I went into this book with middling expectations. I thought that I would enjoy it but wouldn’t feel compelled to continue with the series when the next book is released, but I was wrong. I loved this book a lot more than I thought I would!
I had a sister, once…
In a world ruled by fierce warrior queens, a 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.
I promised her the throne would not come between us.
Sixteen years later, Veronyka is a war orphan who dreams of becoming a Phoenix Rider from the stories of old. After a shocking betrayal from her controlling sister, Veronyka strikes out alone to find the Riders—even if that means disguising herself as a boy to join their ranks.
But it is a fact of life that one must kill or be killed. Rule or be ruled.
Just as Veronyka finally feels like she belongs, her sister turns up and reveals a tangled web of lies between them that will change everything. And meanwhile, the new empire has learned of the Riders’ return and intends to destroy them once and for all.
Sometimes the title of queen is given. Sometimes it must be taken.
The book does have a pretty slow start because you get a lot of history about the world and the characters, but I personally really enjoyed that because I love detailed and complex world building. Once you get that history though, the book really takes off.
The intricacies of the relationships throughout this book were one of the strongest parts of this book and the main reason I want to continue with the series. I really loved Veronyka as a character. Her determination and perseverance was really inspiring and fun to watch. I felt so bad for her that her sister was so manipulative and demanding, but I was also proud of her for standing up to her and doing what she felt was right for herself.
Veronyka is determined to become a phoenix rider, no matter what it takes. So when she finds out that they are only taking boys, she does what any determined girl would do: disguises herself as a boy to work in the stables and gain the trust and respect of the men in order to achieve her dream.
While I would consider Veronyka our main character, we do also get the perspective of two other characters. Sev is an animage in hiding who is serving as a soldier in the army for the empire, and if they found out he is an animage, they would make him a slave. We also get some chapters from Tristan, who is a phoenix rider that is afraid of fire. The way that these three characters come together was so satisfying and I ended up falling in love with each character.
The addition of phoenixes instead of the usual dragons was such a cool addition, and the bonds that they created with their rider was a really nice touch. Each of the phoenixes had a unique personality and the background and history of the phoenixes as a species was well thought out and I loved learning about where they come from!
I will say that I am very good at guessing plot twists, and this book was no different. I had every twist guessed before we got to it, but in this case, it didn’t bother me at all because the twists were so interesting and were more reveals about the characters and their relationship to the other characters. The only twist I didn’t quite get right was who Veronyka and Val’s parents were, but I was close!
So basically, this book had a lot of things that I love to see in fantasy: characters I loved, great world building, multiple perspectives, and unique bonds with animals.
If you’ve been on the fence about this book, I recommend picking it up because it was such a fun book to read!