Publisher: Simon Pulse
Summary: 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.
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Move over dragons, phoenixes are the new cool in ridable fantasy creatures. Crown of Feathers first piqued my interested when I saw the (absolutely beautiful) cover at BookCon last year and I’m so thankful I was able to get an early copy to read through NetGalley. Aside from a couple of small details, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this debut novel and it ranks among my top 5 favorite YA novels.
Crown of Feathers follows a teenaged sister duo, Veronyka and Val, who are on the run for being illegal animal mages. Long story short, a recent war took place between a group of militant Pheonix Riders and the rest of the non-magical government over the which of a pair of sisters should take the queenship of the country, and the Phoenix Riders lost, sending the Riders into hiding and their phoenixes into near extinction. Now, all animages, even those entirely unconnected with the Riders, have been taxed and/or forced into bondage. Of course, Val and Veronyka, who grew up listening to their grandmother’s stories about the Phoenix Riders, have set out to look for phoenix eggs in dreams of becoming Riders themselves.
Immediately, we realize this relationship is extremely unhealthy. From the first chapter, I had this sense that Val, the older sister, was overbearing and controlling, to the point of abusiveness towards her sister. Veronyka, the younger and kinder of the two, goes along with this at first because of her trusting nature, but after certain events, eventually breaks off and goes off on her own. From here, she goes through an amazing about of character development and although I found her naive at times, I really loved how strong and determined her character was. Val certainly has her issues, and while they aren’t really explored here as we see the book primarily from Veronyka’s perspective, there’s a depth to her that I hope will get covered in the future.
There’s a secondary perspective in Sev, a soldier in the empire’s army who’s also secretly an animage in hiding. His plot line explores the more political and cultural side of the story, current views of the empire, general thoughts of the populace, and such. Personally, I thought his character and his arc was okay, but nothing all that interesting. There’s certainly a fair amount of worldbuilding that goes on during his chapters, but generally, my thoughts when reading about him were along the lines of, please get back to the phoenixes thanks.
A huge plus for this book is the worldbuilding. I really can’t commend the author enough for how much history she’s built into this world. Between each chapter, we get snippets of interaction between the warring pair of sisters and how their relationship soured as the situation grew worse leading up to and through the war. We also get snippets of history of previous queens, where the phoenixes original came from, feats of the individual queens, and just lovely tidbits of worldbuilding that really bring this world to life. Personally, I think this book has some of the best worldbuilding I’ve read in a YA novel.
Finally, my main complaint for this book is the heavyhandedness of how some of the characters thoughts and ideals are just hammered into the reader. This is by no means a complaint for just this book as I’ve noticed many newer YA books following this trend, but I’m just not a fan of this trend. Essentially, what happens is that character will make a comment about something that just happened. The character will then proceed to spend the next paragraph or two restating this comment in slightly different but very very emotional words. Once or twice and I’d be okay with it, but when it seems to happen at least once per chapter, I find myself getting annoyed. Show not tell, please.
Overall, I rate this book a 4/5. Crown of Feathers boasts some of the best worldbuilding I’ve read in a YA novel in a long time, and I found the main character Veronyka incredibly compelling. I did think the writing was a little hand-holding in making sure the reader understood exactly how the characters felt at all times, but it was a minor issue I could easily look over.
/r/Fantasy Bingo 2019-2020 Squares
- SFF Published in 2019