Book Review: Heart of Flames by Nicki Pau Preto


Title: Heart of Flames
Author: Nicki Pau Preto
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Series/Stand Alone: Trilogy
Next Release? Wings of Shadow, July 13, 2021!
Format read: Audiobook/eBook, Owlcrate Edition
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Date read: 1 July 2021 (Third read through)
Date read: 27 December 2019 (First read through)
First published: 11 February 2020
Content Warning: emotional abuse, controlling relationship, animal death, some violence, war, death, slavery

Mini Review:
The epic story continues with more Phoenixes, more secrets, more betrayal and more awesome characters in this harsh world of animal magic and Phoenixes. Sometimes the truth is more than you ever imagined and the world smaller than you realised. Come for the Phoenixes, stay for the flames.

Full thoughts:
Heart of Flames is the second book in the Crown of Feathers trilogy and continues the story of war orphans, Veronyka and Sev, and the Phoenix Riders, including the Commander’s son, Tristan. If you haven’t read Crown of Feathers, I recommend you consider reading that first as this review will spoil some things for the first book.

Veronyka and Sev are both animages living very different lives. Sev hides his animage abilities while serving as a soldier. Veronyka was in hiding until she was found work in the stables with the phoenix riders while pretending to be a boy by the name of Nyk. Tristan is an apprentice to the Phoenix Riders, who do their best to keep their existence hidden from the Empire, lest they be hunted before they have regained their strength.

Unfortunately, they are not as hidden as they think they are. In an effort to eradicate the Phoenix Riders, Lord Rolan secured a spy and sent his troops on a multi part attack on the Eyrie, the home of the Phoenix Riders. A tricky battle, Tristan managed to lead the defenses with Veronyka’s help and hold off just long enough for the Master Riders to return. During the battle both Phoenixes and animals were allowed to fight, much to the dismay of some riders. The aftermath of the battle is a big theme for Heart of Flames as everyone deals with what comes next, especially now that the Phoenix Riders can no longer be considered a secret.

Secrets always have a way of coming out and some major secrets were shared in Crown of Feathers which shaped a bit of the story for Heart of Flames.

“Guard your secrets like you guard your flesh and blood… A secret in the wrong hands is as good as a blade in the back.”

Heart of Flames by Nicki Pau Preto, page 148

Veroynka learned that her sister is actually Avalkyra Ashfire, the reborn feather crowned queen. The first riders and Tristan learned that Nyk is actually Veronyka and that Elliot betrayed them to the Empire in an effort to save his sister. Sev learned that maybe he can make a difference and requests to go back to the empire as Commander Cassian’s spy. Meanwhile he’s not sure what Ilythia’s last words really meant about Avalkyra living, but he shares the knowledge anyway.

More secrets come to life in Heart of Flames for most of our main characters and I can’t wait to see how it all wraps up in Wings of Shadow. In Crown of Feathers we viewed the story from Veronyka, Tristan and Sev’s Point of View (POV) with one chapter from Avalkyra.

In Heart of Flames we have 5 regular POVs: Veronyka, Tristan, Sev, Avalkyra and Elliott; plus one additional POV chapter towards the end. Considering how Crown of Feathers ended for Elliot, it’s very interesting to be in his shoes and hear his thoughts on things. All he wanted was to protect his sister but his efforts were for naught as he has no information and feels alienated from almost everyone. While she doesn’t have her own POV, we get to spend more time with Sparrow this book which was great and I’m really excited excited for her POV in Wings of Shadow!

Veryonka is still my favorite character, followed closely by Tristan, and Sev, and Kade and Sparrow! Val is probably on the list too. She’s an amazingly written character who is just such a force of nature.

There’s nothing faint about my heart, Avalkyra Ashfire!

Heart of Flames by Nicki Pau Preto, page 156

Overall this was a wonderful sequel which I liked just as much if not more, than the first. The secrets and reveals in this book were amazing and I am so eager to see how how story ends .

