From the ashes of rebellion, a force of Phoenix Riders rises to protect their people in Preto’s debut novel.
Sixteen years ago, the Feather-Crowned Queen died in a glorious blaze fighting her sister for her claim to the throne. Her rebellion turned the Council of Governors against Phoenix Riders and animages, people with the power to understand and communicate with animals. Veronyka, an orphaned animage with brown skin and black hair, and her controlling older sister, Val, who has brown skin and red hair, dream of hatching phoenix eggs together and flying like the warriors of the past. However, when Val betrays her sister, Veronyka discovers the strength to find her own path, disguising herself as a boy to join a secret operation of Phoenix Riders. Written in the third person, the chapters alternate between three perspectives, building tension with cliffhangers. Most characters described in the text have brown skin. While representations of same-gender romances appear in the story, Pau Preto repeatedly uses binary language and makes no distinction between gender and sex. No one sees through Veronyka’s disguise—cut hair and (unsafely) bound chest—but Veronyka fixates on how her presentation makes her a liar. The resolution and the epilogue set the stage for the series to continue.
Trans erasure casts a shadow on this otherwise fiery fantasy aflame with descriptive prose and simmering with suspense. (map, timeline, glossary) (Fantasy. 12-18)