Crown of Feathers
Crown of Feathers
Val would forgive her—she always did. Soon the second egg would hatch, and everything would be right again. They’d raise their phoenixes together and become Riders just as their parents—and their grandmother—had been.
The thought lit a fire in Veronyka’s belly.
With phoenixes, she and Val would be able to travel all over the empire with ease. They’d have to be careful, of course, but soon they’d find others like them—phoenixaeres in hiding. The empire couldn’t have killed and captured them all. There had been hundreds once. And there would be hundreds again. Together, the Riders would be stronger, strong enough to help others, and they wouldn’t have to live in fear anymore.
And this time, if someone dared to knock Veronyka and Val’s door down and come after their loved ones, Veronyka would have the power to fight. What happened to their grandmother wouldn’t happen to anyone she cared about ever again.
Veronyka and her sister Val live a life of fear and desperation on the fringes of an oppressive empire. Constantly guarding against revealing her forbidden magic, Veronyka yearns to return to the days of fiery women warriors who soared through the sky on flaming phoenixes. When her secret phoenix egg finally hatches, she bonds deeply with the creature and dreams of freedom and power. But a shocking betrayal sends Veronyka alone on a determined quest to find what is left of the Riders, even if she must pretend to be a boy to become one.
Just as Veronyka begins to feel like she belongs, her controlling sister, Val, turns up and reveals a tangled web of lies that will change everything. Looming over all is the shadow of the past – of a battle between two queens who tore the empire apart 16 years before and left society bitterly divided. Empire soldiers enslave their former enemies who were gifted with magical powers. Now magic is outlawed, not only common animage magic, which creates a deep connection with animals, but also the rare and fearful shadow magic, a powerful force that can do good or wreak havoc.
Meanwhile, Empire soldiers march towards the mountain stronghold of the remaining Phoenix Riders, determined to wipe them and their flaming steeds from the earth forever. The Riders, who have become the closest thing to family Veronyka has ever had, will have to fight to survive. Veronyka's sister urges her to save herself, but her new family needs her. Veronyka must decide where her loyalty lies, and pay the price for her choice.
With Crown of Feathers, Toronto writer Nicki Pau Preto has created a fast-paced epic fantasy with characters teen readers will embrace. Female characters are strong, and the fact that they must battle renewed sexist treatment in the post-civil-war empire is a reminder that equality needs vigilance. Veronyka is brave and powerful, facing hardship without becoming hard, and able to recognize and teach the strength of gentleness. Her romance with Tristan, the son of the commander, is complicated by her disguise but is charmingly developed as friendship grows between them.
A refreshing element in the high fantasy genre is a gay romance between Sevro, a reluctant soldier, and Kade, a bondservant who is enslaved for his magical powers. In a clear parallel to modern earthly relationships, Sev, who is secretly an animage, must decide whether to be true to himself and face a hostile world, or hide to avoid the consequences. As the two opposing forces collide, a fierce and fiery battle provides opportunities on all sides for heroism, strategy and leadership, as well as sacrifice.
History is skilfully woven into the narrative with letters and historical documents as well as dreams. A richly imagined world, complete with glossary, map and historical timeline, is epic in scope, and the ending sets up for a sequel promised in 2020. Crown of Feathers is a compelling and satisfying tale of justice, loyalty and the power within us all, and teen fantasy readers will wait impatiently for the next installment.
Wendy Phillips is a former teacher-librarian and the author of the Governor General's Literary Award-winning young adult novel, Fishtailing. (https://umanitoba.ca/outreach/cm/vol16/no38/fishtailing.html)