aside their complex and intense feelings for each other.

With the king’s forces on their heels at every turn, their quest across Puerto Leones and beyond leaves little room for mistakes. But the greatest danger is within Ren. The Gray, her fortress of stolen memories, has begun to crumble, threatening her grip on reality. She’ll have to control her magics–and her mind–to unlock her power and protect the Moria people once and for all.

For years, she was wielded as weapon. Now it’s her time to fight back.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Incendiary took me a while to get properly into and I really didn’t like Renata as a main character. I still enjoyed the book, especially some of the supporting characters and the world and magic system. After finishing it, I was looking forward to learning more about everything – I didn’t quite realise it was a duology. That being said, I think Illusionary wrapped up the story quite well, and it was a satisfying conclusion.

While the first book focused more on the rebellion and had Renata confused about her powers, alliances and love life, and therefore annoying, Illusionary focuses more on her character growth and the magic, which is definitely the strongest aspect of this series. It definitely made me like her more as a character – I think she grew into the person she was meant to be from the very first page, the powerful and badass woman, and she really realised where she belonged.
My favourites remain Leo and Castian, though. Honestly, if the story revolved around those 2 and Lady Nuria from the first book, I think those would easily be 5 star reads.

This book was fast paced and exciting. So much happened in this installment, but it didn’t feel rushed. We found out a lot about the world, how and why the rebellion started. It was a perfect mix of action, character development and back story. And it all led to a satisfying conclusion.

I really enjoyed Illusionary and I’m looking forward to picking up more by Zoraida Cordova in the future. I think, although YA fantasy has a lot to offer that is similar to this story in plot, this duology is definitely worth a read, as Cordova’s voice is distinctive and strong.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Will you be picking up this duology? Or have you read it already? What did you think?

Thank you for reading. Talk soon!

Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova – A Review

Hi! Happy release date to Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova. I was lucky enough to read an early copy, so here’s my review.

Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova
  • Publication date: April 28th 2020
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
  • Genre: Fantasy

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.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Incendiary is an introduction to Zoraida Córdova’s writing for me, even though I’ve had a few of her other books on my TBR for a while. This book has been hyped up for months and I requested it without really thinking I’ll get approved. Surprisingly, I did!

The plot had me intrigued, being loosely based on the Spanish Inquisition, with the main character having magic powers to steal people’s memories. It sounded right up my alley. Rebels, spies, magic – overall, my reading experience was positive.

The book throws you in the deep end from the start, giving very little explanation as to what is going on, which left me quite confused. I don’t usually like that in books, as I find it slows down the pace, because I’m constantly trying to figure out what’s happening. I needed a good while to get my bearings and be able to follow the story. But once I was in, I was hooked.

Renata, the main character, is a Robari, which means she can steal memories with a simple touch. It makes her a really powerful weapon. Kidnapped as a child by the king’s people and used for her magic, plagued by other people’s memories and not being able to remember her own, she finds it difficult to find her place in the world and it doesn’t change when she joins the Whispers, a group of rebel spies.

Though there are plenty of YA fantasies out there with a similar plot line, Incendiary was and enjoyable read and a solid first book to a series I’m sure I’ll love. The world building was rich, and I really loved the magic system, though I would definitely like to see how it works a bit better. I find YA books often lack the political intrigue (even if the plot centers around it, i.e. someone wants to take back the throne) and I’m glad that wasn’t the case with Incendiary.

Renata was not my favourite protagonist. On the contrary, I kind of disliked her, but it didn’t take away from my engagement with the story. Her story arc was interesting enough for me to keep reading, even though her decisions annoyed me. None of the Whispers were particularly great, either, but I loved Leo and to my absolute surprise… Castian. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book where I was openly rooting for the antagonist.

The ending was really what warranted the rating, though I’ve called it to a T. It transformed from a solid book to a fast paced page-turner I love in fantasy. I don’t mind when stories are predictable (unless they’re mystery/thrillers) and the fact I knew the twist before it was revealed didn’t diminish my enjoyment in any way, it made me more excited to know what happens next.

I’m definitely going to continue with the series.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Will you be picking up this book?

Thank you for reading!