These Feathered Flames by Alexandra Overy
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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.
DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Seven years ago, the twin heirs of Tourin received their destinies.
The gods proclaimed Izaveta the future queen, while in the same breath, they marked Asya as the Firebird, the being who exacts magic’s price when it has not yet been paid. Since then, the two sisters have lived a world apart, entirely without contact, facing their destinies alone.
But when the death of their mother forces Asya to return to the court and fully ascend as the Firebird, everything changes. She must root out the person who has not paid the price for their hand in the queen’s death, and must navigate this new divide between Izaveta and herself. Meanwhile, Izaveta stands poised to become Tourin’s next queen, if only she can discover who her true allies are, and place her pawns on the board three moves ahead of everyone else.
It’s a dangerous time in Tourin, succession uncertain, magic unstable. And only Asya and Izaveta can reach the heart of it.
These Feathered Flames blends mystery, court intrigue, and Russian folklore all into one.
In fact, the court intrigue elements are perhaps the strongest. Though Asya focuses on solving the Calling behind her mother’s death, she also struggles with her role in the world, both as Asya and as the Firebird. How is she meant to fit in at court, or with her sister, when she is the being who exacts terrible prices for unpaid magic? She is, after all, more dangerous than she is welcome among the people of Tourin.
As for Izaveta, her mother’s sudden death leaves her stranded, scrambling for political allies and struggling to discredit her enemies. Each move she makes is met with a shrewder one from her opposition, and she must draw on everything she ever learned from the late queen to survive long enough to reach her coronation. In these fraught days, every allegiance she has ever known falls under scrutiny, and navigating her ascension may easily become her undoing.
Though bursts of action punctuate these troubles, especially during Asya’s chapters, the focus is on the treachery of court and the precarious fate of queen and country. More than anything, these issues drive the novel forward, pushing the characters into deeper and deeper waters.
“The truly monstrous thing would be to do nothing.”
While the heavy reliance on political intrigue didn’t do it for me (I’ve always loved a good action-packed story just a bit more), I absolutely fell in love with the characters. To no one’s surprise, I’m sure, my favorite is Asya. She’s so reluctant to trust in her powers, so afraid that she’s doing the wrong thing, and her hesitancy is rooted in such heartfelt reasons. As the Firebird, she sometimes claims entire lives in order to exact magic’s price, but as Asya, she does not want to bring harm to anyone.
But at the end of the day, Asya is a protector, and I always fall completely in love with the protectors. Her duty is to make sure her world does not fall into chaos, and if the price of one life saves many, then that is the price she must claim. Her personal journey on the way to realizing how she wants to fill her role warms my heart, and at the end of the day, no one else can beat her as my favorite.
(A close second is Yuliana, her bodyguard and love interest. Can I get some more sapphic pining sprinkled with enemies to lovers, please?)
Izaveta, though, is a character force to be reckoned with. Her calculating nature and ambition make her a sharp character, but her youth and the strain of the situation at hand sometimes make her impulsive or short-sighted. Overall, she’s cutthroat and worth acknowledging as a major player in Tourin’s future, and I love that she’s complex in that way! I just simply love Asya more because of my own personal tastes.
Regardless of which sister might be your favorite, give These Feathered Flames a try!
It’s a quick read, but one bursting with life and danger and the faintest glimmers of hope on every page. And that’s even before you encounter the magic, which is elusive and unsettling in the very same breath!
I particularly recommend it for readers interested about stories that emphasize the bond between sisters, and for anyone who enjoys a folkloric background to their reads. And, of course, for anyone who likes backstabbing and court politicking. There’s plenty of it, I promise you, and this duology has only just started! 🧡
CW: loss of a loved one, violence, graphic injury, gore, self-harm