TOGETHER WE BURN by Isabel Ibañez.
Titan Books. p/b. £8.99.
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.
Santivilla, home of Flamenco and home to Zarela Zalvidar, daughter of the most famous flamenco dancer and Dragonador in Hispalia. Tonight crowds have gathered to see their beloved Zalvidars perform. Her mother is radiant, dancing the flamenco, adored by all. Zarela had never expected this would be her last performance and the end of her life as she knew it. As the red dragon breaks free, tragedy hits the Zalvidar family. They not only lose Zarela’s mother, but their reputation is left in tatters.
Since that terrible day, Zarela has followed in her mother’s footsteps, but it is always her mother’s name the crowds call out as she and her father strive to keep hold of their legacy and livelihood. Today crowds once again fill their arena for an anniversary show held in her mother’s memory. There is hope… until the sound of screams once again rains tragedy down on the family. Their dragons have broken free, and Zarela’s Dragonador father is badly injured in the attacks.
Eighteen-year-old Zarela will now have to fight to save her father, their reputation and their lives. As the smoke clears in the aftermath, Zarela discovers worse. Sabotage. The dragons were freed purposefully, and their dragon trainer slain. She must try to find out who was behind this, knowing it will take more than just her courage for the Dragon Guild to listen to the words of a young woman.
Together we Burn is a stand-alone, young adult fantasy richly steeped in ancient Spain and the traditions of flamenco and bullfighting. Zarela is a stubborn and determined protagonist who meets her match in Arturo Díaz de Montserrat, a former Dragonador who has vowed never again to kill a dragon. To save her family’s legacy, Zarela decides to become a Dragonador herself and needs to convince Arturo to train her.
The narrative is predictable at times, the magic system a little vague and a little too convenient towards the end of the story, but thanks to the strength of the worldbuilding, the depiction of the dragons in the story, and the tension between Zarela and Arturo, these can be forgiven in place of an easy and enjoyable read for anyone who prefers their fantasy to focus on a central, romantic thread.