Crown of Feathers, Nicki Pau Preto

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Be a boy. It was simple. it was brilliant. It was exactly what Veronyka would do

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. 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.

* * * 
3 / 5

I am a total sucker for two things that this book had to offer: magical creatures, in this case phoenixes, and the trope where “girl disguises herself as boy to join the army” (thanks, Mulan and Tamora Pierce). And Crown of Feathers was good, but as I read more and more YA novels (and just novels in general), to really enjoy a book it has to have that WOW factor.

All her life, the glory and power of the Phoenix Riders were a long-lost story, a whispered history. Now it was alive before her

Veronyka is sixteen and her heart’s desire is to join the legendary, and now disbanded, Phoenix Riders. She’s an animage, a person with the ability to magically connect and communicate with animals, which means that theoretically, Veronyka could bond with a phoenix and ride it into battle. The problem? The empire was torn apart sixteen years ago as part of a dispute between between two queens: the older and legitimate heir, Avalkyra Ashfire, a powerful Phoenix Rider and animage, and the younger sister, chosen by the Council, Pheronia, waged war against one another and both died. The monarchy was overthrown, animages are now heavily taxed and imprisoned, and the Phoenix Riders were abolished.

When Veronyka learns that there might very well be a new order of Phoenix Riders, she flees from the clutches of her controlling older sister, Val, to join them. The other problem? Due to a shortage of phoenix eggs and some casual sexism, they only train men. So Veronyka binds her chest, cuts her hair, and becomes Nyk. As a stablehand in a hidden city, Nyk befriends Tristan, an apprentice Rider in his own right and the son of the Commander. The other main character in this book is probably the least integral to the plot: Sev, a young animage who joined the army to get his criminal history wiped.

“Avalykyra Ashfire was great because she set the world on fire, because she let nothing and no one stand in the way of what she wanted”

Veronyka, Tristan, and Sev are our rotating narrators and I liked each of them and their stories, particularly Sev’s budding romance with a fellow animage man. I loved the themes of partnership, sisterhood, loyalty, oppression, and betrayal that Crown of Feathers explored. The twist at the end was pretty dope, too. On the flip side, the book was way too long for the amount of stuff that actually happened, the start was very much of an info-dump, and I’m not a big fan of stuff being explained/revealed through ~special dreams~.

Crown of Feathers was a fun read but it didn’t blow me off my feet. It could have done with being trimmed down a bit and Sev didn’t feel all that important to the book, almost superfluous. Give this book a shot if you like stories about girls pretending to be boys, or have a fiery passion for phoenixes.

My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for an ARC of Crown of Feathers.

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