Together We Burn
Releases 31 May 2022
Well, it's been quite a long time since I've read this. While that does bring the cons of not remembering certain details, it does mean that I've had more time to think about them. And I think 3 months is certainly enough time for my review to be honest.
If you scroll down past this lengthy review, you'll notice that I have docked a half star. Why? Not entirely sure, to be completely honest, but just let me clarify why. My reviews are strongly influenced by how I felt reading it, especially how I feel after finishing it. That's often why I rate books so leniently. I think that I just loved reading Together We Burn so much that I was really lenient with the rating. Well, it's been 3 months, and I'm being a bit pickier. Still, for TWB to only "lose" half a star should be pretty telling.
This book is amazing, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!
So now, without further ado, on to the review!
World Building ~ 9.5/10
Truth be told, I see no reason to score the world building any lower. I docked 0.5 simply because my memory is slightly fuzzy, so I might be forgetting some things. Think of it as me taking into account wiggle room.
Anyways, I thought the whole setting was so cool and so inventive! I love the idea of dragon fighting and how it put a fun spin on bull fighting. I especially love that it takes place in a Spanish–inspired world. I think that just works perfectly. Any other country or culture, and it just wouldn't have felt authentic, . . . well, as authentic as dragons and dragon fighting can be, lol XD
I'm going to be completely honest, but I found it rather difficult to remember the names of the dragon breeds. I constantly had to refer to the glossary in the front, and as I was reading an e–copy, this got rather annoying. This wasn't as major, but I also could barely remember which guild was which. I suppose knowing some Spanish might have helped with that, but still ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Nonetheless, I felt that the world building was just spot on. *chef's kiss*
Characters ~ 8.5/10
There were a ton of great characters in TWB. I'll spotlight the MC and the love interest below, but let me just chat more about the character list in general. Gosh, I wish I could remember more details, but I LOVED Zarela's best friend. I can't for the life of me remember her name, but I absolutely loved her! She was such a great friend and was just so witty! I just gotta love Zarela's dear father. I rather liked her uncle, too, until he did some things that made me rather upset with him. Zarela's other friends were amazing, too!
Okay, so Zarela is our MC. She's firey, strong–willed, and determined. More importantly, she's not the obnoxious "I'm a strong–willed female MC, yay me" type. We all know those MCs that say they're tough but are about as tough as a puddle of water; they're annoying, and we hate them.
But let me tell you this: Zarela proves her strength. And not the "tell, but not show" proof, but both! (So yay to author Isabel Ibañez!)
Zarela is so determined to prove her worth and to save her beloved dragon fighting ring that she'll quite literally do everything it takes to do so — even conquering her fear of dragons to become the first female Dragonador (dragon fighter). Her strength, her bravery, her determination bordering on stubbornness are what make her a tough bada**.
But more importantly, we see her unyielding care for her best friend and father, whom she adores. This shows us that she's not just a tough jerk; she's real. She's a well–rounded person, emotionally. And even though we can't relate to being a Dragonador, this characterization helps us (or maybe it's just me) really relate to her. And that's great.
Arturo is your typical broody, slightly jerky love interest. This includes all the pros and cons that come with it.
We definitely see him being a "jerk" to Zarela initially. By "jerk," I don't mean mean or cruel, but more standoffish and borderline rude, if you get what I mean. In fact, he laughs at her for wanting to attempt to become a Dragonador. However, this rudeness is juxtaposed with real care, like when he saves her from a dragon attack. The actual saving isn't what demonstrates true caring, but rather a sacrifice he made to do so. No, it's not his life or someone else's, but something else. I'm not going to say, because I don't want to ruin that moment for you. :)
Overall, he had a pretty good character arc. He definitely reminds me a lot of Zuko from ATLA, but let's be honest. No one will ever be as great as Zuko. End of story.
Plot ~ 8/10
As I've been hinting so far, the whole plot revolves around Zarela trying to save her dragon ring. You'll get no spoilers from me (at least here), but I really did enjoy the whole plot line.
However, something about the plot and the pacing of it just didn't feel right. When I was reading it, I really saw no problem. But now, looking back, I feel like more could have happened. That's not to say that nothing happened, because a lot did. But maybe, a bit more? I'm not sure.
Anyways, all that aside, I really enjoyed the whole plot, and I found it rather fascinating.
Relationships ~ 8/10
So many great relationships! I think I'll only spotlight Zarela and Arturo's relationship below, but I'd be remiss if I didn't highlight her relationships with her best friend and father.
I just LOVE the amazing relationship Zarela has with her best friend. They're such a fun duo, and the care and respect for each other is just #friendgoals, lol. But in all seriousness, they're just so fun and goofy, and you really have to read TWB to get all of it. I just cannot do justice to this friendship, especially with my crappy memory. :\
I love Zarela's relationship with her father almost as much I do her relationship with her best friend. Zarela absolutely adores her father, and the time and attention she takes caring for him is just so pure! And the lengths she'll go to uphold her family name and her father's honor is just so admirable! It's great!
~Zarela & Arturo~
I'm going to be slightly harsh, but this relationship needed work.
It was a slow burn instalove. I know that makes no sense at all, so let me explain. So, we knew Zarela and Arturo would be a couple from the very start, even before reading it. Otherwise, what type of YA book would this be; like, c'mon, this is just standard for YA fantasy. (This is the instalove part.) However, they barely had any on–screen chemistry. (That's the slow burn part.) Sure, we get a couple of lingering glances and brushes, but that's about it.
Now, I'm not saying that we need steam or spice to be believable; we don't. There are plenty of great YA books with a believable relationship without resorting to either. However, I think we should have had a bit more, but maybe that's just me. I don't know. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Prose & Pacing ~ 8/10
I said earlier, and I'll say it again: the pacing just felt off.
While reading it, it was fine, but now, looking back, I feel like it was missing something. I'm not sure what that something is, but I feel like more should (or could) have happened.
Pacing aside, I loved the prose. Isabel Ibañez has such a great writing style, and I absolutely devoured it! Her words just flowed right off the page.
Okay, overall, I really enjoyed reading TWB. Great book, great plot. And can we talk about that cover?! AMAZING, AND ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS!!!! 😍
Was it perfect? No, but it was close enough. Would I recommend it? Absolutely!
Major thanks to St. Martin's Press/Wednesday Books for the free eARC in exchange for an honest review
Full review posted to Goodreads
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