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ARC Review: Together We Burn by Isabel Ibañez

Release date: 31 May 2022

Rating: 3.5/5

Book Boxes: Book(ish) Box May 2022, LovinBooksCandle June 2022


Eighteen-year-old Zarela Zalvidar is a talented flamenco dancer and daughter of the most famous Dragonador in Hispalia. People come for miles to see her father fight in their arena, which will one day be hers.

But disaster strikes during their five hundredth anniversary show, and in the carnage, Zarela’s father is horribly injured. Facing punishment from the Dragon Guild, Zarela must keep the arena—her ancestral home and inheritance —safe from their greedy hands. She has no choice but to take her father’s place as the next Dragonador. When the infuriatingly handsome dragon hunter, Arturo Díaz de Montserrat, withholds his help, she refuses to take no for an answer.

But even if he agrees, there’s someone out to ruin the Zalvidar family, and Zarela will have to do whatever it takes in order to prevent the Dragon Guild from taking away her birthright.

An ancient city plagued by dragons. A flamenco dancer determined to save her ancestral home. A dragon hunter refusing to teach her his ways. They don't want each other, but they need each other, and without him her world will burn.



How to Train Your Dragon meets detective story with a touch of Zorro—the juxtaposition of the two main characters to Alejandro Murrieta and Elena de la Vega is very hard to ignore—and a romance that takes inspiration from Darcy and Elizabeth, Together We Burn is a nice summer read for upper YA readers who love fantasy set in worlds that mimic our past with magic and romance to sweep readers off their feet.

I hoped to enjoy this book much more than I did. While the characters were well-rounded and the overall story not intolerable, there was something missing from this story that I can’t quite put my finger on. It is a mix of How to Train Your Dragon, Zorro, and Pride and Prejudice—all in my top tier of favorite stories and movies ever, but the story for me got lost in the telling, which was riddled with repetitive phrasing and overactive use of metaphorical language.

The most wonderful aspect of this book was the heroine. Zarela, though young, must shoulder the responsibility of running her household without guidance and keep her family’s illustrious dragon-fighting ring open and making money so the disaster that befalls the Zalvidar family doesn’t completely pull them under. Zarela is not pompous, whiny, or arrogant—she is determined and compassionate, unless she’s around the handsome and mysterious Arturo, then she spits fire and her hackles raise.

Arturo, the story’s love interest and hunka chunka dragon fighter, can’t stand Zarela. He perfectly embodies both Mr. Darcy and Hiccup at the same time (yes, that’s possible), and the combination of the two makes for fantastic entertainment while the two stars of the novel head down the enemies-to-lovers path. He is one of my favorite love interests of 2022, and I’m hoping to see some fan art of him and Zarela with the special editions coming out in boxes later this year (see the top of the post for boxes featuring this book).

The overarching plot is a great one, part mystery, mostly romance, with some hefty coming-of-age, and betrayal generously sprinkled in, but it’s here in the plot where the story lost me. The novel uses far too much metaphor and simile for my taste, with many of the exact phrases for description of scene and feeling used over and over again, which made the book a slog to get through. I realize this is an advance copy, so I’m sure there will be some line edits before the 31 May release, which is why I didn’t rate it too low. It was a great story, after all.

The story line does have some fantastic things about it as well, which I would be remiss not to mention. I loved the mystery. It was a great while through the story before I realized my initial guess for cause of the disaster was wrong. I found this refreshing; I can usually guess pretty close to right off things like this, but I did not here, to my delight. Additionally, I love the very out-of-the-box thinking for the resolution. I’ll have to say, this was my favorite part of the story overall. It artfully blended the conflict, romance, and Zarela’s insecurities into one masterfully tie-together solution and is one of the most satisfying conclusions to a story I’ve read this year. The book is also a standalone. I’m learning to love standalones more and more lately, with the amount of scrambling book box buyers have to deal with to get matching copies of installments for their series. It’ll be nice to have a copy of this on my shelf, all beautiful, read, and finished, without looking at it anxiously wondering if I’ll be able to get books to match it.

I actually listened to this one; the performer, Ana Osorio, has a wonderfully soft and melodic voice that is very easy to understand and does not at all grate on my nerves. I had to be very careful not to be lulled to sleep listening. On the other hand, it was hard to be excited during the action parts for the same reason. But, because it’s hard for me to find audiobook narrators whose voices do not grate on my nerves (I have issues with sounds and noises), I’m glad of this narrator. Very well done. I recommend listening to at least a sample.

Overall, though Together We Burn is a great story with a nice ending that shows the benefits of thinking outside of the box, but I find the telling of it relies too heavily on repetitive phrases using far too much simile and metaphor. I would have liked to see more actions than description. The book should also be categorized as New Adult, in my opinion. The two characters are 18 and over, and there are sexual situations. 3.5/5 stars. Pending final copy review, and I will be buying at least one copy of this book.

*My thanks to the author and publisher for the advance audio copy, for which I willingly give my own, honest opinion.*

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May 06, 2022

Sounds great. I hope BB doesn't ruin the cover.

Story Eater
Story Eater
May 07, 2022
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