Book Review: Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova

Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova - Book Review from Novels and Nebulas

Genre: Fantasy

Age Range: Young adult

Series: 1st in a duology

Publication Date: 28th April, 2020

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (US), Hodder & Stoughton (UK)

Format I Read: Kindle e-book

Content Warning: Violence, death, colonialist attitudes, torture and gaslighting

Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova - Book Review from Novels and Nebulas

Rating: 4 out of 5.


I am Renata Convida.
I have lived a hundred stolen lives.
Now I live my own.

Renata Convida was only a child when she was kidnapped by the King’s Justice and brought to the luxurious palace of Andalucia. As a Robari, the rarest and most feared of the magical Moria, Renata’s ability to steal memories from royal enemies enabled the King’s Wrath, a siege that resulted in the deaths of thousands of her own people.

Now Renata is one of the Whispers, rebel spies working against the crown and helping the remaining Moria escape the kingdom bent on their destruction. The Whispers may have rescued Renata from the palace years ago, but she cannot escape their mistrust and hatred – or the overpowering memories of the hundreds of souls she turned “hollow” during her time in the palace.

When Dez, the commander of her unit, is taken captive by the notorious Sangrado Prince, Renata will do anything to save the boy whose love makes her place among the Whispers bearable. But a disastrous rescue attempt means Renata must return to the palace under cover and complete Dez’s top secret mission. Can Renata convince her former captors that she remains loyal, even as she burns for vengeance against the brutal, enigmatic prince? Her life and the fate of the Moria depend on it.

But returning to the palace stirs childhood memories long locked away. As Renata grows more deeply embedded in the politics of the royal court, she uncovers a secret in her past that could change the entire fate of the kingdom – and end the war that has cost her everything.

Characters and Representation in Incendiary

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Unfortunately, this was my least favourite part of the book. Ren, the main character in this book, did have a few things going for her but she was insufferably ignorant. I also couldn’t sympathise with her a lot, so that made it difficult for me to get through the book.

Her relationship with Dez was a big driving force for the plot, but we only got glimpses of that in the first few chapters. For me, that wasn’t enough to root for them or care about their relationship. I also thought the way the book ended undid all the effort the author put in to develop this romance.

On the other hand, I liked some of the side characters a lot because of their complex personalities. My favourite was Nuria and I wish we get to see more of her in the next book. There was also a lot of amazing diverse rep (disabled and queer side characters), so props to the author for doing that well.

Plot and World-Building in Incendiary

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I didn’t enjoy the plot as much as I’d have liked to. The reveal of key plot points depended on Ren not putting things together until the end, which irked me. However, the end did surprise me slightly so it wasn’t a total fail, in my opinion.

The magic system had some unique elements despite being inspired by popular ones. Ren’s magic was a constant source of inner conflict regarding her identity and her place in the world. It also fueled the outer conflict in the way the colonisers used and despised magic.

The world-building salvaged the story in my eyes. The author managed to convey the diversity in Spanish Inquisition era architecture, food and culture quite well. However, the portrayal wasn’t romanticised and added nuance to the commentary on colonisation.

Writing Style and Themes in Incendiary

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I thought that the author had a very good writing style which suited the narrative as well. The descriptions were well-written and I could easily visualise the world she built with her words. I also liked the dialogue and banter between the characters.

Coming to the themes, the commentary on colonialism was expertly done. Ren’s internal conflict, as I mentioned before, was interesting and I wish it was better explored, which would have helped to add depth to her character. I think the overall narrative would have benefited from other points of view.

The way the morality of the characters was depicted gave me a lot to think about. On the one hand, I’m glad that there were heroes and villains on both sides, which mirrored reality. However, the ending raised too many questions that went against everything that had been established throughout the book and that left me with a sense of incompleteness.


Overall, this wasn’t a personal favourite because I couldn’t get along with the MC. However, Incendiary still has good diverse representation and writing. I highly recommend this to newer readers of YA fantasy. If you’ve read one too many, this one probably won’t stand out to you in terms of plot. It still manages to pack in some fresh perspectives and world-building, so do give this one a chance!


Book: Goodreads | Book Depository |

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Related Post: Top 10 Exciting SFF Releases of April 2020

Have you read anything by Zoraida before? Are you excited for Incendiary? This book has very different US and UK covers – which one do you prefer? Let me know in the comments section down below. Hope you are having a magical week, readers from Earth!

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Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova - Book Review from Novels and Nebulas

16 thoughts on “Book Review: Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova”

  1. I like both of the covers, but honestly the UK version is so aesthetically pleasing, but I don’t mind the US cover. I can’t wait until I get my hands on this book because I’m so excited!

  2. I was not a big fan of Dez! Honestly, in one of the first chapters where he described Ren as “vengeance in the night” (if I remember correctly) just put me off! The world-building and theme of the book was definitely the highlight! Will you be reading book two?

    1. I think I will, just to see how it ends. Haha, Dez is very irritating too but I didn’t want to talk about him because spoilers. The way Ren constantly thinks about him was very annoying as well! 🙄

      The ending of this book undid a lot of things established throughout the story, so I need to read the second one to see if it is sufficiently explained and where the story goes from there. I liked Nuria and her love interest (not the husband), so I’m invested in their story now. I just hope there’s no love triangle because I would hate that. 🙈

    1. Thank you. 💖 While the world-building is exquisite, I think people who have read quite a lot of YA fantasy should pick up on the plot twists easily enough. Fair warning. 😊 I hope you enjoy if you decide to pick it up! 😊

  3. Oooh! I love the breakdown of the elements that you’ve done also that you’re able to separate elements that way 🤣🤣🤣♥️♥️ *takes inspiration from it*. Loved your review Cap! ♥️ I’ve seen this book around so much I’m glad you read it. I’m sorry you didn’t connect to the protagonist so much, oof I understand how disconcerting that can sometimes be, but I’m glad you liked the themes on colonialism and internal conflict of the MC. I am sorry the message seemed conflicting.. is that what you meant? That the ending of the book seemed to undo most of what was being said before it?

    1. Yup, it’s really hard to talk about that ending without spoiling but there are some twists (the ones I didn’t figure out) which went against what was established throughout the book, so I felt so confused and disoriented. 🙈 I discussed this with Fanna @ Fannatality and we found those parts hilarious. It was a mixed bag but I think other people will like it more than I did. Thanks, Ahana! ♥️

      1. You’re welcome Cap. Ooh! I get it. Man it must definitely be disorienting and feel pointless for having read so many pages and having the whole thing be contradicted towards the end.

  4. Great review Nandini, and this sounds like a pretty solid read though it didn’t completely wow you. I am really looking forward to reading this one and hope my library purchases a copy. And I love both covers for different reasons but if I had to choose, I prefer the UK cover!

    1. I like the UK cover too. I don’t know why but the lady on the US cover gives me the shivers. 🙈 I hope you like it more than I did. ♥️ DM if you need to vent out some feelings or if you have any theories as you’re reading. 😊

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  6. Lovely review, Nandini 🙂 I saw the US cover the other day and I was hooked! It is so spooky and interesting. Though I like this one too 🙂 And sorry that you weren’t able to connect to the MC but I am glad overall you enjoye dthe book 🙂 Will you be continuing the series?

    1. I think I will, just to satisfy my curiousity but I’m cautious too. I really want some things to happen and some things that I really hope doesn’t happen, so it should be interesting. 🙈 I discussed with Fanna after I finished it and she feels the same. 😅

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