“Whatever Caspian did, it has changed our entire world.”
Notice: thank you to Penguin Teen for sending an advanced reader’s copy of this book through the Penguin Teen Partner Program. This does not affect my opinion.
Darling Seabreak cannot remember anything before the murder of her family at the hands of House Dragon, but she knows she owes her life to both the power of her Chaos Boon and House Kraken for liberating her from the sewers where she spent her childhood. So when her adoptive Kraken father is captured in battle, Darling vows to save him–even if that means killing each and every last member of House Dragon.
Talon Goldhoard has always been a dutiful War Prince for House Dragon, bravely leading the elite troops of his brother, the High Prince Regent. But lately his brother’s erratic rule threatens to undo a hundred years of House Dragon’s hard work, and factions are turning to Talon to unseat him. Talon resists, until he’s ambushed by a fierce girl who looks exactly like the one his brother has painted obsessively, repeatedly, for years, and Talon knows she’s the key to everything.
Together, Darling and Talon must navigate the treacherous waters of House politics, caught up in the complicated game the High Prince Regent is playing against everyone. The unlikeliest of allies, they’ll have to stop fighting each other long enough to learn to fight together in order to survive the fiery prophecies and ancient blood magic threatening to devastate their entire world.
Welcome to a book that keeps you guessing all the way up to the final page. Chaos & Flame is a book that wasn’t on my release radar for early 2023, but I was hooked immediately after reading the synopsis. The premise of ancient magic and political House drama mixed with different abilities (boons) and regional Mythic creatures excited me beyond belief. And even better, Chaos & Flame features an incredibly ambiguous antagonist in the form of Caspian Goldhoard, which is one of my favorite book tropes.
I have seen a lot of mixed reactions to this book shortly after its publication. Personally, I enjoyed it. I’ve seen the hottest takes regarding the insta-love between Darling and Talon, and while I can agree that their attraction grew very quickly, I also never found myself feeling annoyed by their growing attraction. In fact, I was actually rooting for them from the beginning. I think I gripe with insta-love when it feels unfounded because there are no prior meaningful interactions to support the romantic connection (see: The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna). But with Chaos & Flame, a book so heavily influenced by the nebulous concept of chaos karmic magic and fate, it felt almost excusable that they’re attracted to each other despite being sworn enemies. I also think I was rooting for them because they’re on the same page morally (i.e. they both want the war to be over with already).
Moving on, the actual plot of Chaos & Flame is quite peculiar in a good way. We follow our main characters on a “tour” of all of the territories of the Houses (Dragon, Cockatrice, Barghest, and Gryphon. Minus House Kraken, because well yknow, the war). I enjoyed being along for this journey because we learned of the customs and political affairs of each House, making the setting feel more alive and well-rounded. And while Darling is busy taking in her surroundings and Talon is focused on ensuring the convoy’s safety, Caspian grows increasingly erratic during this journey (which ties into a jaw-dropping ending!)
All and all, my thoughts on this book are simple: It’s a quick, higher-fantasy young adult book that will presumably gain depth through the untitled future sequel. If you’re in the market for a book about mythical creatures, mystical abilities, and a whole lot of political drama, Chaos & Flame is the book for you.