Book Title: These Feathered Flames
Author: Alexandra Overy
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Release Date: April 20, 2021
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBT, Retellings
Content warning: Death of a parent, On page emotional abuse, References to physical abuse, On page death Fantasy violence.
A queer retelling of “The Firebird,” a Russian folktale
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.
Alexandra grew up in London and moved to Los Angeles to pursue her
undergraduate degree in history at UCLA. She then went on to compete her MFA in screenwriting also at UCLA, and stuck around for the weather and great ice cream. She loves writing in all formats, from novels to screenplays to graphic novels, always centring on fierce women and morally grey characters, often with a bit of magic and murder. When she’s not writing, she can be found baking, fangirling over her favourite books, or cuddling her kittens.
“One falcon foretold misfortune, but three were a grave warning. A potent of calamity and ruin.”
These Feathered Flames is a solid fantasy debut that breathes fire on every page; like great fairy tales, this one will easily captivate every reader. It’s a fantasy with lush prose and fiery fierce sisters that have a complicated past and potentially a complicated future.
This book surprised me in the best way possible. The writing is absolutely beautiful and strong. The world building is extravagant and so vividly clear. The characters are built so well that they stay in mind days after finishing the first book. I love retellings. I love seeing how authors twist and recreate each retelling to deliver their story. And Overy does not disappoint. How she retells “The Firebird” is so beautiful and brilliant. Overy has crafted a tale between two sisters that pulls at your heartstrings.
“Whispers are enough to bring down a queendom.”
I loved how both sisters were vastly different from each other but also similar. Both have this complicated yet dynamic relationship with one another, which makes for a really interesting story. Izaveta is the chosen heir to the throne, who instantly becomes queen when her mother is killed. Izaveta has been manipulated her whole life and now as the new queen, she’s constantly pulled in different directions. Asya, though, has been away from her sister for years, training to be the next Firebird. Though given more freedom, she’s tasked with upholding the expectations and fierceness of the Firebird, which Asya finds daunting. But once their mother dies, both girls are brought together once again, but neither knows who they can trust, as conflict and deadly games wait for them around every corner.
“A new determination solidified inside Asya. She had to do this. Not just for the balance of power, but for the dead queen. For her sister, who could be endangered by this, too. For herself and the mother she had lost. For the dark magic that could tear the queendom apart.”
Right from the first page, I knew balance would play an important role in this story. As the Firebird, Asya knows she has to maintain balance in their world, just like Izaveta knows she has to balance her beliefs and feelings with the needs and wants of the kingdom. She always has the put the kingdom first, like Asya always has to put her duties as the Firebird first. Break this balance and…well, you can probably imagine what could happen.
What I also loved about These Feathered Flames is the queer representation. The f/f romance was perfection, especially since it had one of my favorite tropes: enemies-to-lovers. The connection and tension between the two was always palpable and undeniable. It constantly added fire to the fuel. But what I also loved was that this relationship helped build the story and move the plot along, without overtaking the story. Overy weaved this beautiful romance into the story flawlessly.
“She had learned from those lapses in judgment, and she wouldn’t repeat her mistakes with Asya just because of who she’d once been. It was not a matter of trust or loyalty – it was merely a question of which sister would betray the other first.”
Alexandra Overy has written such a beautiful story. Overy’s writing is absolutely fantastical; she’s crafted a vivid world that easily came to life in my head. The story is well-written, and the prose is so captivating; it’s honestly a marvelously written book, one that many will love. By Overy’s writing, I can tell that she is meant to write exceptional fantasy books.
Overall, These Feathered Flames is a fantasy debut that captivates from the first page. It’s a burning flame that refuses to go out, at least not until the story is fully told. I’m looking forward to devouring the sequel, because with that end, I need to know what happens.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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