Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto
Rating: 3/5 stars
Genre: YA fantasy
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pub. Date: February 12, 2019
In the shadow of a once great empire torn asunder by two quarreling sisters, war-orphan Veronyka wants nothing more than to become a phoenix rider like that great warrior queens of history. After her sister betrays her, she ventures out on her own, determined to find the phoenix riders.
She does, but only to find that things are not what they used to be—women are not allowed to join their ranks. So she disguises herself as boy in order to get in. Just as she’s settling into her new life, everything threatens to boil over. Her sister is back and causing problems. And the new empire is knocking on their doorstep, determined to put an end to the phoenix riders once and for all.
Veronyka will need all the help she can get if she’s too succeed and finally rise to the ranks of Phoenix Rider, but secrets come at a cost and she’ll have to decide what she’s willing to give up to protect all that she holds dear.
** Thank you to NetGalley and Simon Pulse for providing me with an eARC of this book**
This was a book that I wanted to love. I thought, girl dressing as a boy, that’s exactly the kind of thing I love. And phoenixes (phoenices?)? YES. And then I read the book. And I was so disappointed.
The biggest issue, is that none of the set up and world-building was actually woven into the story. It was just dumped in various places. It was a book in desperate need of some trimming. I still think it could have been great, but it just wasn’t there yet. There’s actually a pretty interesting back-story involved here, and the clear parallels between the two sets of sisters is very interesting (though, I’ll admit I had an idea of the twist partway through the story, I didn’t guess it all the way, but I got most of it). Anyway, given this, if you like lots of backstory and don’t mind info-dumps, this book is probably a good fit for you.
The one thing that I thought I would undoubtedly love about the book (a girl disguising herself as a boy) ended up being the thing that annoyed me the most. Mostly, it just didn’t really make sense. If, historically, all the greatest phoenix warriors were women… THEN WHY THE FUCK ARE GIRLS NOT ALLOWED TO JOIN THE SCHOOL? It makes no sense. They’re trying to re-established old traditions and literally spitting on them in the process. Honestly, this one thing grated on me throughout the book. I don’t know if I just missed something, or am over-thinking it (under-thinking it?), but it pretty much ruined the book for me.
All in all, a great idea that was largely ruined for me by the execution. I’m hoping the second one will be better, since (I hope) most of the exposition must be out of the way by now.
Anyway, moving on. I’d still recommend this one to anyone who loves YA fantasy. The description compares it to an Ember in the Ashes and Three Dark crowns, and I have to say I agree. Especially if you liked an Ember in the Ashes, give this one a go. I see quite a few reviews that are pretty positive, so I also wouldn’t suggest giving up on this book just cause a grump like me didn’t like it.
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