Thursday, March 16, 2023

Review: Chaos & Flame by Tessa Gratton & Justina Ireland

Chaos & Flame by Tessa Gratton & Justina Ireland
Publication Date: March 28th, 2023
Hardcover. 336 pages.

About Chaos & Flame:

"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."

Chaos & Flame is a fantasy adventure filled with political intrigue, magic, and plenty of characters with lots of conflict. It wasn't an overly memorable fantasy for me, but I found it perfectly entertaining and is still a YA I enjoyed much more than others. 

Darling Seabreak's family was murdered when she was a young girl, and as a result she has no real memory of her childhood with them. Fortunately, House Kraken swooped in and saved her from destitution and raised her as one of their own, where they worked tirelessly to overtake the indomitable House Dragon. House Dragon is home and family to Talon Goldhoard, also known as the War Prince, and his brother Caspian, who is now king. House Dragon rose to power many years ago after some political drama led them to taking their revenge on others, and it is now only under Caspian's rule that instability has started to grow within House Dragon. An unexpected and highly unusual event and reason eventually draws Talon and Darling together, and this is where our story begins as they discover that they must work together to prevent some much greater things from happening in the world around them. 

In Chaos & Flame, we follow the alternative viewpoints of Darling and Talon. While both characters had interesting backgrounds and development arcs throughout the story, I have to say that I didn't find that either one particularly stood out, and in fact both often had relatively similar voices for their narratives. That being said, I did enjoy getting to know both of these characters, and I particularly liked following Talon and learning more about his family interactions and history. As quick note, I just have to say that since this is a not in any way related to Peter Pan, the name Darling was oddly distracting to me and kept making me wonder why everyone was being so inappropriately friendly with her all the time. I also really liked getting to know more about Caspian, the 'mad king' who embodies that trope exceptionally well. He's not necessarily one of the main characters, but he has such a fun role that I think really added some incredible depth to the political intrigue and general character development of the story. 

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book, and it largely comes down to two main things: 1) It was a lot of fun overall and I really was entertained and felt like it didn't take itself as seriously as other YA fantasy books–in a good way. And then we have 2) It felt underdeveloped and really didn't feel like anything overly memorable. Chaos & Flame doesn't necessarily have anything overly new to offer to the YA fantasy or fantasy genre in general, but the story that it does provide is very well done and perfectly engrossing, and when compared to other YA fantasy I've read recently I did enjoy it quite a bit more. I haven't read anything from Justina Ireland before, but I already knew I loved Gratton's writing and storytelling, so I'm glad to see that the two form a fantastic team with this book. 

The pacing of Chaos & Flame is a little hit or miss at times, but overall it's a very fast-paced adventure with plenty of things going on to keep you turning the pages. The first third of the book felt a little rushed to me compared to the rest of the book, and there's one major plot progression point that felt exceptionally rushed and incorporated in a that felt as though the characters just accepted it and moved on much more quickly than made sense to me. This pacing and tone created a slight mismatch with the latter half of the book's pacing where there were more times when it felt like the story dragged slightly and not much really happened. 

I think my biggest issues with Chaos & Flame was that the world didn't feel as expansive or fleshed out as much as I'd have liked or expected, which seems to be a common issue lately in a lot of the books that I'm reading. We travel around the world a bit and are introduced to a few different areas of this world, but something about it still felt as though it was very isolated overall and I never got the sense that there was all that much else going on outside of our main characters' storylines. 

Despite the negatives, I did actually did have a good time with this book overall. I didn't really expect to like this book as much as I did, but something about it just made for a very casual, quick, and entertaining read. I would definitely recommend this for any YA fantasy fans or someone who is maybe looking for a fantasy with political intrigue, an interesting plot, and intriguing characters, but that isn't overly heavy or complex. The latter half of the book was exceptionally compelling and leaves readers on a cliffhanger that makes it hard not to commit to the sequel, and I would probably be open to reading the sequel. I don't think this will be a favorite or anything, but I had plenty of fun with it and found it an easy and enjoyable read. Overall, I've given Chaos & Flame 3.5 stars!

*I received a copy of Chaos & Flame courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |


  1. Ah snap, despite its flaws, there's something fun about this one. I do prefer when things feel more developed but with the right mindset, I think one could enjoy this one. Thanks for sharing, Jordan! :)

  2. It sounds like a pretty decent read, but I know what you mean about a book not really offering anything new. Those are usually the books that don't stand out for me too.