This time I listened to the audio which was a fun way to experience the story which I’m happy to recommend. As with many fantasy books it’s nice to hear and see the names to get them right from the beginning.

As with the previous book, the story is full of interstitials (aka mini tidbits between chapters) that add to the story. I love this kind of world-building and how it adds to the overall feel of the world. In my paperback version below, I’ve marked the pages where certain letters are written between two characters newly introduced this book who I suspect we will learn even more about in Wings of Shadow!

If you haven’t read this story yet, I definitely recommend it! Wings of Shadow, aka the third and final book in the series, releases today so now is a great time to pick this series up!

Pictured here is the regular paperback version first available in Sweden, along with Chihiro!

The image at the beginning of the post is the OwlCrate Exclusive edition cover, photo from

Illumicrate May 2021 Unboxing: Change Your Stars

Box: Change Your Stars
Company: Illumicrate
Book: The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
Exclusive Edition details: Signed bookplate, Author Letter, Hidden Hardback design (foil embossing) and stenciled edges.
Collectible: Enamel Pin, Key
Value for loot: Good

This month’s theme encourages us to question fate and never settle. The items in this box were all inspired by stories with strong female characters who rebel against society and take their destiny into their own hands. The only one I haven’t read yet is Girls of Paper and Fire, but I do own a copy and it sounds amazing.

What’s in the box?!

  • Staryk Castle Book Sleeve – inspired by Spinning Silver designed by Pauhami
  • Novel Threads Dress Enamel Pin – inspired by Girls of Paper and Fire designed by Blissfully Bookish
  • Wilder than Memories Sketchbook – inspired by The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue designed by Renata Krawczyk
  • Elemental Creatures Tea Tin – inspired by the Daevabad Trilogy designed by Shirley
  • M-Bot Illumikey – inspired by Skyward designed by Danielle
  • The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri – Exclusive hardback format with stenciled edges, foil embossing, author letter and signed bookplate!
  • Monthly Collectors Enamel Pin inspired by The Jasmine Throne designed by Stacey McEvoy-Caunt

Favorite Item(s)?
The Tea Tin is my absolute favorite item. It’s super pretty and I can think of a lot of good uses for it. I really love tea and am looking forward to seeing if this is a good solution for how I store it, or if I display it on my shelf somewhere. The M-Bot Illumikey from the new collection is my second favorite. I love Skyward so much and hardly have any bookish merch for that series.

About the book:
The Jasmine Throne is a story of an imprisoned princess and a priestess who find themselves in a position to change the fate of an empire. I’ve been looking forward to this book for a while now and I’m excited to read it with the Illumicrate read-a-long this month.

Final Thoughts?
Overall this was a solid box with useful items! The tin and booksleeve will definitely be used, I can always have another note/sketch book, and I need all Skyward merch possible! The Novel Threads pin is gorgeous but I was a little disappointed to receive 3 enamel items in one box. I wasn’t familiar with the Novel Threads collection before getting this box, and while I love pins, I am glad I don’t feel the need to collect this set of pins. I do think I should probably read Girls of Paper and Fire before too much longer. The third book is slated for November 2021, so maybe a fall read for me.

Thanks to Illumicrate for curating another great box!

Illumicrate is a wonderful bookish box company located in the UK. Their monthly box features a special hardback edition of a recently released science fiction or fantasy book, an exclusive enamel pin designed by Stacey McEvoy Caunt inspired by the month’s book and several other bookish items. If you’re not into the bookish goodies, you can opt for the book only option which comes with the enamel pin. They also offer special editions of select books sometimes as a stand alone or as a special edition box and last fall introduced a Lifestyles line with some bookish clothing as well as the Illumicrate Archives which are a complete series of books with a brand new look and a few pieces of merch. I’ve been subscribed to their monthly box since November 2019 but my first box was their May 2019 box with Aurora Rising.

