Title: Incendiary (Hollow Crown #1)
Author: Zoraida Córdova
Incendiary is set in a world loosely based on the Spanish Inquisition in which the royal family of Puerto Leones seeks to find and kill all Moria–people possessing magical powers. Renata once lived and worked in the palace as a child, but was rescued and is now a part of the Whispers, Moria rebel spies working against the crown.
One of my favorite aspects about this book was the worldbuilding. I really loved the Spanish Inquisition-era setting. The magical system was well thought out and executed. This was my first book by Zoraida Córdova and I really enjoyed her writing and descriptions; it was very easy to find myself transported into the pages of the story while reading. I’ve read a few complaints in other reviews that Incendiary felt like a second story and readers were too confused at the start, but I would have to disagree. I think the book did a great job starting in the middle of the action. The author offers enough of the background and worldbuilding to understand without overwhelming the reader. I honestly don’t mind putting together more pieces as I read on as long as I have enough to work with at the start.
Another thing I absolutely loved about the book was Renata. I found her character and her backstory to be extremely intriguing and well-written. Renata is a Robarí and can take the memories of others. As a child, she was stolen from her family and forced to work in the palace helping the King hunt down other Moria. When she was rescued by the Whispers, many of the other rebels were distrustful of her. She struggles with the knowledge that people find her dangerous and that she doesn’t quite fit in anywhere.
Renata doesn’t remember much of her time as a child at the palace but it was interesting to see the memories that begin to pop up along the way and their implications. There are a few good twists in this book, but none of them are far-fetched and as a reader there are plenty of hints along the way if you look hard enough. It was fun putting the pieces together for both the twists I had guessed correctly and the ones that had taken me by surprise!
While the magic system is clearly given a lot of thought and is incorporating well into the story, I still felt like there was a lot of information missing that needed to be explained. I would love some more background knowledge into how the magic is passed down (is it hereditary? random? both?) and whether the Moria are the only people in the world that possess magic abilities. If they are, why them?
Incendiary was exceedingly entertaining and easily draws the reader into the story. The Spanish Inquisition setting and magic system help create an interesting world and Renata shines as the protagonist. I look forward to reading the next book in the series!