Furysong by Rosaria Munda
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I've had good luck with the series I've read so far this year, as in the final and/or latest book in the sequence has proven to be the best yet. That holds up with this book, which brings the Aurelian Cycle to an emotional, cathartic ending.
The book's acknowledgments refer to this series as "Plato's republic with dragons," and while I haven't read Plato to understand that reference, there has been a lot of twisty-turny politics and revolutionary fervor in this story. It was a little bit overwhelming in the last volume, but this one clarifies where our characters' loyalties lie, and what they will do to free their island of Callipolis from the tyranny of the dragonborn.
Classism lies at the heart of this story, as the dragonborn--the families who tamed dragons and trained their children to ride them and rule--view the serfs, which one of our protagonists Antigone sur Aela is one, as subhuman and undeserving of basic rights. The dragonborn were overthrown in a bloody revolution ten years prior to the opening book in the series, Fireborne, but in the second book they returned to oust their own conquerers, with the help of Princess Freyda from the mainland and her enormous dragon, called a "goliathan."
(And just having seen the monstrous Vhagar depicted on HBO's House of the Dragon, I have a pretty good mind-picture of how big Freyda's dragon is.)
In this book our two main protagonists and viewpoint characters, Lee and Annie, return along with two others: Griff Gareson on the island of New Pythos and his lover, Delo Skyfish. These four intertwining storylines are adroitly juggled and all the characters are given satisfying arcs. Indeed, this is the most emotional of the three books, with more than one section where the room got quite dusty as I was reading. The characters have matured and step up to free Callipolis from its conquerers, as well as tearing down the system that allowed the dragonborn to dominate and rule. There is heartache and sacrifice along the way, but in the end their world is remade and they are looking forward to a better future.
The dragons also get more time in this book, although some of the creatures' worldbuilding was a bit hinky--they have retractable fangs? Really?--and the phenomenon of "sparking" and "dousing" individual dragons seems to be more in service of plot demands rather than make any actual biological sense. Still, it was gratifying to finally get to know Annie's dragon Aela and Lee's mount Pallor a little better, even if a tragedy lay in store for Lee and Pallor. Lee's and Annie's romance also intensifies in this book, and it's handled in a refreshingly adult manner, with almost no angst.
This book steps up its game and brings everything to a satisfying conclusion. I would definitely recommend this book, and the entire series, as one of the best things I've read this year.
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