Title: These Feathered Flames
Author: Alexandra Overy
Series: These Feathered Flames (Book 1)
Page Length: 448
Publication Date: April 20, 2021
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Synopsis: 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.
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A Russian folklore retelling, These Feathered Flames is an immersive fantasy story with dynamically developed characters. I enjoyed the story of the twin sisters, one who was chosen as the heir to the throne and one who was chosen as the Firebird, a supernatural figure who hunts down and punishes magic users who don’t offer enough to use said magic. Both sisters are unhappy with their lives and envy the other.
Izaveta, the sister chosen to be queen, envies Asya’s freedom as the future Firebird. Stuck under the heartless manipulations of her mother, Izaveta’s life is filled with politics and strategy. Asya wishes she had the opportunity to remain with her family since she has spent a lonely decade training to be the next Firebird. I found this aspect of the story interesting as both sisters slowly realize that each other’s realities aren’t enviable. Izaveta struggles to assert and define herself as a new and young queen. Asya struggles to live up to the expectations of the Firebird, as she doesn’t like what she has to do to others.
Since their mother, the Queen, died under mysterious circumstances, the sisters spend time immersed in political intrigue, which is fascinating. There are nefarious dealings and ever-changing political moves that put the sisters at risk. Neither sister knows whom she can trust, who has ulterior motives, and who is looking out for the best interest of their kingdom, which causes much conflict throughout the story and leads to some epic battles.
That was all anything was in court, an elaborate game of exploitation where loyalty was no more than another card to play.
The idea of balance is examined repeatedly throughout the story. The kingdom lives in a precarious balance and relies on the unknown to maintain that balance. Izaveta continually struggles to balance her beliefs and desires with the needs of the kingdom, and Asya is repeatedly reminded that her role as the Firebird is necessary to maintain balance in their world.
There is also a great f/f, enemies-to-lovers romance that is great. Slow to trust and even like each other, this couple has a great love story. I enjoyed watching their relationship grow from verbal and physical sparring into something more.
Oh, and did I mention the bears?!? They pet and ride bears! How cool is that?
With lush and vivid world-building, surprising twists, and dynamically developed characters, These Feathered Flames is a great book for people who enjoy YA fantasy. Thanks so much to Netgalley and Inkyard Press for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
- The character development, especially with the sisters. They are dynamic, interesting, and well-layered.
- The world-building. It’s immersive and beautifully vivid.
- The symbolism. The author makes excellent use of symbols throughout the book, from the chess game to the Firebird and more.
Information was the most powerful weapon in court, and when facing her mother, Izaveta needed to be well armed.
After all these years, Izaveta had learned to emulate her mother so well she couldn’t always tell where the imitation ended and she began.