I had a sister, once…
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.
I promised her the throne would not come between us.
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.
But it is a fact of life that one must kill or be killed. Rule or be ruled.
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.
Sometimes the title of queen is given. Sometimes it must be taken.
Crown of Feathers is an awesome adventure with kick-ass characters. The story is set in a world where the governing Empire prosecute people who are animages: people who possess magic that allows them to connect and influence animals. The most powerful animages were the legendary Phoenix Riders, who were at one point the protectors of the land and of the people before the Blood War saw both phoenixes and their human counterparts executed or imprisoned. At the books opening, anyone who is found to be an animage is either heavily taxed or enslaved, which is why many animages are in hiding.
Meet Veronkya. She and her sister evade the empire by living just outside the empire’s border, and dream of becoming Phoenix Riders. Veronkya is ecstatic to learn there is a small rebellion group who trying to bring back the Phoenix Riders, however, she’s disheartened to learn they don’t recruit girls. However, she decides no gender will get between her and her dreams, so she joins the group under the guise of being a boy. There she meets fellow animages and feels like she has a purpose, but quickly gets on the wrong side of Tristan, the leader’s son.
Meet Sev. He’s a secret animage who is part of the Empire’s military, who gets roped into a plot against the empire when someone uses his secret against him. Whilst this predicament frustrates him, he can’t help being drawn to one of the animage’s who is involved in his blackmail, the very handsome Kade. Sev’s journey involves healing past wounds and questions of morals, which makes for an enthralling read.
This is the hardest review I’ve written in a while, purely because, I don’t know how to put my immense feelings and thoughts about this into the right words. Quite literally, this review has taken me days to get to a point where I feel I’ve done it all the justice I can do it.
This book has inspiring world building and imagery. The setting is “The Golden Empire” which has different regions with varying levels of Empire influence. The regions, such as the landscape and the people, are written so vividly and distinctly, making the story all the more enjoyable. These illustrations were supported with events prior to the novel’s beginning, that act as a backdrop to the main storyline, like the Blood War and the adventures of past king and queens of the realm. It was effortless to imagine the scenes that unfolded, particularly the climax. It was really entertaining.
Also, this deserves recognition for its inclusion of diversity. We have gay romance, a girl with a disability whose attitude is larger than life, and some focus on mental illness through phobias and breaking free of psychological abuse. This diversity made the book all the more enjoyable because the way in which the characters and storylines were written was really brilliant.
I must mention this for anyone who could find this distressing: there is a small amount of animal slaughter. I’m really in two minds mentioning this, because I don’t think it should put anyone off, but it could certainly distress someone who isn’t perhaps prepared to read such scenes, as quick as it is.
I’d say good characterisation is one of the strongest elements of the book, which is achieved by blossoming relationships and terse family bonds.
The book alternates between three POVs; Veronkya, Tristan and Sev. This serves the pace of the book really well, as all three characters are likeable, and beyond the overarching story, their independent stories are interesting too. The development of these characters, and secondary characters, is well done and thoroughly satisfying. I can’t wait to be back with them in the sequel.
And seeing as I’ve mentioned the sequel, I hope to see both of the early and subtle romances pick up in the next book.
Overall, I read this over 3 days and I’m going to give it 5 stars. Toward the beginning of the book there was some repetition of details which stood out enough to distract my building enjoyment. I’d actually say this goes down to an oversight in editing. Nonetheless, what we have here is the beginning of an immersing and enjoyable series, as its plot development and characters show promise. The ending was breath-taking and left me wanting more – I’m going to be one impatient lady waiting for the sequel. Definitely recommend to all fantasy lovers!
Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Petro
Published April 2019 (UK)
Genre: young adult, fantasy