So Let Them Burn combines powerful emotion with a rich fantasy world

So Let Them Burn by Kamilah Cole
So Let Them Burn by Kamilah Cole / Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

So Let Them Burn is Kamilah Cole's debut novel and it's a firecracker of a story (and not just because there are dragons). The story follows two sisters: Faron and Elara Vincent.

They could not be more different. Faron is the chosen one. The gods gave her their power, and she saved her world from war. She is also a champion liar (this is literally how the book starts and it's so perfect!). Elara fought in the war, protected her sister as much as you can protect a chosen one with magical powers, and is very much a rule follower.

But now that the war is over and the Iryan people have taken back their island from the Langlish Empire, what are they supposed to do now? Does the world need a chosen one when there is nothing to fight? Does the world need a soldier when there is no war? The answer turns out to be a resounding yes.

The Queen of San Irie sets out to have a peace summit and invites some of the Langlish leaders to the palace, much to the horror of the people. Elara is there as security and Faron is there to show off some tricks for their not-so-former enemies. And then a dragon shows up and everything goes to hell.

So Let Them Burn follows Faron and Elara as they try to save each other and the world

Dragons created some of the most horrible scenes that Faron and Elara saw in the war. Burning bodies, the smell of burning get the picture. And they were forbidden from coming to the peace summit.

But that all goes out the window when it becomes clear that Elara is bonded to the dragon who shows up on the island. This starts a journey that both Elara and Faron were not expecting. Elara must now go to enemy territory and Faron must figure out how to unbind Elara from her dragon. If she can't according to the gods, she might have to kill her sister.

As the two are separated, they learn quite a bit about the opposing sides. Elara forms a strong bond with her fellow Rrider Signey, as well as with their dragon Zephyra. At first, she wants nothing to do with them, but as she learns more about Signey's motives (and as her crush gets stronger), she comes to care for both her and Zephyra.

Faron is left at the palace with her sister's best friend, Reeve. Reeve is the son of the commander of the Langlish Empire and ended up in Faron's small village when he betrayed his father and his people to help the Iryan side. Faron has always been suspicious of him. She thought he was a spy but now that they are alone together and working to try to bring Elara back, she is learning more about who he really is. And...she might have a crush.

I absolutely loved this story. These two sisters are so strong in so many ways, but perhaps the strongest quality they share is their fierce loyalty to one another. At first, I thought Faron was going to be my favorite. When a character starts off a book telling you how good they are at lying, it's really difficult not to like them. But as we follow Elara through her journey with Signey and Zephyra, it's very difficult not to be enthralled with her as well.

And don't get me started on Reeve, Signey, and Zephyra. They are as rich and well-developed as the two main characters. I loved watching the bond between Elara, Signey, and Zephyra grow, especially the way they uniquely communicate with each other. And don't think just because Zephyra is a dragon that she doesn't have a personality of her own. She does and it's impossible not to fall in love with her.

Reeve is equally as fascinating as the "traitor" son. The scenes we get where he talks with his father for the first time since switching sides had me holding my breath while I was reading. It can be hard for a supporting character to have a well-developed backstory, but he (and Signey) definitely does.

So Them Them Burn also has a number of rich, detailed settings. Whether it's the San Irie island where Faron is or behind enemy lines on Langley where Elara is, both places are so intricately described that you can easily picture them in your head.

The book also does a brilliant job of getting into the complexities and costs of war, the evils of colonialism and imperialism, and what it's like to see children fighting and dealing with these dark parts of the world and the responsibilities put on their shoulders. Cole does an excellent job of getting these important points across while never taking the reader out of the story. Weaving beautiful characters, politics, and fantasy in one book like this is no easy feat, but Cole makes it seem effortless in her writing. I can't wait to see what she writes next.

So Let Them Burn is available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook formats.

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