REVIEW: Incendiary

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Book Review: Incendiary
 book cover Book title Incendiary
Series/standalone Hollow Crown #1
Author Zoraida Córdova
Pages 464
Year published 2020
Category | Genre Fantasy, Historical
Rating 3.5 stars

Official Summary

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.


In A Nutshell

In its core, 15th century Spain-inspired Incendiary invited us to see the world built on hatred and racism, where you can hate and kill people based on who they are regardless of what they actually did.


  • The world building is superb. I am not one of those readers with amazing skill to visualize the world, but the world building in this book is really quite rich. You might have heard that it’s loosely based on the 15th century Spain – inquisition era, and you can tell. I imagine that history buff will be trying to connect the world in Incendiary to the event in history. Aside from that, the magic system is not overcomplicated but solid. Renata, the protagonist, is a Robari who can steal other people memories. Then there were the Ventari, who can read mind, and Illusionari, who can create illusion. I liked that the magic is part of the character arc, that is part of what made her her, and really a critical part of the story without feeling it being overused. Don’t get me wrong, I love complex magic system which takes multiple pages to wrap your head around, but it’s refreshing to see such simplicity. Yes he reads mind, let’s continue with the story.
  • The heart of the story. As I mentioned before, on its core Incendiary is a book full of heart, it invites you to see the world built on hatred, on racism, on killing everyone different than you. Is Ren easy to sympathize with? For me the answer is no. There were times when I want to pull my hair because she made a bad decision but then I realized that she is supposed to be like that. She is used to being treated like a weapon, like a monster or murderer, and when the readers get the glimpse of that dangerous side of her, how is that make you feel? It begs us to explore our feeling toward her and toward the Whispers. Will we do the same thing if we’re on the Whispers? Can you accept them (Whispers) for treating her like a weapon knowing what she could do? I applaud Zoraida for not making an easy to like heroine, but instead showing us that sometimes it’s way too easy to not like or not agree with people who are different than you, but you always have the option not to do that.

Things I Wish Were Different

  • The tropes. Renata is a Robari, who wield a really rare and super strong kind of magic. Guess what it brings us to? A rash and fearless girl who is driven by revenge and might be the only person who can stop the king from killing all of Moria. She rushes into battle mindless and always find a way to get out of every situation. Essentially, this is a deus ex machina situation. There were also a lot of coincidence and loop holes to allow her to wiggle out of danger. Whether it’s her friend, someone who decide to look the other way, or whether it’s her super quick thinking, she always manage to overcome difficult situation. There were never a question whether she can survive this or not. There can be good use of the tropes, but this one felt like I’ve read it before.
  • The token friend and frenemies. There’s the nice best friend, the brave boyfriend, and then of course there are the frenemies. I wish I could care more for them, but the secondary and tertiary characters often felt like they are plot device instead of real people (well, real fictional people).

Final Score

3.5 stars
3.5 stars (out of 5 stars)


This is the part when I am supposed to say that I recommend this book if you like certain things. But not this time. This time, I will recommend this book to everyone.
It might seem weird considering the 3.5 stars, but too be honest this is a strange review to write because when I just finished it I was like wow, I don’t know how I actually feel about this book. And that, my friends, is so rare, as I am that person who will scream five stars or gosh I don’t like that directly when I finish a book.
Incendiary is a book that will get even better once you take time to reflect, to think, and to explore how you feel about the characters and how they act. It took me a couple of days to finally decide on the rating, but trust me in my heart, I really liked this book, and hope that everyone will give it a try. I will look forward to the second one.

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