Author: Alexandra Overy
Narrator: Fiona Hardingham
Audiobook Length: 12 hours
‘Three Dark Crowns’ meets ‘Wicked Saints’ in this queer #ownvoices retelling of ‘The Firebird’, a Russian folktale, by debut author Alexandra Overy
When twin heirs are born in Tourin, their fates are decided at a young age. While Izaveta remained at court to learn the skills she’d need as the future queen, Asya was taken away to train with her aunt, the mysterious Firebird, who ensured magic remained balanced in the realm.
But before Asya’s training is completed, the ancient power blooms inside her, which can mean only one thing: the queen is dead, and a new ruler must be crowned.
As the princesses come to understand everything their roles entail, they’ll discover who they can trust, who they can love – and who killed their mother.
These Feathered Flames is a Russian folklore retelling of the Firebird. I must say that I really hope that there is a recap in the next novel or I remember to do a reread as there is a lot that happens in this book that will continue on in the sequel, including the conclusion to the cliffhanger ending, that does not release until April 2022.
Twin heirs are born in Tourin with one destined to become Queen and the other destined to become the Firebird. The Firebird is a magical being that bring balance to the world’s magic use. They are separated from each other as kids to begin training for their futures. Izaveta stays with their mother to learn to be Queen, while Asya goes with their great-aunt to learn about magic.
When their mother suddenly passes, Izaveta, now seventeen years old, must now become Queen and Asya becomes the new Firebird. The two of them reuinite at the palace after years apart to both convince the world that they are ready for their destinies. The novel is told from duel perspectives as both Izaveta’s and Asya’s points of view are provided with a single narrator in the audiobook version. I liked the narrator for this story as she did a great job distinguishing between the two main characters with her tones and voices. Each sister envies the life of the other as Izaveta wants the freedom of being the Firebird, while Asya is lonely and longs for family. Although both think the grass is greener on the other side, they learn that nothing is as perfect as it seems in both their own lives and the lives of their sister.
Political intrigue surrounds the two sisters as Izaveta’s coronation approaches and their mother’s death remains a mystery. Asya must figure out a way to embrace her role as a Firebird despite her beliefs that it is too brutal. The two sisters grew up in completely different worlds and are pitted against each other as their roles may both be for the kingdom, but they are not the same. The two of them have to decide to either work with each other or continue on their separate paths. The two characters were interesting and they interacted well with each other and with the other secondary characters, such as, their aunt, Tarya, Yuliana (Asya’s guard), and Nikov, an investigative scholar who is trying to find the source of some magic loss.
There is excellent world building in this novel and the politics, characters, and plots are well described. As there is a lot going on at any given time, there are moments where one piece suffers in favor of another, but it worked together overall. The primary focus stays on the two main characters as they each are navigating their own paths to prove themselves worthy. They are both fairly introspective and tend to analyze everything around them, which is great at times to get fully in their heads, but it can slow down the pacing. One romance builds up in this novel with another set up to, hopefully, move forward in the next novel. Neither is the focus of the story, but are weaved throughout to build up the relationships.
Overall, there are a lot of twists that occur towards the end and the novel sets itself up nicely for the sequel. I will definitely have to reread this before the next one to put myself back in the mindset of the characters and story. In the nature, vs nurture idea; this novel favors the nurture side, as both characters are the product of their environment after being separated. As there are tons of puzzle pieces in this story, some were put together towards the end, but there is still a lot that is unknown before everything fully concludes. There is a lot of potential for the series as a whole, so I cannot wait to see what happens next when the sequel is published.