Book Review: Firebreak by Nicole Kornher-Stace

Good morning! I just want to wish an incredibly happy PUB DAY TO NICOLE KORNHER-STACE!!! This book is absolutely incredible! I was blown away the entire time. An absolute must read! Go ahead and add it, buy it, request it from your library. Whatever you need to do to get your hands on it.

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Title: Firebreak
Author: Nicole Kornher-Stace
Publisher: Gallery / Saga Press
Publication date: May 5, 2021

At a glance: An orphan of the corporate war, Mallory works streaming the popular VR war game, only to find out that the supposedly “grown” celebrity super humans (which are intellectual property of Stellaxis) are actually stolen children just like her.

  • 💥 Dramatic Ending
  • 💜 Nomance
  • 😭 Emotional
  • 🌺 Friendship Goals

Read this if… you are in the mood for an action packed VR experience that has a ton of care put into every sentence. And if you love ride or die friendships!

Diversity Representation: own voices ace/aro rep

Content Warnings: violence, kidnapping, torture, capitalism, police brutality, capitalism, language, parental loss, poverty, war, loss

book review

Action packed, anti-capitalist, compelling, well written, easy to follow, emotional, and tense.

Oh man, where do I begin? I really loved this book. When I opened it, I thought “man this is kind of long, I didn’t realize!” And then literally this book doesn’t slow down at any point. It is packed with amazing content. This is going to be a hard review, because it’s packed with so many different amazing things that I don’t know how well I can narrow it down! This book is easy to follow and fast paced, but delightfully anti-capitalist in a way that Ready Player One wishes it was.

Firebreak follows Mal, who lives with her 7 roommates in an old hotel room, living by the rules of the mega corporation, Stellaxis, amidst a corporate war stalemate. Mal and her best friend Jessa are mildly successful at streaming the wildly popular war VR game modeled after the real corporate war — the war that the corporations have monetized. Everything changes for Mal and Jessa when they get contacted by a mysterious sponsor who tells them that the super human celebrities, that everyone knows Stellaxis grew in a lab, are not lab experiments at all. They’re real war orphans, just like Mal and Jessa.

I have been reeling about this book since I finished it a few days ago. It was done so well, I’m really impressed. The first thing that I just can’t get over was how much action was packed into this book. Not just action, but how so much information about the plot was weaved effortlessly directly into the action. We learned everything we needed to know for the journey through VR battles, mysterious disappearances, rebellion and secrets whispered in the garden. It never slowed down, but it managed to give us so many intricacies of plot weaved in perfectly.

The most impressive part to me was how the VR was so perfectly a part of the story. It wasn’t difficult to follow whether we were in a digital world or the real world, even though they basically look exactly alike!! But not just that it was easy to follow the distinction (a huge feat in writing, I think), but I was most impressed that the virtual world and the real world paralleled each other so much. Not just in looks (that is blatantly stated), but in action! The real world of the book felt like a video game as well once the action was ramping up. Somehow Nicole managed to parallel the virtual world and the real world in so many ways while making the differences very clear the entire time. Incredible!

This book is filled with small moments that make big statements. It was absolutely stunning. From the corporations strictly owning the water supply but giving out brain implants for free, how important and life saving libraries can be, to the platonic M/F crush that Mal has for 22. I was truly stunned at how much care was placed in every bit of this book, every moment meant something, and I was really impressed the whole time.

Summing it all up

Firebreak was truly incredible. It was everything I could have hoped for in a book. It was full of action but never missed a moment to make a statement on the important things. I’m truly impressed at what this book was able to accomplish without feeling weighed down at all. Absolutely wonderful!


aesthetics photo

This book made me feel a thousand feelings at once, but the biggest feeling was how immersive this world was. Which is something that completely matches the whole idea of having a VR world. I don’t know if I could ever capture the magic in a few photos, but man this book is incredible.


Nicole was just published in her first professional essay piece!!! The piece is titled Sex Is Great, But Have You Seen Your Real-Life Relationship Depicted in Fiction, I mean hello, we all need to read this. Like as soon as possible.

So proud of you! This is incredible! I can’t wait to read it. Check out the issue of Apex Magazine it is featured in here.


About the author

Nicole Kornher-Stace lives in New Paltz, NY, with her family. Her books include ARCHIVIST WASP (Small Beer Press/Big Mouth House, 2015) and LATCHKEY (Mythic Delirium, 2018), which are about a far-future postapocalyptic ghosthunter, the ghost of a near-future supersoldier, and their adventures in the underworld. She has two more books due out in 2021: FIREBREAK, forthcoming from Saga, and JILLIAN VS. PARASITE PLANET, forthcoming from Tachyon.

You can find her on Twitter @wirewalking, where she is probably semicoherently yelling about board games, video games, hiking, fictional representation of strong platonic relationships, good books she’s read recently, or her cat.

She is represented by Kate McKean at Morhaim Literary Agency.


WOW! Firebreak sounds amazing! Adding it to my to-read ASAP! Check out this review!


Are you going to pick up Firebreak? Will you please talk to me about it when you do? Haha! Do you like the idea of VR games in books?

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Signed Amanda at Bookish Brews

*I received a free copy of this book from the author and am leaving this review voluntarily! All opinions are my own*