“I am a daughter of death….From the ashes I rose, like a phoenix from the pyre.”
Spoiler Free Review
Title: Crown of Feathers
Author: Nikki Pau Preto
Series or Standalone: Crown of Feathers #1
Genre: Young Adult & Fantasy
Publication Date: February 12th 2019
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Star Rating: ★★★☆☆
Crown of Feathers is an ambitious debut novel from Nikki Pau Preto. It’s also been my most conflicting read of 2019. My three star rating might illustrate a solid & enjoyable read… but if I’m being truthful the reading experience was difficult. So much so, I was close to putting it down within the first couple of chapters.
Crown of Feathers takes place sixteen years in a post-war regime after the grand empire has fallen. Before, the world was ruled by fierce warrior queens and the 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.
War orphans Veronyka and her sister Val, are animages in hiding – magic users who can connect with animals and phoenixes. Despite the regimes efforts to eradicate animages and Phoenix Riders, Veronyka and Val still dream of becoming Phoenix Riders from the stories of old. However after a shocking betrayal from Val, Veronyka strikes out alone to find the Riders—even if that means disguising herself as a boy to join their ranks.
“It’s like you said; they only want boys,” Veronyka muttered, still trying to understand their exchange and what it meant. Were the Phoenix Riders of the future going to be men alone? Sparrow shrugged. “Then be a boy.”
Veronkya is our proxy into this world of magic. I loved her steadfast, loyal nature and deep respect for animals. Her skill pertaining to magic wielding made sense because of her nature, and so I never doubted that she was a strong animage. I loved her journey in this story. The Veronyka we meet in the beginning is not the Veronyka we meet at the end of the story, shedding some naïve feathers of her own and coming into the fierce warrior she was destined too is the most satisfying aspect of this novel for me.
Whilst Veronyka’s perspective is the most dominant, the author illustrates the affects that the war has had on animages in varying perspectives.
Sev and Tristan are the subsequent protagonists the reader is introduced too. Sev is a soldier for the empire and an animage in hiding, a life he has adjusted rather poorly to. His fellow soldiers perceive him to be vapid, but only because Sev encourages this assessment. In actuality, he’s incredibly stealthy and observant. After the war stole his family from him, he wants nothing to do with the Phoenix Riders. But a chance encounter with a rebel soldier leads him to become entangled with their mission.
Tristan on the other hand, is an apprenticing Phoenix Rider in a rebel camp and is incredibly impassioned to join higher ranks to ultimately bring Phoenix Riders back to their original glory. He also has plans to create change in the camp to allow boys and girls, even the poor ones, to join. However his fear of fire holds him back from becoming a great Phoenix Rider.
Of the three perspectives, Veronyka’s is easily the most enjoyable. I have to say I felt sprung when I found out there were chapters in other point of views. The blurb doesn’t allude to these additional characters and so their inclusion wasn’t necessarily a welcomed surprise. By the end I was convinced that their narratives served a purpose, but I could’ve gone without them as well and wouldn’t have minded the sole focus being Veronyka.
“It was all Veronyka had ever wanted. To be a Phoenix Rider like the warrior queens of old.”
The author should be commended for the creativity of this story, it has it’s own unique world and the concept is what drew me to it originally. However, the information on the world, politics and history is very incessant. The heavy handedness of information peppered throughout the story unfortunately becomes grating.
In retrospect, I can recognize that the complex political history and mythology was integral to telling this story. I tried to be slightly forgiving because I understand some exposition is critical for introductions to new worlds. Yet was surprised to find the exposition is consistent throughout. This just wasn’t to my tastes unfortunately and I instead felt interrupted by it.
This reading experience made me incredibly reminiscent of George R.R. Martin. I’m even inclined to say Susan Dennard and Laini Taylor fans should consider this novel. For the plot loving and detail oriented reader, who enjoy their stories with rich history and don’t mind slow plot development – Crown of Feathers might just be for you.