Book Reviews

Book Review: These Feathered Flames by Alexandra Overy

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.

Title: These Feathered Flames
Author: Alexandra Overy
Date Published: 

Rating: 2//5 Owls

I really struggled with this book. I wanted to love it, the premise sounded absolutely incredible, and I’m a sucker for mysterious magic.

Here’s my main problem with this book: the book could’ve been about 30 pages long if PEOPLE COMMUNICATED WITH EACH OTHER. I know that this a common troupe in literature, after all where’s the fun in a story if everyone sits down and talks about their problems the whole time? But once it happens 3-4 times, it starts to get old and repetitive. Why talk to the one person who can help you or understand your problem? No, it obviously makes a lot more sense to go behind everyones back, get in loads of trouble, and then have to explain your ridiculous behavior to the one that could have helped you.

Honestly, this is the biggest theme in the story and it made it so difficult to care about some of the characters when their actions were consistently reckless and poorly thought out.

I also wasn’t a fan of a lot of the side characters. Vilanovich didn’t have much of a personality other than “I’m a badass soldier with a grudge”, and I found I didn’t care too much about her romance with Asya. Then there was Kyrill who screamed “I’m an asshole” from his very first appearance but thats all I knew about him. He had some sort of past with Izaveta, but the vague hints and statements about their shared past and their hatred (and weird loyalty on Izaveta’s part) were off-putting. No matter what happened with Kyrill, I just couldn’t bring myself to care about him. His only personality trait was asshole, and if the book ended with him dying in a giant explosion, I don’t think I would have cared in the slightest.

The first 60% of this book I struggled a lot – it took me about a month to read that far. It was too many characters, too little plot, and a whole bunch of terrible decisions made by all characters involved.

AND THEN the book took an interesting twist. Asya and Izaveta finally started to communicate, not as Firebird vs Queen, but as sisters who cared about each other and what is best for the kingdom. It was at this point that the plot started to really move forward. We were blessed with nefarious plots to reveal the “bad guy”, open communication, and the unveiling of the truth.

The romances started to have an actual purpose in the story, with Vilanovich becoming a more interesting character rather than “closed off soldier” and Izaveta’s potential suitor became a useful part of the story.

I loved watching the sisters come together and realizing that the firebird and the crown don’t need to be separate, that coming together was the best thing for everyone.

Of course, the book ends with a massive cliffhanger, leaving me unsure if I want to continue the story or not. I might read the second one, if its anything near as exciting as the second half of the book, but if it doesn’t interest me right away, I’m not going to bother.

Overall, I did enjoy this book, I had high expectations and I didn’t enjoy it at first, but the ending was worth it. I loved the way small pieces of the story came together, how minor characters were revealed to be much bigger personalities and more important to the story than originally perceived. I didn’t like how many characters were in this story, it made it hard to follow along with whose who and why they mattered.

I don’t think I’ll necessarily recommend this book to others. The overall plot and slow paced nature of the story ranks it pretty low on my list of books I love, but I also wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading it either.

*Thank You NetGalley for the digital ARC of this book. All opinions are my own.

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