The one thing I’m loving about the whole death of the author thing regarding She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named is that it allows other authors – primarily authors from marginalized communities – to explore the “magic exists in our universe and is regulated by government bodies” genre without The-Book-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named hanging over their heads.
Admittedly, Blazewrath Games still uses That-Which-We-Shall-Not-Speak-Of as a comp, but it manages to go so much more beyond that, encapsulating the magic of How To Train Your Dragon with the usual trials and tribulations that come along with tournament story arcs or episodes of your favorite series. More than that, it also captures the Latinx diaspora experience – specifically the Puerto Rican diaspora experience – in a beautiful, meaningful way.
Read on to find out what I loved about Amparo Ortiz’s amazing debut!
Title: Blazewrath Games
Author: Amparo Ortiz
Age Range: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Lana Torres has always preferred dragons to people. In a few weeks, sixteen countries will compete in the Blazewrath World Cup, a tournament where dragons and their riders fight for glory in a dangerous relay. Lana longs to represent her native Puerto Rico in their first ever World Cup appearance, and when Puerto Rico’s Runner—the only player without a dragon steed—is kicked off the team, she’s given the chance.
But when she discovers that a former Blazewrath superstar has teamed up with the Sire—a legendary dragon who’s cursed into human form—the safety of the Cup is jeopardized. The pair are burning down dragon sanctuaries around the world and refuse to stop unless the Cup gets cancelled. All Lana wanted was to represent her country. Now, to do that, she’ll have to navigate an international conspiracy that’s deadlier than her beloved sport.
Content warnings: violence, murder, mentions of queerphobia
☕ Quotes ☕
“…the thing about people is they tend to love us their way, not the way we’d want them to love us. We can tell them loads of times. We can draw them a bloody map. Sometimes their way is the only way that makes sense to them. Our voices are just white noise.”
“We can make the choice to do good in this world, and no matter how impossible it seems, that’s the right choice.”
☕ Plot ☕
Just like pretty much who’s heard of this book, I originally went in it for the dragons. But Blazewrath Games turns out to be so much more than that.
At its heart, this book is an incredibly fun read. I genuinely had such a good time reading it. It made me think of things like Saturday morning cartoons and comic books. The plot wasn’t the most complicated or mysterious, but it was incredibly well-written, tightly-woven, and neatly wrapped up.
One aspect of the plot that I really enjoyed was the political influence being exerted over the Blazewrath Games and the various players that each country fields. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times – I absolutely love when fantasy or sci-fi, any form of speculative fiction really, involves politics. And Blazewrath Games does this beautifully. It sort of made me think of how gladiator games and chariot races were used as a political tool in Ancient Rome. And of course, we can’t deny the truth that everything, including sports, is political. The athletes themselves have to go through the decision of choosing what message to send as they continue to play Blazewrath, considering the very public nature of their personas. It was a really great lesson I haven’t really seen explored in YA, and I appreciated how Amparo handled it.
☕ Writing ☕
Amparo Ortiz’s writing is somehow both incredibly complex and yet easy to read. I don’t understand how she did it, but she took an incredibly complicated concept like a whole new game she invented off the top of her head and made it easy to understand. I really appreciated the game of Blazewrath – and that really is down to Amparo’s ability not only to write a game that makes sense, but also her skill at imbuing the game scenes during the tournament with life. I could practically hear the crowds cheering and feel the sun on my face. It was, to put it plainly and succinctly, one hell of an experience!
I really loved the world-building in this book. One of my favorite things about urban fantasy is seeing how the author works speculative fiction elements – like magic and dragons – into contemporary settings, and Blazewrath Games really delivered on that part. I loved how magic seemed to have been integrated into society, how Regulars and magic-users live side-by-side, and how technology and magic still evolved alongside each other. Now that’s excellent world-building!
This book is also incredibly international. We’re treated to descriptions and details of non-Western countries, which I immensely appreciated. Just like almost every non-Westerner out there, I’m tired of seeing contemporary books set in the US, UK, Europe, Canada, or Australia. It was such a treat to see major international sports events being held elsewhere.
You could also feel the wonderfully, unapologetically Latinx representation in this book. I truly feel that Amparo poured a lot of herself and her own experiences into this story, and that just made it even more enjoyable and meaningful to read!
☕ Characters ☕
There’s so much to love about this book, but its shining star really and truly is Lana, our main character. Y’all, I got attached to her so quickly – and I firmly believe it’s just because she’s so darn likeable! Everything about her, from her determination to play Blazewrat and win fame and fortune to her uncertainty about her role in the game versus her desire to do the right thing, really makes you root for her.
But the best thing about Lana’s character is she’s perfectly ‘normal’ – if normal girls played games with dragons, that is. But you know what I mean. She’s not the chosen one. She doesn’t have magic. Her special talent is a feat of athleticism that anyone with the right dedication and training can achieve. Instead, what makes her special is that she’s completely and utterly determined to achieve what she sets out to do, and I personally think that’s such an important lesson for teens – especially Latinx teens like Lana – to learn.
☕ Overall ☕
Blazewrath Games was one heck of a fun read. It took several old tropes and clichés from urban/contemporary fantasy and infused them with fresh new life and an unmistakably Latinx flair. If you want your dragons with a side of politics, sports tournaments, and a lot of queer and POC representation, definitely pick up this book!
What did you think? Let’s chat!
☕ Have you read Blazewrath Games? What did you think?
☕ It’s Latinx Heritage Month! Rec your fave Latinx books in the comments!
☕ What are your fave contemporary fantasies?