Difficult Women Shine in Claire Legrand’s Furyborn

Fans of Daughter of Smoke & Bone and The Mortal Instruments rejoice: there are new angels on the block.

But the angels in Claire Legrand’s Furyborn, the first book in her Empirium Trilogy, aren’t exactly characters you want to root for. A warrior race and sworn enemy of humankind, they were locked out of the mortal world after the Angelic Wars, which took place long before the events of this book. They’re held at bay by a force known as the Gate, and humans fear the day they’ll break through and wreak havoc on the world once again. It’s a day that will be foretold by the rise of two queens: a queen of light, and a queen of blood.

Furyborn opens on the Blood Queen, the one destined to help end the world. This dark queen, Rielle, has just endured a brutal childbirth, and sends her newborn daughter away with a powerful young marque—a being with both human and angel blood—before the angel Corien can find and destroy her. But Rielle wasn’t always the despised Blood Queen. Once, her ability to control all seven magical elements marked her out as a savior: her people were convinced she was the Sun Queen, the woman who would save them from the angel threat. Rielle, too, thought she could use her gifts to help her kingdom. But then she begins hearing the voice of the mysterious, seductive Corien in her head. As the two become more entwined, she begins to doubt which queen she really is, struggling to remain attached to her kingdom and her beloved, Prince Audric.

One thousand years later, Eliana lives in a world without magic, where the Blood Queen is just an old legend. In that world, she does what she needs to survive. That includes acting as a bounty hunter for the Empire and dreading the day she’s asked to take her place among the Invictus, the Emperor’s assassins. But when her mother is kidnapped, Eliana is forced to team up with the very man she has been paid to hunt: Simon, a prominent and dangerous member of Red Crown, a group rebelling against the Empire. As Eliana tries to find her mother, she learns more about the Empire’s dangers, including just how pivotal she is to humanity’s future.

While the novel’s premise presents a kind of good girl/bad girl dichotomy, the strength of the story is how slyly it undermines that distinction. Sorry if you were looking for a noble female character to rally behind; Legrand writes troubled, sometimes unlikable women, and the lines between heroine and villain are so blurred they eventually cease to exist. YA fantasy has long been fertile ground for refreshingly difficult female characters, and Rielle and Eliana are great additions to that cast.

One of Legrand’s smartest narrative choices is her manipulation of Rielle’s timeline. Readers know (or think they know) her fate from page one. But the novel saves much of her backstory for later installments, focusing here on the rise of both her star and her powers. But every triumph is bittersweet; in light of the book’s opening scene, readers know her story can’t have the simple happy ending she seems to crave, even as her own heart becomes divided. And while the chapter-by-chapter shift between Rielle’s past and Eliana’s present can be disorienting at first, it beautifully reveals LeGrand’s painstakingly intricate world.

The novel ends with both characters on a precipice; readers may have an idea of where the second book is headed, but Legrand has proven time and time again that she has some tricks up her sleeve. This rejection of the safer paths in her storytelling will keep readers hooked on this epic new series.

Furyborn goes on sale May 22, and available for pre-order now.

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