Book Review: Crown of Feathers
Crown of Feathers
Written by Nicki Pau Prieto
Published by Ink Road Books
Publication date: 25th April 2019
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
The phoenix stumbled over the bits of broken shell, impervious to the heat, until at last it steadied itself and shuffled around to face them, It looked like an ordinary nely hatched chick – wobbly and unstable – with barely there wings and a narrow, spindly neck that could hardly hold up its head. But its eyes…They were wide and large and alert.
And they latched onto Veronyka.
She exhaled, a last breath of air that marked the end of an old life – one that was small in scope and purpose. When Veronyka drew air again, it was the start of something new – a life that promised wind-tossed hair and endless blue skies and fire that burned hotter than the sun. Her fingers tingled, her senses sharpened, and the world was alive in a way that it has never been before, Her magic buzzed inside her, drumming like a second heartbeat – or maybe that was this creature’s pulse beating in time with her own.
The bond was a unity that was written in the stars, older than the empire and the valley and the mountains, older than the gods, a connection that not even death could break. Endless, limitless, and somehow timeless, Veronyka’s fate was tied to this creature, and they would always be together.
First impressions: I wanted to read this immediately I saw it, because of the fantastic cover, then became even more excited when I read the summary on Goodreads. It has sibling relationships, phoenixes, fantasy, phoenixes…oh and did I mention phoenixes?
I jumped at the chance to be included in the blog tour (thank you Alistair!) and was also lucky enough to win an exclusive Owlcrate edition with purple sprayed edges. I just love how books can be objects of beauty, both inside and out!
Once I started reading I was instantly brought into Veronyka’s world and the challenges she faces. I was excited to read about her disguising herself as a boy, because this is a trope that I have previously enjoyed (Alanna, The First Adventure; Mulan; Hana Kimi) and I liked the thread running through the book where many characters acknowledge that they are wrong to exclude women…yet they continue doing so!
I hadn’t realised before starting reading, but the book is told from multiple points of view. Veronyka’s was an immediate favourite, even as I felt frustrated by some of her decision at times. I was also very interested in Sev, especially as we start to find out more about his past – I am hoping to find out more about him in the next book! Tristan was a character who it took me a while to warm up to, but I enjoyed watching his attitude change as he let down his guard and the nuances of his relationship with his father.
Val fascinated me, as she also made me wary. I had a pretty good guess what was going on with her fairly early in the book, but I was still shocked at the lengths she was willing to go to in order to achieve her dream. Trix was a definite favourite – I really have a soft spot for feisty old people and her scheming was brilliant. After all, nobody ever suspects a harmless looking old lady to actually be heading up an underground resistance!
This book was a hit for me on so many levels – I loved the detail of the fantasy world, found the characters sympathetic and convincing and felt that the battle scenes were written evocatively without becoming confusing.
If you like fantasy and fancy something with both depth and heart, add this book to your reading list as soon as possible!
They were just emerging at the top level when a series of musical cries echoed from the bottom of the Eyrie. Peering over the edge, Tristan saw Veronyka’s phoenix fly out first, quickly followed by the other two. As Ersken predicted, they didn’t await an order or circle low in hesitation. They rose like fireballs, ripping through the sky and bursting into a glorious shower of sparks. Like their feathers, they burned with a hint of violet and indigo, staining the sky with all the colours of a mountain sunset.
Rex burst into a blazing red-gold inferno, the flame rippling off his feathers and cracking like a whip. The rest of the phoenixes lit up as well, one after the other, like a series of torches catching fire. With a bone-chilling cry, the males answered the females, launching into the air.
This was primal battle magic.
This was the stuff of legends
What I liked: Veronyka’s character was very realistic, despite being set in a fantasy world. She has flaws and she grows throughout the book, gradually learning to stand on her own two feet rather than always follow her sister. I loved the sibling relationship and how love, hate and control all became so twisted up together – as people often say, we can choose our friends but not our family – so this push and pull of loving someone but not particularly liking them at times was very compelling. I loved the slow-burn romances and the foreshadowing of what is to come in Book 2. I did guess one of the big twists fairly early on with a throwaway detail that niggled at me, but it was all the more satisfying to have my guess confirmed at a later point.
Even better if: There is a lot of world-building information which I, personally, loved! However, it does slow things down a bit and could potentially put some readers off if they are waiting for the action to begin. But trust e, it is well worth reading through because the ending is paced perfectly and incredibly tense! It doesn’t leave things on a cliffhanger but it has me desperate for the second book…so even better if I had it already!
How you could use it in your classroom: This would be one for secondary school pupils or libraries rather than primary, but it would be a worthy addition to any library catering for 15+ readers with a lot of cross-over appeal for adults too. In many ways it reads like an adult fantasy because of the intricate world-building, but the teenage characters and their character development would make this interesting for teenage readers too. I would love to use this as a discussion starter about why certain mythological creatures turn up a lot in fantasy (dragons! I love them so I’m not complaining, but they are almost ubiquitous) and why others don’t.
(Thank you to Ink Road Press for my review copy!)
What did other people think?
‘An immersive, deeply satisfying fantasy that will stay with you long after the story is finished.’
– Elly Blake, New York Times Bestselling author of Frostblood
‘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’
– Morgan Rhodes, New York Times Bestselling author of the Falling Kingdoms series
Don’t miss the other stops on this blog tour:
Q+A with Nicki Pau Preto from Kate @Reading Through Infinity
Review from Georgia @TheBookishGurl
Review from Rachael @ScorpioBookDreams
Read Chapter 1 with Justine @IShouldReadThat
Review from Laura @Roachie’s Reviews
Review from Ryan @EmpireofBooks
Q+ A from Lydia @SilverWolfReads
Review from Georgi @NifflerReads
Review from @LibraryLooter
Review from Amy @Powisamy
Review from Kirsty @KirstyReadsBlog
Review from Cora @TeaPartyPrincess
Review from @TheBookChapter
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Thanks for reading!