Three Dark Crowns meets Wicked Saints in this queer #ownvoices retelling of “The Firebird,” a Russian folktale, by debut author Alexandra Overy.
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.
I’m not familiar with the Russian folktale The Firebird, but I’ve read a couple other books based on Russian retellings that were incredible.
In this world magic comes with a price. Once a spell is cast, the Firebird collects payment from the caster to maintain balance in the realm. Payment can range from a small amount of blood to loss of life depending on the complexity of the spell. Because of this the Firebird isn’t looked upon kindly.
At a young age it’s determined that Izaveta will be the future queen, while Asya trains to be the next Firebird. Their mother, the queen, teaches Izaveta that most interactions with people at court are usually power plays in disguise. She must constantly strategize and look for hidden meanings. As a result, she trusts no one. Asya’s training requires her to ignore emotion while exacting payment no matter how she feels. Balance must be maintained. It’s a constant struggle and she doubts she has what it takes to do the job. I found it interesting that each sister is envious of the other’s life and quite possibly better suited for it. Izaveta is a tough one to like initially, and she can’t even let her guard down for her twin. Asya is kind-hearted, but feared by most people and considered a monster.
There are a ton of minor characters which means lots of suspects in the death of the twins’ mother. That being said, they felt flat and difficult to distinguish from each other. Pacing is a bit slow out of the gate, but the twists and surprises come soon, and the last thirty percent moves at breakneck speed. I appreciated the pronunciation guide at the end and was surprised I actually said some of the names correctly.
With complex political schemes and maneuvering, this novel will keep you guessing, and the relationship between the sisters is a strong point. I’ll be interested to see where the author takes this story in the next book.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
THESE FEATHERED FLAMES
By Alexandra Overy
On Sale: April 20, 2021
YOUNG ADULT FICTION/Fantasy/ Epic/Fairy Tales & Folklore/ Adaptations/Family/Siblings/Romance/LGBTQ+
ALEXANDRA OVERY was born in London, England. Ever since she was little she has loved being able to escape into another world through books. She currently lives in Los Angeles, and is completing her MFA in Screenwriting at UCLA. When she’s not working on a new manuscript or procrastinating on doing homework, she can be found obsessing over Netflix shows, or eating all the ice cream she can.
Author website: https://www.alexandraovery.com/