A dystopian flip of colonialism mixes with horses on fire.
In the Empire, the dark-skinned Ashlords are a minority but have all the power. Each year they stage a spectacular multiday race on phoenixes—horses that rise from ashes at dawn only to die in flames each night. Pippa, the teen daughter of former winners, is this year’s favorite, but she’s challenged by Adrian, a tough Longhand cowboy from an oppressed group of rebels, and Imelda, the lone Dividian given free entry into the contest. The light-skinned Dividian were invaders who failed to conquer and who now live subject to the Ashlords (who credit their superiority to the intervention of their many gods). Phoenixes can have magical powers, depending on what you add to their ashes. It’s a lot of stuff crammed into one novel. Reintgen (Saving Fable, 2019, etc.) fits it all in, mostly (the gods never do make sense), with economical, crisp writing, at the expense of character development and overall clarity. The most well-developed relationship, between Imelda and her friend Farian, is abandoned after the first chapters. The worldbuilding falters, too: They have sophisticated computerized technology, including holograms and video streaming, but rely on horses and carriages for all transportation. It requires close reading to understand that the pale, invading Dividian majority are oppressed; the facts are told piecemeal without the analysis that might have given readers insights into our own world's history of colonialism
Too much hat, not enough cowboy. (Fantasy. 13-18)