I love stories about sisters, and I think phoenixes are awesome, so I was definitely very much into checking out Crown of Feathers. I love the world Nicki Pau Preto has created, where magic means the ability to communicate with animals, and history is filled with powerful women, including warrior queens and mighty phoenix riders.
I especially love that the present-day phoenix army (who are ostensibly the good guys out to battle a magic-hating and corrupt government) are actually outright sexist and don’t allow women into their ranks. There is also a rejigging of the world’s history, such that many of the characters talk about gods rather than goddesses creating the world, and men rather than women performing heroic feats. It’s a not-too-subtle but all-too-relevant critique of how religious institutions have historically suppressed the role of women, and a pointed reminder that even the good guys can have problematic beliefs.
The story is told in three perspectives: Veronyka, who can communicate with animals and wants to become a phoenix rider; Tristan, the son of the phoenix army’s leader who wants to prove himself worthy of stepping into his father’s shoes yet is afraid of fire; and Sev, a soldier who must hide his magical abilities and is recruited to join the rebellion. I was hooked by Veronyka’s story from the start, possibly because I loved the tension between her and her sister Val, who is super protective but also super controlling. But the story overall takes a while to get going, and it took until about halfway through the book for me to care about Tristan and Sev’s stories.
That being said, once the story picks up, it really takes off. There are awesome phoenix training scenes and an absolutely epic battle that made it almost impossible for me to put down the book. I was also really intrigued by the history of the two sister queens who ended up dividing the country, and splitting people along ideological lines with respect to their regard for phoenixes. I love how the relationship between Veronyka and Val is hinted to mirror the dynamic between the historical sister queens, and how this in turn hints at a much larger scale destiny for the present-day sisters.
The jumps between chapters was a bit confusing. The story goes from present-day events to historical documents to the first person reflections from one of the historical sister queens, and I sometimes lost track of what it was I was reading. That being said, I was reading the egalley, so possibly it’ll be fixed by the final copy.
Also, content warning about animal death fairly early on. That scene broke my heart, and while I see its purpose in the overall story (fortunately at least, it wasn’t a senseless death), it was still really hard to read.
Crown of Feathers is the first in a duology, and after that ending, I’m very excited to see where the author takes the story next!
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for an egalley of this book in exchange for an honest review.