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Historical Inspiration and Fantasy Collide in Zoraida Cordova’s ‘Incendiary’ – Book Review

With a backdrop inspired by Inquisition Spain, Incendiary follows Renata Convida. Kidnapped as a child, Renata is one of the most powerful and feared by the magical Moria – a memory thief. For many years, Renata was forced by the King of Andalucia to use her gifts against her own people, resulting in the deaths of thousands. 

However, this was not something that Renata could stand for and as such, she became one of The Whispers. The group is comprised of rebel spies that work against the crown and they rescued Renata from the hellish life she’d been living. But due to her past, The Whispers do not completely trust her – who could blame them? This was the same powerful girl who drained the memories of thousands. 

It is clear that Renata has had many trials and tribulations in her life and things only get more difficult when the boy she loves, Dez, is kidnapped. The task of fulfilling Dez’s mission falls upon her, but this means that she must return to Andalucia. Renata now has to relive some of the most painful memories of her past – but at what cost?

Cover for Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova
Cover of Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova (Courtesy of Hachette Book Group/Little, Brown)

Zoraida Cordova’s Incendiary is a great book that is filled with magic, suspense and political intrigue. Firstly, in terms of the magic within the world Cordova created, it was unlike anything I’ve read before. I was quite intrigued by Renata’s powerset. When I first read about taking someone’s memories, the first thing that came to mind was Rogue (for those who are unfamiliar with the X-Men character Rogue, she has the ability to take someone’s life force by touching them and with that, she also takes absorbs their memories). There is something that is of course to personal about a person’s memories – from cherished moments to moments of grief, memories encapsulate much of what makes people who they are. So, for a person to be able to take that from someone is truly an eerie thought. It also played into just why Renata is so feared.

The way that Cordova weaves the magic, the world and political intrigue seamlessly, is a great feat and it drew me in as a reader. I love a good suspense story and there is something equally intriguing about palace life, especially with the backdrop that was set up. The inspiration of an Inquisition Spain was interesting and I enjoyed how Cordova described and depicted everything in such great detail. Whilst reading, you truly felt as though you were transported to Andalucia and beyond. The visuals are very vivid and it was one of my favourite things about reading this novel. 

Of course, we cannot talk about Incendiary and not speak about the characters. Renata was a great protagonist. She was quite layered and I enjoyed that she was a heroine who didn’t begin her story as someone you could see as the hero. There were many wrongs committed in her life and she has no memory of what her life was before. While it was something she was forced to do, it is interesting to see what happens when Renata does try to piece together the bits and pieces from her own memories to try to make up the story of her past life. She doesn’t know who she can trust and she doesn’t know what to make of her life with all the missing memories. It is something that could make anyone directionless, but still, Renata finds a way. 

With fantastic world-building, great characterization, amazing political intrigue and suspense, Incendiary is a book that should be on your must-read lists for 2020 and I cannot wait to see where Cordova takes us next. 

Incendiary can be purchased on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indigo, and your local independent bookstores.

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