Book Review

These Feathered Flames

These Feathered Flames

  • Author: Alexandra Overy
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Publication Date: April 20, 2021
  • Publisher: Inkyard Press
  • Series: These Feathered Flames #1

CONTENT WARNING: violence, death of a parent, murder, blood, imprisonment

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The queen is dead, and someone must pay.

In the land of Tourin, when twin heirs are born, their fates are decided at a young age. While Izaveta remained at court, learning the lies and deception needed to survive as the future queen, Asya was taken away to train with her aunt, the mysterious and deadly Firebird, who ensured magic remained balanced in the realm.

But before Asya’s training is completed, the ancient power suddenly blooms inside her, which can mean only one thing: the queen is dead, and a new ruler must be crowned.

Izaveta suddenly finds herself surrounded by people who all want something from her: a seat on the council, her support for a given policy, her resignation … Even the return of her sister, who was once her closest friend, leaves Izaveta feeling unbalanced.

As the princesses come to understand everything their roles entail, they must discover who they can trust, who they can love—and who killed their mother.

While I normally fly through books, this was one I had to read through slowly, savoring every word. The world-building is fantastic, with a heavy Russian influence, tons of political maneuvering, and incredible elements of fantasy, based on the Russian folktale of the Firebird. The descriptions were gorgeous, and I could feel as though I was right alongside the characters. 

The real strength of the story was in the incredibly well-developed characters. I loved the dichotomy of the twin sisters who were raised separately and trained to be completely different people:

“How was it that her sister had been taken to live with a monster, but somehow Izaveta had become one? A creature molded by her mother’s manipulations, by the constant betrayals of the court. Asya might have a monster beneath her skin, but Izaveta had one in her heart—in her very essence. So much a part of herself that she no longer knew how to separate one from the other.”

Izaveta is raised by her mother, taught to be a queen. However, the majority of her schooling is about manipulation and deception. It’s no wonder that she struggles to figure out exactly who she is, losing herself in her own machinations. I struggled with her character, who wasn’t exactly likable. However, I could also understand the forces that made her that way, especially when she was deceived and hurt by the people closest to her, leading her to become suspicious and distrustful of everyone.

“Just as her mother had taught her, Izaveta had turned everyone into playing pieces in her own game. For better or worse, there was no turning back now. Even if she was no longer certain she knew the difference between fighting for the right reasons and fighting for power.”

Asya’s character was a lot more likable. She’s got the power that Izaveta desperately craves, although she’s having difficulty with accepting it. It’s a heavy burden to carry, and ultimately she’s responsible for maintaining an important balance in the queendom. I can understand why she is so reluctant to accept that burden. In addition, she has to let go of her own emotional connections to fully become the Firebird, and that’s another difficult aspect for her. The only thing I didn’t like about Asya is that she’d do such dumb things sometimes, I just wanted to shake her!

“Because as much as she wanted to be separate from the Firebird, it was a part of her now. And if she wanted to succeed in her task, as she’d vowed to herself she would, then she would have to accept that.”

There were hints of a queer romance thread running throughout the story. It wasn’t overly played up, which I thought was great. Sometimes books tend to overuse romance when it doesn’t need to be, but Overy managed to strike the perfect balance between maintaining romantic tension and actively working that into the plot without it becoming overwhelming. I actually wanted to see more of it! 

While I loved how things wrapped up, I left with a sense of wanting more. I finished the book feeling satisfied, but so ready for the next book to come out. I need to know what happens next! 

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 14

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