Hi everyone! I hope you’re all keeping well! Over the past few days I’ve been slowly but surely making my way through a chunky YA fantasy (aka, the one featured in this post) and just truly drinking it all in, hence the absence from the blog! But I’m back today with a review for said book – one that I know has been highly anticipated in the sapphic book world!
Title: These Feathered Flames
Author: Alexandra Overy
Genre: Fantasy, LGBT, Young Adult
Synopsis: 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 gorgeous YA retelling of the Russian folklore The Firebird, and was one of my most anticipated releases of 2021, despite me not knowing a thing about the original tale! The book follows twins, Izaveta and Asya, who were separated in their youth so that they may one day fulfil the roles brought upon them as twin heirs – Izaveta must become the next ruler of Tóurin, whereas Asya is destined to become the Firebird and take payment from those who use magic without a proper sacrifice, ensuring that balance remains. But when the current queen suddenly dies, Asya must make her way back to the castle, and her sister, but payment must be taken for the powerful magic that has killed her mother, and the two sisters must figure out who they can trust, and even if they can trust one another.
I adore fully fleshed out, vibrant YA fantasy worlds, and I was so excited to read this as it is based in a Russia-esque fantasy world, filled with mythical beings, ruthless political machinations and queens riding on the backs of bears. Alexandra Overy provides a gorgeous setting to this exciting story, and I really enjoyed getting a glimpse into surrounding nations (also based on European/Western Asian countries), as well as the religious and magical backgrounds of the world, too. Because it’s not super worldbuilding-heavy, I would definitely recommend this to those who are just getting into YA fantasy, as it is not overly infodumpy and it is easily digestible (though I gdid find myself getting a tad confused with names). Despite this, I would have adored more worldbuilding, as I felt that there were quite a few loose threads at the end of the story, most of which related to the magic system, particularly that surrounding the Firebird, and the lake and the fading, though I’m hopeful that these are picked up on in the sequel!
As for the main characters, I really enjoyed reading from both Asya and Izaveta’s points of view. I have seen that some people found the change in POVs to be rather jarring, but for me it really worked well! Asya was definitely my favourite of the two! She is struggling with her sudden ascension to the role of the Firebird and simultaneously not feeling strong enough to live up to such a powerful being and feeling like a monster for the payments that she must exact. Asya is also a lesbian (not mentioned on page, though that is understandable as it is a fantasy world) and throughout the book has an enemies-to-lovers romance with another lesbian love interest! I love love love sapphic fantasy and, despite not being a big fan of enemies-to-lovers I actually really enjoyed it this time round and I can’t wait to see where the sequel takes the two of them (hopefully someplace happy)! At the start of the story Izaveta is thrust into the role of queen and must make difficult choices and navigate tricky political alliances in order to get her court on her side, particularly since the head of the church is looking to oust her from this position and put their own leader in charge. I frequently found Izaveta to be more of an unlikeable character in the book, but in a good way – she’s understandably on edge and hiding behind a tough exterior, but reading from her perspective really showed the cracks in this mask. I also really enjoyed her own budding romance and I’m so intrigued by what’s going to happen next to her! Something I’ve seen the author mention about the two main characters is that they give off Arya and Sansa vibes and I can fully vouch for that dynamic! Despite loving the two main characters, I would have loved to have gotten to see a bit more of their personalities outside of their individual roles in ruling over the Queendom, as I felt like that was all we really saw of them, though this is possibly just a personal thing and I’m sure many other readers will love this more plot-based, political intrigue-heavy book!
Speaking of this being plot heavy, this book certainly keeps you on your toes! Though I guessed most of the big reveals pretty early on, there are some really amazing action packed scenes throughout and Alexandra Overy really keeps you guessing, both with regards to Asya trying to find out who was the one who killed their mother, and Izaveta trying to gain control of her new Queendom and find suitable allies within it. The finale of the book was jawdropping and left me all the more excited for the sequel that is being released next year. This book really packed a punch and despite its hefty size, it never dragged, and I can highly recommend this book if you’re looking for an angsty, sapphic YA fantasy retelling that will leave you reeling and dying for the next installment!