Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz
Genre: Young adult, contemporary fantasy
Publishing Info: October 2020 by Page Street Kids
Star Rating: 3.5/5
Back Cover Summary:
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.
Blazewrath Games is a creative and fun entry into the YA landscape, integrating fantasy elements into our contemporary world in a way that felt believable and magical. As much as I love high fantasy, there is something unique about the way contemporary fantasy makes magic feel closer, more real. The world Amparo Ortiz has created feels like a completely plausible alternative version of our own world. One where there are dragons, tournaments, and magic wand shops. Something about it just captured my imagination and that tingly magical feeling that you only get from some books.
We’re introduced to Lana, who dreams of playing in the Blazewrath World Cup for Puerto Rico. Lana is a very relatable character – she has dreams, is driven and has a strong belief in doing what is right. Amparo Ortiz also explores what it means to belong and Lana’s relationship with Puerto Rico after moving to the US as a child, and how that affects her identity and her place amongst the Puerto Rico team. A lot of readers will really connect to Lana’s internal struggles and appreciate seeing this represented on the page.
The opening chapters are engaging and do an excellent job of introducing the world building smoothly, without info dumping. This is helped by the epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter, which work well to provide more insight into the world. I loved how the dragons from each country are unique, and we get to see the Puerto Rican dragons grow into their magic over the course of the book.
However, once the competition starts, the suspense and thrill factor I love in contest plots is missing. Blazewrath Games is a fast-paced read, but I didn’t feel gripped by the story in the way I would expect to with a competition narrative. The tension wasn’t there. While some elements were predictable, there were also a couple of twists that took me totally by surprise, with a particular unexpected twist near the end leaving me completely heartbroken.
Blazewrath Games is an entertaining read with excellent world building and a diverse cast. Although I had fun reading it, some of the elements didn’t quite come together, and it felt a little messy at times, with lots of subplots weaving together in a bit of a tangle, and despite having some of my favourite elements (dragons and competitions!), it didn’t feel memorable.
I would recommend this if you’re looking for a quick, fun YA fantasy read and, of course, if you love dragons!