Heart of Flames – Nicki Pau Preto – Crown of Feathers #2 – Simon Pulse – Published 11 February 2020
Veronyka, Tristan, and Sev must stop the advancing empire from destroying the Phoenix Riders in this fiery sequel to Crown of Feathers, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Kendare Blake calls “absolutely unforgettable!”
You are a daughter of queens.
The world is balanced on the edge of a knife, and war is almost certain between the empire and the Phoenix Riders.
Like Nefyra before you, your life will be a trial by fire.
Veronyka finally got her wish to join the Riders, but while she’s supposed to be in training, all she really wants to do is fly out to defend the villages of Pyra from the advancing empire. Tristan has been promoted to Master Rider, but he has very different ideas about the best way to protect their people than his father, the commander. Sev has been sent to spy on the empire, but maintaining his cover may force him to fight on the wrong side of the war. And Veronyka’s sister, Val, is determined to regain the empire she lost—even if it means inciting the war herself.
Such is your inheritance. A name. A legacy. An empire in ruin.
As tensions reach a boiling point, the characters all find themselves drawn together into a fight that will shape the course of the empire—and determine the future of the Phoenix Riders. Each must decide how far they’re willing to go—and what they’re willing to lose in the process.
Heart of Flames is the second book in the Crown of Feathers series. This is an amazing fantasy series, with phoenixes (which are even cooler than dragons, if you can imagine that), and a cast of heart-strong and determined characters who must fight for the freedom to be themselves. I loved the second book even more than the first book – we get far more insight into the phoenixes, the complex world Nicki Pau Preto has created, and more romance – though with that ending I am now desperate for the third book.
Veronyka has been revealed as the girl she is, bonded with a phoenix and proved herself in the battle between Phoenix Riders and the advancing Golden Empire that was just the first step toward the promised war. Her sister, Val, who is actually Avalkyra reincarnated and determined to reclaim the throne no matter the cost, wants to use Veronyka to achieve her goal. Tristan is now a Master Rider but no closer to convincing his father Commander Cassian to use his Phoenix Riders to actively defend again the Empire. And Sev has returned to the Empire’s armed forces, this time as a spy reporting directly to Cassian. War looms but there are big secrets that, revealed, will change everything.
The world in which Heart of Flames is based is rich with details of a glorious and horrendous past. It’s all messy and complex. This doesn’t feel like a wonderful magical world that is only slightly out of balanced and in which the actions of just one or two people might be able to put it right again. In fact, it honestly all feels a little hopeless. But that’s what makes this book so epic and the roles of all the characters so important. Veronyka might be special in ways she is only just discovering but she alone could not even dream of creating a secure future, if one can be achieved at all. It will take the work of many and even then, the future of their world, much like our own, will be tainted by the war, destruction and mistakes of the past. There are many characters in this book and over 5 of them share the chapters in this book, but each one is vital to the story. I do admit to being a little confused about the complex history of the lands and ruling forces of each, but the little segments from history books that are spaced between each chapter help to reveal important details.
I loved that we get to learn so much more about the phoenixes in this book. Rex, Xephyra and the rest are all as important characters as the human and bring so much to the book. As they fight and train their their bandmates, we readers learn more about their distinct personalities, how the bond they share with their rider works and their dexterity and abilities in flight and fight.
There are two glorious, heart-tingling romances in this book, with an almost extra one that might possibly, maybe, please, please, please, turn into three in the next book. But for now, readers are blessed with the continuation of Veronyka and Tristan’s connection and the growing feelings between Sev and Kane. Be still my beating heart – seriously, I think I almost passed out at one point at Sev and Kane’s almost kiss. Veronyka and Tristan are close. They are friends, they train together, their phoenixes are bonded but they also share a link Veronyka is reluctant to tell Tristan about for fear of revealing her shadow magic. Their every touch threatens to break down the walls between them, but doing so could mean more danger for them both. To my utmost relief, Sev and Kane are reunited pretty early on in the book, which makes everything about Sev’s chapters so enjoyable to read. As Sev works as a spy for the Phoenix Riders, still hiding as a magic-less solider in Lord Ronan’s army, Kane remains a bondslave, caring for Ronan’s dogs. But the two can pass information along to the Riders and doing so means working closely together. Their banter, awkward dance around their growing feelings and the are-they-going-to-oh-they-almost-did-just-tell-him-how-you-feel-already thing they have going on is as agonising as it is amazing.
Val is even more dangerous in this book, the politics more complex, the danger heightened and the stakes higher as the lives of loved ones are threatened. The ending of this book leaves us with a bit of a cliffhanger and certainly has me eager and slightly desperate to get my hands on the third book, which is sure to be epic as it brings the series to a conclusion.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction
Themes: Royalty, politics, phoenixes, war, slavery, magic, romance, relationships, leadership, father-son relationships, LGBT, animals.
Reading age guide: Ages 12 and up.
Advisory: Violence, death, injury.
Published: 11 February 2020 by Simon Pulse
Format: Hardcover, ebook, audiobook. 604 pages.