Mini Reviews: May Reads

Someone had to visit the vet this month and didn’t really appreciate it, but more on that below!

Chihiro’s face here kind of captures my mood for May. It was starting to feel like summer but still not quite and I’ve just continued to be so busy which isn’t so great for my motivation! I did manage to escape into at least 12 different stories, many thanks to audiobooks, as seems to be the continued trend. I had hoped to write more, but I’m still working on it. Probably one of the best feelings this month was setting out on the balcony in the afternoon sun and getting lost in a story.

“But our weapons? Our weapons are knowledge and observation and patience and time, and given enough of those last two, our weapons will always prevail.”

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savrit, 34%

Monthly Reading Stats!
4,332 pages – 12 books finished
80% monthly TBR met – 2 reread
5 owned TBR books read – 7 owned books read
0 comics/graphic novels – 6 audiobooks

Favorite read of the month? This is a tough question this month, but I’m going to say Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare but the Burning God by R.F. Kuang is a very close second choice. These are two very different stories, and both leave you with a bit of heartache, but in very different ways. As I said above, I haven’t written as much as I want, but I plan to at least write a review for the Burning God.

April 2021 Illumicrate – Dearly Departed Box

Favorite bookish mail of the month? Another tough question! My April Illumicrate and OwlCrate boxes arrived during May month, and I loved them both! My favorite item which I’m currently (June) using to hold some yarn and such is the Nevernight cloth pouch included in the April Illumicrate box. I love this blend of colors and how the pattern pops on the white fabric, oh so good!! I also am regularly using the glass from the box and the book pot has a nice home on my shelves.

Readathons/Challenges: No readathons this month, but as May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month, as well as Jewish American month in the US, I intentionally bumped up some books that were on my TBR to match those backgrounds, even if the authors aren’t necessarily American. I read a few!

  • Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit
  • Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli
  • Yes No, Maybe So by Aisha Saeed and Becky Albertalli
  • The Burning God by R.F. Kuang
  • The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected on Water by Zen Cho

4,332 pages: A solid amount of pages this month. Up almost 1k from last month, I’m pretty happy with it! My monthly average for the year is at 4,763 so it’s a little below average, but that’s in huge part due to how crazy much I read in March.

80% TBR: I couldn’t quite finish my TBR this month, but I was actively reading the last book when June dared to take over. As my mood has been a bit shifting, I’m keeping to the smaller TBR which feels much more achievable and less restrictive. A lot of times the real driving factor around what I read next is when a library digital hold becomes available. My library has a 3 week limit per loan and that can be quite tricky sometimes given the timing of the holds!

Is it playtime yet?

Kitty Update: Chihiro was neutered in May! Neutered is the gender neutral term and here in Sweden they use the word “kastrera” for both genders, so that’s been how I’ve talked about it with colleagues at work.

It was quite the dramatic experience, at least for us! We called to see when we could book her procedure and it was either bring her in the next day or wait almost 2 months, so it happened quite suddenly. She then was at the vet all day as they had an emergency pop up and delay her procedure, but she was home just before 5pm and continues to be forever spoiled.

And don’t worry, Chihiro’s fully recovered and back to her crazy self as of the first week of June. She wore this body suit for just under two weeks, and she was so happy to be rid of it.

Dreams are not the safest thing to build a life on.

Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater, page 1

Now for the books!

