Wings of Shadow
Wings of Shadow
Veronyka closed her eyes and examined the open door to Val inside her mind…then tore it off its hinges. Whatever happened from here on out, Veronyka would be ready.
She had things to do, and she would do them, even with a magical bond to her murderous sister-aunt. Val had taught her more than self-defense; she had taught her to be ruthless in the pursuit of what she wanted.
With Val’s door gone – and then Tristan’s too, for good measure – Veronyka’s mind was truly open for the first time in her life. Welcoming, inviting…daring her bondmates to come in. Was that fear she felt thrumming inside her chest, or anticipation? Veronyka had this magic, this power, so she would use it.
In the final instalment of her “Crown of Feathers” fantasy trilogy, Nicki Pau Preto wraps up the adventures of Veronyka Ashfire and her phoenix, Xephyra, in an explosive climax. No longer a stable boy in disguise or an apprentice Phoenix Rider, Veronyka is now the heir to the Ashfire throne. But to save her people, Veronyka must unify a warring empire and confront her ferocious sister, Avalkyra.
After Veronyka rescues her beloved Tristan from an Empire prison, she must harness all the forces at her disposal to prevent the Empire from going to war with the Phoenix Riders. Unlike her power-hungry sister, Veronyka is reluctant to thrust herself into a leadership role, but, when it is clear that only Veronyka can defeat the forces ranged against the Riders, she must embrace her power and position. Battles, both military and political, challenge her leadership, but Veronyka uses clear-thinking strategies, her compassion, and her magic to stand between her beloved community of Phoenix riders and total destruction.
Led by corrupt and cruel officials, the Empire is threat enough, but Veronyka’s sister-aunt is even worse. Avalkyra is at first weakened by the encounter with Veronyka that ended Heart of Flames, but she remains a deliciously evil villain. Val is determined that, if she can’t rule the world, she will destroy it. Delving into dark magic, she harnesses a force of stryxes, winged beings that feed off the life force of others and spread death and destruction.
Wings of Shadow continues the ongoing multiple storylines begun in Crown of Feathers and Heart of Flames. The gay romance between Sev and Kade and the growing friendship between Elliott and the blind, street-wise Sparrow progress through misunderstandings and military crises. The relationship between Tristan and Veronyka deepens here as well. Tristan’s full acceptance of Veronyka’s role as leader and his own as a benex, or second, enables Veronyka to embrace her destiny, and warms the hearts of feminist readers. Though the characters couple up a little too predictably (even the phoenixes bill and coo at each other), readers will take hope from the happy endings.
Their magical bond keeps Veronyka and Avalkyra connected to the end and culminates in a long, involved battle that rages for over 100 pages. Avalkyra’s contempt for Veronyka’s kindness makes her a fearful opponent, but Veronyka holds to her beliefs that compassion does not equal weakness, and her conviction reaps rewards.
Pau Preto’s fully realized world is complete with a rich mythology, a complex history and powerful legendary figures that appear in historical documents, excerpts of which appear at the beginning of each chapter. The timeline and glossary appended to the novel provide context to the committed reader, and the map is useful in orienting the movement of characters and armies.
Wings of Shadow is long – over 600 pages. Some of the personal conflicts are somewhat predictable, and multiple points of view can disrupt the flow of narrative, but the rapid-fire short chapters keep the pace moving. The message of tolerance, co-operation, and the power within us all is welcome in a world that often celebrates the opposite. Add the fiery excitement of phoenixes and magical bonds, and Wings of Shadow forms an exciting and fast-moving conclusion that will satisfy Pau Preto’s many fans.
Wendy Phillips, a resident of British Columbia, is a former teacher-librarian. She is the author of the Governor General's Literary Award-winning YA novel, Fishtailing.