Review: Heart of Flames by Nicki Pau Preto

Haven’t read my review of the first book in the Crown of Feathers series? Click here to read it now!



Veronyka, Tristan, and Sev must stop the advancing empire from destroying the Phoenix Riders in this fiery sequel to Crown of Feathers, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Kendare Blake calls “absolutely unforgettable!”

You are a daughter of queens.

The world is balanced on the edge of a knife, and war is almost certain between the empire and the Phoenix Riders.

Like Nefyra before you, your life will be a trial by fire.

Veronyka finally got her wish to join the Riders, but while she’s supposed to be in training, all she really wants to do is fly out to defend the villages of Pyra from the advancing empire. Tristan has been promoted to Master Rider, but he has very different ideas about the best way to protect their people than his father, the commander. Sev has been sent to spy on the empire, but maintaining his cover may force him to fight on the wrong side of the war. And Veronyka’s sister, Val, is determined to regain the empire she lost—even if it means inciting the war herself.

Such is your inheritance. A name. A legacy. An empire in ruin.

As tensions reach a boiling point, the characters all find themselves drawn together into a fight that will shape the course of the empire—and determine the future of the Phoenix Riders. Each must decide how far they’re willing to go—and what they’re willing to lose in the process.

I pray you are able to pass through the flames.

The hotly anticipated sequel to Crown of Feathers catapults us back into the world of the Golden Empire and the legendary Phoenix Riders.
Since the Battle of the Eyrie, Veronyka and Tristan are dealing with the new realities of what it means to be in open war with the Golden Empire’s armies, and they’re working toward building the Phoenix Riders forces. Meanwhile, Sev made his choice to stand with his fellow animages and the Phoenix Riders, and he faces his next steps in bringing down the Golden Empire. Join our beloved trio in their efforts to fight back against the people who want to seize power – Heart of Flames is the epic and explosive next instalment in the fantastic and fiery YA fantasy series.
I very rarely finish a book, and immediately want to reread it because I loved it with every fibre of my being. This happened here. Imagine the best rollercoaster you’ve ever been on, that had you like “I want to go again!” and that is the best summary of my feelings for Heart of Flames.
I love everything about the world of Crown of Feathers; the characters, the world building, the prose to name some of my highlights. And before even diving in, Heart of Flames strongly profits from the well-developed details in its predecessor due to the fact we already know and care for the majority of the characters, their causes and the world they live in.
Nicki Pau Preto spends a lot of time building upon these characters and the world she started in COF – from the villages the forces and armies visit, to the Golden Empire’s warring past – and continues to demonstrate her amazing ability to create such awesome imagery, like epic scenes of phoenixes dashing through the air. These amplifications also include the story’s magic system; COF established what being an animage entails, and HOF continues to bolster this and more by granting further insight into the use of shadow magic.
Without a doubt all of these developments were exciting, engaging and cemented my love and awe for Pau Preto’s writing style and imagination even further.
All of the characters are vibrant and memorable; written with such prowess to make them likeable and relatable beyond measure. By far my favourite was Sev. Between COF and HOF, his character development has by far been the most drastic – in the most wonderful and best of ways. It’s been well illustrated how this scared, self-serving boy has moved beyond that caged mindset to become a thoughtful, courageous young man that evokes a great sense of admiration and pride from the reader.
Veronyka is still our spunky heroine and is at the heart of the book’s events. I had real problems with Veronyka’s actions in HOF; Veronyka’s desire for answers of where she comes from, ultimately who she is, brought out a primal selfishness to her in this instalment, which naturally rubbed me up the wrong way. But, the wonder of Nicki’s writing and how well conceived and developed Veronyka is, you understand her motives despite perhaps disagreeing with her actions. Achieving understanding like that, of a character’s flaws and mistakes, goes to the heart of how well a character is developed, and ultimately made me appreciate and love Veronyka even more. HOF delivered one heck of a journey for Veronyka. One minute my heart was aching for her, then the next I was furious with her.
Heart of Flames upgrades our original narration from three alternating character perspectives to five alternating character perspectives. We get to see more from Val’s perspective, and phoenix rider Elliot, who fell from grace in COF.
I really loved the inclusion of Val and Elliot. Val’s POV allowed us insight into a darker mindset, and access to information from the past and about shadow magic. And Elliot’s POV ultimately presents us with a character who is lost, confused, and desperately seeking absolution. Both were brilliant additions that brought powerful themes to the plot.
When comparing our original three, it didn’t feel like Tristan had the same development as Veronyka and Sev this time around. It may be that Tristan’s story is to be more of a focal point in the concluding instalment, which in the meantime, leaves focus on enjoying Veronyka and Sev’s progression whilst welcoming Val and Elliot’s perspectives. It was just a little sad for my Tristan fangirling heart that I didn’t feel I had my fill of him in this instalment.  
My most absolute favourite parts of this story were our fiery feathered friends!!! I’m still freaking out over this, because Xephyra and Rex get even more focus in HOF.  Pau Preto magnified attention on the phoenixes by illustrating their nature, temperaments and personalities to the point where adoration for them isn’t even close to how I feel. We get to see more depth to them and, particularly with Xephyra, more insight into the relationship between phoenix and rider too.
My heart truly expanded with so much mad love for these precious phoenixes – just like how much I love my animal companions in real life. This is hands down my favourite thing to come in HOF and I’m so grateful; I can’t get enough of these beautiful creatures.
My romantic heart was so satisfied with HOF. I love all things fluff and romance in fantasy (when they’re done right) and boy is this super, super satisfying. The romances have been well developed and well-paced across COF and HOF for a natural and smooth progression, which made the payoff oh so worth it .
The greedy part of me wanted more and more, because I can be a right sop when it comes to my ships. Sev and Kade made my heart pound, and Tristan and Veronyka had my pulse racing.
There’s real heart in this story that, once you’ve read a story that has this kind of heart, it’s hard to find books that measure up to them. That’s why they’re 5 star reads and rare gems. Heart of Flames makes me appreciate the stories that don’t just leave the mark of an enjoyable read, but create a bond to a story that is for life, which truly is a testament of how Pau Preto is a fantastic writer.
And, as if the book couldn’t get more epic, the cliffhanger ending is jaw dropping insurance that the concluding instalment is not to be missed! I recommend this book series time and time again, it reintroduced me to my slumbering passion for the fantasy genre, and I hope people add it to their TBRs to appreciate its sheer brilliance. Thank you, Nicki, for creating these characters and this world, and letting me play a part in sharing how awesome it all is.


Buy It Now

Heart of Flames by Nicki Pau Preto
Genre: YA fantasy, epic fantasy
Pages: 640
Publication: February 2020 




*Thank you kindly to Nicki, the publishers and Netgalley for providing me with an e-ARC, in exchange for this honest review.

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