Review: Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz – The Nerd Daily

Blazewrath Games is a contemporary fantasy that I immediately picked up after seeing the word ‘dragons’ in the Goodreads synopsis, because just like the majority of fantasy readers out there, I too am in love with dragon stories. Needless to say, I’d had quite high expectations of this book; however, while I did enjoy the first half of the story, ultimately I’ve got very mixed feelings about the book as a whole.
Lana Torres has only ever had one dream: to be a part of the Blazewrath Games, a sport played on the backs of dragons. When team Puerto Rico loses their Runner right before their very first appearance in the Blazewrath World Cup, Lana is finally given the opportunity to join the team of her native country. Even though both her parents seem reluctant to let her go, soon Lana gets taken away to Dubai- where the World Cup is going to be held this year- to join the rest of her team and train for the games. But when Lana finds out that the Sire, a dragon cursed into human form by his former rider, is plotting to put a stop to the World Cup, she realizes this year’s Blazewrath Games are going to be far more lethal than she could ever have imagined.
What I liked best about Blazewrath Games was the extensive and well-detailed worldbuilding, which Ortiz managed without ever being preachy or info-dumpy. Each chapter has a brief section at the beginning that’s either an excerpt from books/news reports telling you more about the history of dragons and Blazewrath, or snippets from interviews done with the characters, which was a very clever way of giving readers insight into the world of Blazewrath Games. The countries participating in the World Cup all have their own exclusive dragon species with unique powers, which made the matches fun to read about.
For the most part, Blazewrath Games is a character-driven story. The book has a delightfully diverse cast that’s comprised of complex and genuinely likeable characters- most of whom also happen to be queer- which made my heart do a happy dance. While Lana, our heroine, is a strong and multi-layered character who drove the story forward, the secondary characters were also wonderfully nuanced and made this book an  enjoyable read. Lana’s badass, witchy best friend Samira deserves a special mention, and so does Andrew, the Scottish Runner. Another thing I truly liked about this story was that Ortiz didn’t force Lana into a half-baked romance to make her more ‘interesting’, something a lot of YA books are guilty of.
The only character who didn’t get much development was the primary antagonist- the Sire; he didn’t seem to have much of a personality. And while all the other characters were mostly well-defined- even the minor ones who appear only once or twice- the book did appear a bit overcrowded. There were also too many subplots that, at the end, didn’t really come together very neatly.
In fact, that’s where my biggest problem with Blazewrath Games lies- the book started out with a fantastic premise, good characterizations and in depth discussions of themes like friendship, bravery, identity, and more that got me intrigued to find out what happens next, and then it failed to follow through. Another thing that I found a bit disappointing: despite the book being titled Blazewrath Games, it doesn’t really put much focus on the actual games. We get to see about two championship matches on screen, and both of them were quite underwhelming since the reader is already told who’s going to win… before the matches even begin. I mean, why?
What ultimately works for this book is the fast pace that doesn’t let you linger on the weaker bits, and the fact that Ortiz opts for a simple writing style that lets the story sail smoothly and makes it easy to follow.  All my qualms aside, Blazewrath Games is still a very original and unique story, and I do hope the sequel currently in works would satisfactorily tie up all the loose ends in this book. If a strong female character led contemporary fantasy with magic and many, many dragons sounds like something you’d enjoy, I do think you should give this one a chance.
Blazewrath Games is available from Amazon, Book Depository, and other good book retailers, like your local bookstore, as of October 6th 2020.
Synopsis | Goodreads

How to Train Your Dragon meets Quidditch through the Ages in this debut fantasy, set in an alternate contemporary world, in which dragons and their riders compete in an international sports tournament
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.
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