Special thank you to Shealea and Caffeine Book Tours for organizing this blog tour and providing me an ARC of the book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. All quotes are from an advance copy and are subject to change in final publication.
Title: Blazewrath Games
Author: Amparo Ortiz
Publication Date: October 6th, 2020
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Source: Physical ARC via publisher
Age Range & Genre: YA, fantasy, contemporary, LGBTQ+
Content warnings: violence, death, manipulation, mentioned queerphobia
Synopsis: 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.
Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am the last person to possibly get invested in a sport, but Blazewrath Games had me captivated from the get-go. Reading Amparo Ortiz’s debut was exactly what I imagine some people experience when they’re at a football stadium – I was cheering, and screaming, and crying and gasping, and just rooting for Lana and her teammates so hard their victories started to feel like my own. Blazewrath Games is a book for the ages.
Blazewrath Games follows Lana as she gets the chance of a lifetime: a lifelong fan of Blazewrath, Lana is finally able to participate in the game her father taught her to love and represent the island that she loves just as much, if not more. But her experience is not what she imagined it to be. One of her teammates gives Lana a less than warm welcome and questions her right to be there as someone who hasn’t been back to Puerto Rico since she was five years old, but that’s not the worst of it. Lana quickly discovers that there are far more extreme, potentially deadlier stakes than the Blazewrath Cup, and inexplicably finds herself caught in the middle of it all.
Amparo Ortiz writes about the diaspora experience with a skilled nuance and deft hand that makes her contemporary fantasy world come to life. Even though there is video evidence that Lana has what it takes to be Puerto Rico’s Runner in the games, she finds herself questioning if she’s Puerto Rican enough to represent her island. I think what impressed me the most was how Ortiz contends with the very valid feelings of diasporic teens who struggle to figure out where they truly belong and stay connected with their heritage even as they blend in to their surroundings, while still acknowledging how, in many circumstances, American-raised children can be disconnected with what’s happening in the countries their families are from.
Lana is a character that you can’t help but root for. She wants to play for Puerto Rico more than anything, and yet she also acknowledges how her joining the team means that someone who currently lives on the island can’t. Rather than being discouraged by this realization, Lana lets this become her fuel, her motivation for winning the cup. Lana is so determined and she recognizes that as an American, she doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the team, but she wants to and commits herself to earning her place twice over — and, spoiler alert, she succeeds.
Blazewrath Games truly has something for everyone. Magical jock competitions somehow seem to be my kryptonite this year, despite my aversion to sports of any kind, but the cast of characters really made the book shine. Lana herself is indomitable and full of fire, and her teammates are no less impressive. In a world where magic is real and dragon history is a part of mainstream textbooks, Ortiz still manages to root Blazewrath Games in a contemporary world with contemporary characters. These teenage athletes train with their dragons, then scroll through Twitter and binge watch Law & Order in their free time. They all commit themselves to Blazewrath in order to represent their homes and make them proud, these very real countries who show up and cheer them on, and produce heroes, whether the characters themselves realize it or not.
Amparo Ortiz may have succeeded where many people have failed – Blazewrath Games may make a sports fan out of me yet. But only if dragons are involved. And only if an international conspiracy is not. So, basically, a sports fan I still am not, but I am definitely a fan of Blazewrath Games.
About the Author
Amparo Ortiz was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and currently lives on the island’s northeastern coast. Her short story comic, “What Remains in The Dark,” appears in the Eisner Award-winning anthology Puerto Rico Strong (Lion Forge, 2018), and SAVING CHUPIE, her middle grade graphic novel, comes out with HarperCollins in Winter 2022. She holds an M.A. in English and a B.A. in Psychology from the UPR’s Río Piedras campus. When she’s not teaching ESL to her college students, she’s teaching herself Korean, devouring as much young adult fiction as she can, and writing about Latinx characters in worlds both contemporary and fantastical.
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