Epeolatry Book Review: The Fireborne Blade by Charlotte Bond

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Title: The Fireborne Blade
Author: Charlotte Bond
Genre: Dark fantasy
Publisher: Tordotcom
Publication Date: 28th May, 2024

Synopsis: Kill the dragon. Find the blade. Reclaim her honour.

It’s that, or end up like countless knights before her, as a puddle of gore and molten armour.

Maddileh is a knight. There aren’t many women in her line of work, and it often feels like the sneering and contempt from her peers is harder to stomach than the actual dragon slaying. But she’s a knight, and made of sterner stuff.

A minor infraction forces her to redeem her honour in the most dramatic way possible, she must retrieve the fabled Fireborne Blade from its keeper, legendary dragon the White Lady, or die trying. If history tells us anything, it’s that “die trying” is where to wager your coin.

Who doesn’t love a good dragon story? These magical creatures are a constant fascination, and from the hype of the tv series Game of Thrones, dragons are currently under the spotlight with perhaps more scrutiny than ever before in fantasy. Dragons are mythical, wondrous, and thrilling, and certainly not an easy creature to portray in literature, as Tolkien has shown us with his Smaug. Which is why I was curious about Charlotte Bond’s The Fireborne Blade. 

I discovered The Fireborne Blade at the speculative fiction festival, It’s Strange Up North, in Yorkshire, UK, where I met the author, a devotee of dragons. Her passion sparked my own and butterflies fluttered in my stomach. I had a feeling Bond’s novel was something special.

The Fireborne Blade depicts Sir Maddileh, a female knight, whose struggles to be accepted by society. In order to redeem her honour, Sir Maddileh must fight the notorious White Lady, a dragon no knight or mage had fought and lived to tell the tale. But with an untrained squire, a foggy memory, and a dislike towards magic, will Sir Maddileh kill the dragon?      

Sir Maddileh is fierce, easy to sympathise with, and has to work twice as hard as any male knight. She has lovable flaws and takes the vow of knighthood seriously, but she doesn’t allow it to go to her head nor does she take advantage of her status. She’s no pushover as evident when she dishonours herself by punching the knight who betrayed her. 

Her quest to claim the fireborne blade is fraught with danger at every turn, and the journey is a wonderful pace with fantastical elements embedded with no lingering too long on explanations. If the progression of Sir Maddileh’s quest isn’t enough, Bond includes chapters that separate each stage of the knight’s quest, but rather than hinder the plot, it enhances it. There are interviews with knights and mages, and tales told of dragon killings from the past. These dragon stories are passed into the archive with evidence catalogued. It deepens the reader’s understanding of Bond’s clever world building.

My awe for dragons can sometimes lead me to forget how dangerous they can be. This is no longer the case! I won’t forget anymore after reading the horrors Bond’s dragons afflicted on knights and mages. The tales ventured into the grotesque and the impossibility of prevention or curing these afflictions. Often my breath caught in my throat. 

The Fireborne Blade is a dark action-packed fantasy that paints a historical Middle Ages fantasy world on the ideals of modern society. It dives into sexism and sapphic portrayal without distracting the characters from their main goal. I loved all of the characters, even the villains, but, of course, the White Lady will have a special place, simply because she’s a dragon. The ending had so many twists I didn’t see coming and held me spellbound in disbelief while crying out for more. Fortunately, there’s a sequel, The Bloodless Princes, for which we don’t have to wait long. October 2024 can’t come fast enough!

/5

Available from Amazon and Bookshop.

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