I know I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy lately, but with the state of the U.S. (and honestly the whole world) right now I’ve been craving a lot of escapism. I do try to switch up my reading genres so that my reviews are more diverse, but right now bear with me! At least I’ve been finding some great hidden gems and getting back into lighter, Young Adult novels. Speaking of which, Crown of Feathers!
Veronyka and her sister Val are animages, people who can communicate and bond with animals. This, however, is frowned upon because the Phoenix Riders who once ruled the land were also animages, and now the kingdom is ruled by the anti-magic empire. Veronyka and her sister were raised on the tales of the legendary Phoenix Riders, and they spend their time hiding their animal magic and looking for hidden phoenix eggs in hopes of reigniting their empire’s past themselves. After Val betrays her sister, Veronyka hunts for hidden eggs and Riders on her own, eventually leading her to have to disguise herself as a boy. Veronyka becomes tangled in the uprising against the empire and is entwined in a long history of secrets.
I adored the Dragonriders of Pern series when I was a teen (but I recognize it has some problematic aspects), and Crown of Feathers definitely made me nostalgic for that series. To quickly compare them, Pern involved real-world science and certainly had a more adult writing style. Crown of Feathers is more fantasy than sci-fi but has a well developed world history of its own. It is lighter but also more inclusive and fun. Also, there are phoenixes instead of dragons, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t know of too many books with a major focus on phoenix mythology (Feel free to recommend some if you know of any though!).
Anyway, back to this book itself. The characters, plot, world building, and writing were all very good. Veronyka is our main character. She realistically grows a lot during this first book, and I look forward to her development in the subsequent novels. She has to make tough decisions, and even if I didn’t always agree with her choices, they felt valid based on her feelings and the situation at hand. Other major characters, like Tristan, Sev, and Val, were also well written. They had distinct voices (with chapters in their perspectives) and realistic character progression. Overall, the writing felt more mature than some of the recent YA I’ve read, but it was still quite light and not overly flowery in language or trope-filled.
My major critique would be how the world building was integrated into the plot. The author has developed a fairly complex world with magic, political intrigue, and mythology. I really enjoyed learning about the world and its history. However, at times the plot would be interrupted with large paragraphs that “info dump” the world building onto the reader. Especially early on I disliked how frequent these paragraphs were because I wanted to know what was happening in the novel presently and was not invested enough yet to care as much for the world’s history. Once I became more attached to the characters and the story, then I welcomed more of the world building-heavy sections. In between chapters there are sometimes letters or historical documents that give even more context to the world’s past, which I thought was a good way to include even more about the world while not interrupting the flow of the plot.
So, yeah, five stars to Crown of Feathers! I found this to be a refreshingly unique and well-crafted young adult novel. I’ll admit that my feelings may be partially based on nostalgia for the Dragonriders of Pern, but I do think that Crown of Feathers deserves more attention than it seems to be getting online.