Publication date : October 6th, 2020
Publisher : Page Street Kids | Macmillan
Genre : Young Adult |Fantasy
Page Count: 368
Synopsis : Lana Torres has always preferred dragons to people. In a few weeks, sixteen countries will compete in the Blazewrath World Cup, a tournament where dragons and their riders fight for glory in a dangerous relay. Lana longs to represent her native Puerto Rico in their first ever World Cup appearance, and when Puerto Rico’s Runner—the only player without a dragon steed—is kicked off the team, she’s given the chance.
But when she discovers that a former Blazewrath superstar has teamed up with the Sire—a legendary dragon who’s cursed into human form—the safety of the Cup is jeopardized. The pair are burning down dragon sanctuaries around the world and refuse to stop unless the Cup gets cancelled. All Lana wanted was to represent her country. Now, to do that, she’ll have to navigate an international conspiracy that’s deadlier than her beloved sport.
CW: violence, murder, talk of parental death from cancer, physical altercations, manipulation, mind invasion, threats, passing mention of queerphobia.
When I went into BLAZEWRATH GAMES, I went in for the dragons (like everybody else, I assume), the magical sports tournament and just all around fun times. Like one does. But what I got out of it what so much more. Don’t get me wrong, all of the above are present in heavy doses, but the book also discusses so many important topics and does so masterfully that I couldn’t help but have an amazing time reading it, cover to cover.
Right off the bat, you’re welcomed with very lively and engaging writing, and personally, the more I read the more that became evident. And not only that but the writing is also very vivid and descriptive (not overly so though) which makes everything happening jump out of the page because of how easy if it to visualize. The way the games are written? Legendary. The attention to detail which simultaneously keeping the sequences fast paced, the way the rules are explained and laid out. SO. GOOD. As such, BLAZEWRATH GAMES reads like movie in the best of ways, and wow, would I give an arm and a leg to see this book be made into a movie.
The plot was simultaneously intricate and easy to follow. There are quite a few subplots and characters that come into play and converge at some point of another. The more you read the more new elements gets introduced that might seem like the stick out at first, but they do eventually fall into place when the right time comes. Now granted, a few parts of the plot here and there felt a bit too convenient to me, but I honestly didn’t pay them much mind because I was having too much fun.
Another thing that I really loved about the way it’s written is that we get book excerpt, news articles, interviews, etc… at the start of every chapter that give us more insight into the world and the story.
Speaking of world. The world building in this is absolutely FANTASTIC. It takes very classic tropes and elements, like dragons, old-school wand magic, wizards living amongst humans, magical competitions and many more I can’t reveal without spoilers and does them well where others have attempted and failed or did mediocre at best (you know the one I’m talking about). This story is set in our world, in a parallel present time where wizards live amongst “normal” people fully immersed in society. And the way that was explained and weaved into the story, the amount of depth that was put into it was genuinely impressive to me. There’s so much backstory, context and history given to everything without it ever being boring or info-dumpy.
I also ADORED how we got our same old dragons but each region got its own, every species got its own specificities and even then it was acknowledged that dragons are still cloaked in mystery and we only know about them what they want us to know, because yes, they are sentient. Which makes the whole concept of them choosing a human and bonding with them for life all the more fascinating and intriguing because they keep the process of it all under tight lock. The dragons are just *clutches chest* SO GOOD. I loved the scenes with them so much, not only in their interactions with their humans, or the mysterious cloak around them, but also in the glimpses of carefree moments we got of them spending time *with* each other. I admittedly haven’t read a ton of books with dragons but in the few I’ve read, this is hands down the best depiction.
And you know what makes this book successful at everything it sets out to do? The fact that it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The author is hyper aware of the fact that, this might be a fantasy, but it’s also anchored in the real world, and as such it takes into account topics that pertain to our “regular” lives. Some discussed in a brief manner like queerness, coming out and all that entails, while others were discussed in great detail. And just to site and example, the parallel drawn between the prejudices against dragons and real life racism, eg: them being feared and hated because of the action of a few or retaliating because they feel like they’re in danger, and other nuanced bits and pieces mirroring phrases that get used against POC all the time. While also discussing family and identity with an emphasis on the diaspora experience.
Lana, our main character, is Puerto Rican. She’s lived on the island until she was five years old when her (white) mom whisked her away and to the US. She’s never felt more at home than in Puerto Rico. She loves it, yearns for and misses it desperately. It’s the only place she’s called home. But she also deals with the fact that although she considers it her home, she didn’t grow up there and has to grapple with not only her own feelings of being a fraud, of not being enough and not belonging but she also gets that from other people, both Boricua and not, who think they know her identity better than she does and want to decide what makes her Puerto Rican and what doesn’t. Lana as a character was a bit hard to grasp at times, but I really ended up liking her. Her bravery, how that doesn’t stop her from being scared, her loyalty to her loved ones and her sense of justice were a winning combination for me.
I also liked how through her interactions with other characters, a wide range of relationships were shown. First, BLAZEWRATH GAMES shows that mother/daughter relationships can often be fraught with tension, how some misguided albeit well-meaning actions can have long lasting effects and build resentment. We also got to see Lana build different levels of connection with her teammates that go from borderline nemesis statues to close friendships, ad how overall the team is like a family, they might butt heads but they always have each other’s backs.
Overall, I had a blast reading this book. It was a genuinely fun read that kept me interested and on the edge of my seat from start to finish. There is more I could probably have covered in this review, but I will leave it at this and encourage you to pick it up.
Do I recommend?
YES. Especially if you’re looking for a story that takes elements we all know and love and takes them to the next level.
About the author
Amparo Ortiz was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and currently lives on the island’s northeastern coast. Her short story comic, “What Remains in The Dark,” appears in the Eisner Award-winning anthology PUERTO RICO STRONG (Lion Forge, 2018), and SAVING CHUPIE, her middle grade graphic novel, comes out with HarperCollins in Winter 2022. She holds an M.A. in English and a B.A. in Psychology from the UPR’s Río Piedras campus. When she’s not teaching ESL to her college students, she’s teaching herself Korean, devouring as much young adult fiction as she can, and writing about Latinx characters in worlds both contemporary and fantastical. Her debut novel, BLAZEWRATH GAMES, hits shelves on October 6, 2020 from Page Street Kids.
That’s it until next time.
Did you read Blazewrath Games? If so, what did you think?
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.