Book Review: “Chaos & Flame” by Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland

Chaos & Flame follows Talon, the War Prince of House Dragon, and Darling, an orphan adopted by House Kraken. Both are from drastically different worlds but collide together when Darling tries to free her adoptive father, Leonetti, from House Dragon’s clutches. In turn, readers are introduced to Talon’s older brother, Caspian, who has had visions of a girl with black eyes, similar to how Darling’s scarred ones look. As the three of them come together, the fate of Pyrlanum is in their hands and their world will change forever.

I won’t lie. It took me several chapters to understand what was happening with this book. There is a ton of worldbuilding thrown at the reader all at once. I haven’t read a book like that recently, so it took me a moment to acclimate. Once I did, I really enjoyed the world being built, even if my brain was still trying to wrap itself around all the different Houses and their histories. The names and colors associated with each were always a surprise because they weren’t what I anticipated. For example, the colors of House Dragon are green and gold, but when I first met the characters, they were wearing red and black as part of their military uniforms, so I thought those were the House colors.

I particularly enjoyed the pacing of the story. While it did take me a minute to understand who everyone was and the world I was reading about, I do think it was well-designed. I never felt like the story was moving so quickly I couldn’t keep up or that it was slowing down. That said, I never could anticipate what would happen next, including the ending, which was a welcome change.

As I was reading, it was incredibly obvious that Talon and Darling would be the romantic love interests. If you are someone who is not a fan of major romantic plots, I suggest reading a different book. Their romance is a crucial part of their character development and is used to drive the plot forward in more ways than one. I personally like that, but it isn’t for everyone.

I have to celebrate what is easily one of my favorite scenes. Caspian has a physician who accompanies him anywhere he goes. The physician, Elias, is non-binary or genderqueer, using they/them pronouns. This was so casually introduced that I did a double take, thinking I hadn’t read the sentence correctly, and was pleasantly surprised that I had. Later on, Darling assumes Elias’s gender, using he/him pronouns. Caspian casually corrects her, and Darling immediately goes into apology mode. He brushes it off, telling her she knows now not to assume. To me, it showed a common issue in today’s world and how to handle it without making it a big deal, which was nice to see.

If you are a fan of twist endings, high fantasy, found families, or societies where everyone has a magical gift called a boon, Chaos & Flame is for you. It has definitely made me want to dive back into the world of fantasy and start some new series while I wait to see what’s next for Darling and Talon.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Razorbill, for review.

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