Today is my stop on the TBR & Beyond Tours for Bound by Firelight (Wickery #2) by Dana Swift.
Special thanks to Delacorte Press for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!
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Goodreads: Bound by Firelight (Wickery #2)
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: 18 January 2021
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
After a magical eruption devastates the kingdom of Belwar, royal heir Adraa is falsely accused of masterminding the destruction and forced to stand trial in front of her people, who see her as a monster. Adraa’s punishment? Imprisonment in the Dome, an impenetrable, magic-infused fortress filled with Belwar’s nastiest criminals—many of whom Adraa put there herself. And they want her to pay.
Jatin, the royal heir to Naupure, has been Adraa’s betrothed, nemesis, and fellow masked vigilante… but now he’s just a boy waiting to ask her the biggest question of their lives. First, though, he’s going to have to do the impossible: break Adraa out of the Dome. And he won’t be able to do it without help from the unlikeliest of sources—a girl from his past with a secret that could put them all at risk.
Time is running out, and the horrors Adraa faces in the Dome are second only to the plot to destabilize and destroy their kingdoms. But Adraa and Jatin have saved the world once already… Now, can they save themselves?
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Dana Swift started making up fantasy worlds when she was eleven years old and hasn’t stopped since. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, where she earned degrees in English and Advertising. While in college, Dana competed as a saber fencer and learned a thing or two about fighting, parrying and how it feels to fall in love with your sparring partner. She currently lives with said husband in Miami, Florida.
Note: The quotes below are taken from an advanced/unfinished copy and are subject to change in the final version.
TL;DR: Bound by Firelight is the second and final book in the Wickery Duology and it’s a pretty satisfying conclusion to an exciting South Asian inspired fantasy. Highly recommended for those YA fantasy lovers who love elemental magic, action-packed scenes, a compelling story, and a swoony+banter filled romance between two strong and easy-to-root for characters!
CW/TW: forced fighting, prison torture, bloodletting
This review has some spoilers for book one, so if you haven’t already read it and are still planning to, I’ll just say that this is so action-packed, full of incredible magic, great character development and things wrap up nicely at the end. There are lots of heart-wrenching moments as these characters go through it to clear their names, but their journeys are well worth following! I thought I would highlight again that this isn’t Own Voices, and Dana Swift does mention her reasons for writing it, but I have also seen a few South Asian readers comment about how they thought Swift portrayed the cultural inspiration respectfully, and that it didn’t feel harmful.
The story picks up immediately in the aftermath of the great explosion in book one. Thanks to Moolek’s scheming, things are looking extremely dire for Adraa as the blame has been put on her, which causes the Belwarian citizens to loathe her. As a consequence, they’ve also begun demanding her family step down from power. Right from the start, it’s non-stop action! Just as in book one, the magic and world-building take centre stage, and it was great to see it being wielded so often and in so many different and new exciting ways. There were a lot more action sequences in this sequel, with plenty of one-on-one magic fights and group battles up until the very end, and it was thrilling and so easy to picture playing out in my head! The tone takes a much darker turn as Adraa finds out just how deep the corruption goes and the truth behind Bloodlurst and the Vencrin.
Bad people are always trying to corrupt good things. Your father wasn’t just a good thing, he was a great one.Dana Swift, Bound by Firelight
The story is told from Adraa and Jatin’s perspectives and these two are accompanied by a core group of trustworthy friends and supporters who we’ve already met, plus a few new characters who join their “team”. Both characters experience growth throughout their separate journeys, but it was Adraa’s character who experienced the most significant development. As the Belwarians continue to express deep mistrust in Adraa, she bears the heavy burden of guilt on her shoulders, as well as a mountain of self-doubt that festered following the explosion which resulted in hundreds of casualties. Although she’s vilified by her citizens, she still only wants the best for them and despite being thrown in the Dome for being convicted of masterminding the explosion, I loved how she remains steadfast and strong. She’s such a fierce character and I admired that even with her doubts, fears and her dire situation of being magickless in prison, it didn’t stop her from fighting for herself and her people. She’s such a fantastic heroine!
Is it weird that the thing I hate most about death is this beginning, when laughter still feels like a betrayal? Like feeling happiness without them, feeling anything but grief, can be misconstrued as a lack of love and caring?Dana Swift, Bound by Firelight
While separated, Jatin also grows into a leadership role and it was great to see him gain confidence in his abilities as a leader. He’s such a steadfast hero and a total sweetheart who’s basically a simp for Adraa, and I totally get why (cos she’s amazing)! That said, I thought that much of his development only occurred in echo to Adraa, and it came across like his whole purpose of being was just for her, rather than him being his own person. I feel like his arc, though not terrible, did deserve better.
One of the high points of the previous book was the snarky and banter-filled romance brewing between Adraa and Jatin, and while their love continues to strengthen here, I’m sad that we didn’t get scenes with them together. They spend the majority of the book apart from each other, and while that boosted their individual character development, I wished we got to see more of the fun romance from book one. That said, I will go down with this ship—they’ve built such a strong foundation of trust and respect and I loved the seamless way they worked together. There was also a character introduced from Jatin’s past that, I assume, was inserted into the story to form some kind of love triangle that I didn’t like or understand. Jatin’s loyalty to Adraa was pretty solid and it was clear to me that after everything they’ve been through, nothing would sway that and so this third person’s feelings towards Jatin and the “tension” they brought to the story didn’t work—I was annoyed more than anything because it also didn’t end up going anywhere anyway, so I’m not entirely sure why it was spun that way.
It feels like it’s not words or power protecting us, but our sheer will and love. With Adraa in my arms I feel safe. I’m home.Dana Swift, Bound by Firelight
Also, maybe it’s just me, but I wished that the motivation of our villain could’ve been made more clear because, by the time we got to the end, I wasn’t entirely sure what the main motivation was. Greed? Just because he could? What was it? It made the villain pretty one-dimensional. Overall though, I thought that this was a great duology and a satisfying conclusion. All of the most pressing questions were answered but I also feel like this world of Wickery has so much potential, and I’m be more than thrilled to come back again and see how Adraa and Jatin and their countries fare in the aftermath of all this chaos and destruction!
Have you read Bound by Firelight or is it on your TBR?