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.
I initially went into this book full of hope because, come on, it’s a retelling of one of my favorite fairy tales, The Firebird. And it’s definitely a different enough fantasy Russia that it works in that aspect.
The good parts: THEY RIDE BEARS! They treat bears like horses. I just…really love bears, okay? I also like Asya alright. She’s a vegetarian, as her one “remaining bit of humanity” since her role as Firebird is brutal. It doesn’t play a ~major~ role in the story, but it was one of those fun character quirks I liked seeing included. I liked the idea of Nikov, the scholar. He’s pretty cool but didn’t really add a whole lot to the overall story. The action (for me) really picked up around the 72% mark, and I really enjoyed the book from then to about the 99% mark. The epilogue sets up the sequel well, but I didn’t really dig it that much. I’m sorry.
The parts that weren’t my jam (but might be yours): the political intrigue. Normally, I’m all for IRL chess, machinations, all of that. But there was so much happening all at once that I felt like it was hard to hold the thread of the end goal. Like the council wants Izabeta to not be queen, but do they just dislike her or the idea of continuing the monarchy (which would be a fun idea to explore in the current climate). The lack of communication between Asya and Izabeta also irritated me. I know Iza grew up being told to trust no one, but like. It’s her twin sister. Come on, now. (I’m learning that lack of communication is one of my frustrations in stories, now. Yay for growing up.)
Overall, it’s a cool concept, with interesting ideas. But I kind of feel like it was maybe 100 pages too long, with some threads left untouched after they were introduced. I give it 3.5 out of 5 Mishkas. Thank you to NetGalley and Inkyard Press for providing a copy in exchange for review, and for including me on the blog tour!