Genre: Political Fantasy Age Range: YA Star Rating: 5 stars Series: Yes - first book in duology
When twin heirs are born in Tourin, their fates are decided at a young age. While Izaveta remained at court to learn the skills she’d need as the future queen, Asya was taken away to train with her aunt, the mysterious Firebird, who ensured magic remained balanced in the realm.
But before Asya’s training is completed, the ancient power blooms inside her, which can mean only one thing: the queen is dead, and a new ruler must be crowned.
As the princesses come to understand everything their roles entail, they’ll discover who they can trust, who they can love—and who killed their mother.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
As is often the case with me, THESE FEATHERED FLAMES went onto my TBR when the cover was revealed and I saw it was billed as a political fantasy. And I am very, incredibly, horribly low on reading it this year (there don’t seem to have been many releases so far in 2021, and there are none in the unreads I am slowly working through as I’ve read them already.)
Therefore it was just so satisfying to read a book where one of the characters wasn’t trying to physically fight off an army or some other more tangible threat, but was scrambling to save her throne with her mind. Asya’s struggle with her magic balances it out, so it’s the most intense of political fantasies, but I still really enjoyed watching Izaveta try to manoeuvre her way around the council, particularly the slippery religious cleric.
There are a lot of twists to this book, as you’d expect for a political fantasy as schemes are revealed and allies turn into enemies. Some of them I guessed, others I didn’t, but they were very satisfying reveals because of how they were tied into the sisters’ emotions. The best was the one that directly affected both of them, plus it shed a whole new angle on what had come before.
It is, at its heart, a story about sisters and their strained relationship. Both want nothing more to have their sister back, but the wounds of the past keep getting in the way, as do their own goals and needs. I loved seeing them try and reach out, and was rooting for them to overcome their differences.
Being focused on the sisters, the two romances/potential-to-be-romances were very much on the periphery, and I really liked that. Asya was the more present of the two relationships, while Izaveta’s was more a “this could be something if they weren’t all jostling for their own positions”, which was a nice dynamic as it’s just nice to see a YA female lead not falling for someone.
The book is inspired by the Russian myth of the Firebird, a story with many versions, I am told, so it’s not a straight retelling but rather a feminist reimagining of the creature, giving her power. And my, does Asya have a lot of dangerous power. I loved the price the magic exacts, brutal and variable, stealing limbs or lives as magic wanes. It’s a really cool piece of world building
I am very excited for the second book now!