I received a copy of this book from the publisher on NetGalley… Thanks!
I AM A DAUGHTER OF DEATH.
FROM THE ASHES I ROSE,
LIKE A PHOENIX FROM THE PYRE.
I had a sister once.
I promised her the throne would not come between us.
But it is a fact of life that one must kill or be killed. Rule or be ruled.
Sometimes the title of Queen is given. Sometimes it must be taken.
In a world ruled by fierce warrior queens, a grand empire was built upon the backs of Phoenix Riders legendary heroes who soared through the sky on wings of fire until a war between two sisters ripped it all apart.
Sixteen years later, Veronyka is a war orphan who dreams of becoming a Phoenix Rider from the stories of old. After a shocking betrayal from her controlling sister, Veronyka strikes out alone to find the Riders even if that means disguising herself as a boy to join their ranks.
Just as Veronyka finally feels like she belongs, her sister turns up and reveals a tangled web of lies between them that will change everything. And, meanwhile, the new empire has learned of the Riders’ return and intends to destroy them once and for all.
Crown of Feathers is an epic fantasy about love’s incredible power to save or to destroy. Throughout is interspersed the story of Avalkyra Ashfire, the last Rider Queen, who would rather see her empire burn than fall into her sister’s hands.
PRAISE FOR CROWN OF FEATHERS
“Draws you in with the first flaming feather and doesn’t let go.” – Kendare Blake
“A feast of magic, action, and romance.” – Elly Blake
“A fierce and incendiary tale of warrior women, sisterhood, and the choices that define us.” – Lisa Maxwell
“A beautifully told story about justice, sisterhood, and warrior women. This richly woven world had me turning pages well into the night. Nicki Pau Preto is one to watch.” – Shea Ernshaw
“The unique and imaginative world of the Phoenix Riders had my rapt attention from the first sentence. Nicki Pau Preto is a bright new talent, and I can’t wait to read more!”– Morgan Rhodes
“An action-packed adventure that will leave fans of epic fantasies eager to find out more. The ending is the perfect setup for a sequel.” – School Library Journal
“This is a new twist on fantasy favorites, and Pau Preto’s first novel is as ambitious as it is lyrical.” – Booklist
“Epic in the truest sense . . . it’s the perfect series kickoff.” – Quill and Quire
“Debut author Pau Preto’s series opener steadily gathers steam before closing with a pulse-pounding crescendo. Veronica, Tristan, and conflicted imperial soldier Sev trade chapters, their stories interweaving to heighten tension, deepen character, and illustrate the importance of empathy, equality, community, and knowing one’s own truth.” – Publisher’s Weekly
I got an email this week saying that this book was on NetGalley, and I was instantly hooked. Look at that cover art! It’s spectacular! Imagine the story of the Riders from Empire of Storms, but fleshed out into their own fully realised world! And also, warring sisters! I was SO on board with this story, so I requested it immediately.
Once approved (and delighted), I sat down to read it last night, and boy, did I regret that in the morning. Not because it was a bad book! But rather, because I didn’t get enough sleep last night, and getting up this morning was difficult, because I finished the entire thing. At 496 pages, this was no mean feat, so you can imagine how heavy my eyelids were by the time I finished.
The beginning of this book is… well, it’s slow. There’s a lot of information dumped on the reader almost straight away. Veronyka and Val are sister, on the run from the Empire, where magic is outlawed, and in search of phoenix eggs. But the first chapter of the book is laden down with information about the world, the magic system, the history, how magic was outlawed, what phoenixes are. There was just too much of it, and I felt bogged down before we’d even gotten started.
But I persevered through the info-dumping, and once the plot actually got started, it was really interesting. There was a tendency throughout to throw down large chunks of information rather than interspersing it through the story, but that can probably be put down to the fact that this is a debut novel.
The infodumping also badly affected the pacing of the novel, where the opening chapters felt glacial, and the last few chapters fairly raced by. The revelations in the final pages felt almost thrown out, as it the book had to be capped at 500 pages and all the information had to be put across.
This wasn’t enough to make me dislike the book. On the contrary, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Veronyka and Val’s relationship is complex and multi-layered, the magic system, although somewhat simplistic, is well-structured, and the phoenixes (phoenices? phoenix? Like sheep?) were magnificent.
There are three POV characters in this book – Veronyka, who is the clear main character, Tristan, a training phoenix rider, and Sev, a soldier in the Empire’s army who’s hiding the fact that he’s a forbidden animage – he has magical affiliations with animals. Veronyka’s chapters far outweigh the other two, but they add a certain amount of depth to the story as they flesh out beyond just Nyka’s perspective. Looming large in the story but not getting her own POV is Val, Nyka’s sister – for reasons which are clear by the end of the book.
There’s definitely scope here for a sweeping story of sisterly affection, phoenix riding, war, rebellion, and the inevitability of fate, and there was loads here that I really liked – enough that I’ll look out for the next book when it’s released – but it’s marred by heavy-handed info-dumping and romances that just… don’t hit the spot for me. But I might be terribly cynical.
Even still, it’s a good read, and certainly engaging, judging by the fact that I finished it in one night.
Three (and a half) stars