Format: Hardcover, 496 pages
Release Date: February 12th 2019
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Historical
I had a sister, once…
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.
I promised her the throne would not come between us.
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.
But it is a fact of life that one must kill or be killed. Rule or be ruled.
Just as Veronyka finally feels like she belongs, her sister turns up and reveals a tangled web of lies between them that will change everything. And meanwhile, the new empire has learned of the Riders’ return and intends to destroy them once and for all.
"Sometimes the title of queen is given; sometimes it must be taken. And sometimes the honor becomes so drenched in blood and betrayal that it is slippery to the touch, but we reach for it nonetheless, poison on our fingers and vengeance in our hearts."
Crown of Feathers is the first installment in author Nicki Pau Preto's Crown of Feathers series. Sold as An Ember in the Ashes meets Three Dark Crowns, this debut fantasy novel tells the story about a girl who disguises herself as a boy to join a secret group of warriors that ride phoenixes into battle. Once upon a time, there were a group of people called Phoenix Riders who went down in flames spectacularly after their Queen, Avalkyra Ashfire, tried to do too much too quickly and were defeated by the Golden Empire.
16-year old Veronyka and her sister Val have been nearly inseparable since their grandmother died. They are both curiosities in that they are animages capable of understanding and communicating with animals. While Val is the dominant, manipulative sister, Veronyka dreams of one day becoming a Phoenix Rider. Both sisters are also shadowmages which are prohibited in this realm. The sisters have been in hiding and moving from place to place for years. When they're not hiding and moving quickly, they hunt for Phoenix eggs.
They discover two eggs but only one hatches. The one that hatches, Xephyra, chooses Veronyka to bond with instead of the elder sister Val. But, a shocking betrayal by Val pushes Veronyka over the edge, driving her to strike out on her own. Grieving deeply, she disguises herself as a boy in order to join the legendary ranks of the Phoenix Riders since they have a rule against girls joining their ranks. But, we haven't seen or heard the last of Val just yet. Not even close!
The second main character is Sevro. Sev is a soldier by choice after his parents, Riders, were killed in the last war doing what they do best. One could say that he has loads of regrets and anger simmering waiting to explode. Anyone who is an animage is either pressed into service for life as a bondservant, or killed. In the time we visit with Sev, he meets with Veronyka and her Phoenix and helps her escape. He encounters (2) bondservants who are plotting against the Empire and push him into helping. Sev makes a choice to offer a warning to the small contingent of Riders who are hiding from the Empire while also giving them hope for the future.
The third character is Tristan. Tristan is a Phoenix rider who’s afraid of fire and he feels like he’s a constant disappointment to his father. Phoenix riders have a bad rule in place that doesn't allow girls to join them. This is exceptionally hypocritical since the original riders were all women. Tristan's relationship with his father could be called tumultuous, it could also be called toxic since the father doesn't have much faith in his own son. It isn't until Tristan meets Nyk, Veronyka in disguise as a boy, that things take an interesting twist.
Interspersed throughout is the story of Avalkyra Ashfire, the last Rider queen, who would rather see her empire burn than fall into her sister Pheronia's hands. Now, 16 years later, it appears as though the Riders are attempting to regather and take a stand against the Golden Empire which despises them and seeks to end them once and forever. At the end of each chapter, there are points that tell the story of the two sisters who ended up on the opposite sides in the last war. The similarities between the warring queens and Veronikas relationship with her sister Val was interesting as well as leaving questions which needs to be answered.