Ravage the Dark by Tara Sim –
Scavenge the Stars is a Count of Monte Cristo retelling. As I’ve not read the original, I can’t really speak to the retelling aspects but I very much enjoyed the first book. The second book was a decent conclusion to the story, but I found myself being very annoyed with the characters a lot of the time as they made some very YA choices. Not sure I can really blame the novel for this, as it is a YA story, but while I enjoyed it, I guess I imagined it going a little bit differently.
YA – Fantasy, Retelling- Scavenge the Stars Duology

Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed –
This coming of age story focuses on a local senate election in Georgia and two teenagers from different cultures who get roped into canvassing (knocking on doors) for the campaign. They have their different reasons for participating but both come out better for it in the end. A really strong story and perhaps one of my favorite YA Contemporaries to date.
YA – Contemporary, Romance, Politics – Stand Alone

Chain of Iron by
Cassandra Clare
This Shadowhunters series is strong competition for my favorite series! It’s definitely one where you should have read previous series to fully appreciate all the details which can be a bit daunting, but you could start with the Infernal Devices and go from there. The Merry Thieves, Cordelia, Lucie and Anna are really forcing their way into my heart and this story kept giving me a bit of emotional whiplash. The last book in this trilogy is currently scheduled for release in March 2022.
YA – Fantasy, Urban, Paranormal – The Last Hours #2, Shadowhunters

Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer –
This was a very cute YA contemporary with a dash of magic realism. The main character is finishing up her sophomore year of high school and reminds me a lot of myself and the overachieving kids I went to school with. It was a really good story and as with her other stories, I found myself amused by the conversation and how the story played out. I also found myself cringing a bit in the beginning at the all too familiar high school drama.
YA – Contemporary, Romance, Magic Realism- Stand Alone

Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor –
This was a captivating short novel (159 pages to the ebook) which I really enjoyed. Sankofa lives in a world reliant on technology but unable to use it herself. In fact, she brings death. This is my first book by the author who is known for her Afrofuturism and I look forward to reading more of her books, such as the Binti series. I especially loved the author’s writing style and how griping the story was.
Adult – Scifi, Afrofuturism – Stand Alone

Princess Mononoke the First Story by Hayao Miyazaki –
This picture books tells the original story Miyazaki had in mind when he first wrote the tale of Princess Mononoke. It’s very different from what the animated film ended up being, but it’s a good fairy tale/parable questioning what it means to be good in what felt to me as classic Miyazaki.
MG – Fantasy, Picture book – Stand Alone

The Burning God by R.F. Kuang-
An intensely brutal and devastatingly good conclusion to the Poppy War trilogy. The author does not try to romanticize war, but puts you in the harsh reality of it, surrounded by characters that are really well created. As I’ve said in previous reviews of the series, I strongly recommend it but it’s not for the faint of heart.
Adult – Fantasy, Historical Fiction – The Poppy War trilogy # 3

Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli –
Becky Albertalli’s stories are always such great reads which completely suck me in and make me think “just one more chapter.” This one was no exception, and it centered around theatre kids, which was an extra plus.
This YA contemporary story is about finally acting on a crush and handling changes within your friend groups.
As always, I look forward to her next book!
YA – Contemporary, Romance – Stand Alone

Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater –
My favorite boys, at least some of them, are back! This story picks up where the Raven Cycle ends. Adam is off to college, Ronan is trying to understand what it means to be a dreamer, Declan continues to do Declan-y things while Matthew is mostly content to be Matthew. Yet as we know, things change as we grow up and there are new things in store for the brothers Lynch. I really love her way of writing and Will Patton’s narration for this world is so perfect. I recommend reading the Raven Cycle prior to this series.
YA – Fantasy, Magic Realism – The Dreamer Trilogy #1

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit –
This WWI historical novel focused on Anna who is 7 years old when her father is taken by the Germans during the intellectual purge of Poland. She finds herself traveling with the Swallow Man in this captivating story that reads a bit like a dark fairy tale.
YA – Historical fiction, WWII – Stand Alone

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho –
This short story/novella (160 pages) is such a fun read! The flow/pacing/banter reminded me a bit of an manga/anime/drama aka I really enjoy wuxia fantasy. If you’re in the mood for a short quest story, this may be the one for you. I loved learning about the Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water and trying to piece together the details of the story. I look forward to reading of this author.
Adult – Fantasy, Wuxia – Stand Alone

Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto –
This epic fantasy has a lot of my favorite components all wrapped up in a fiery phoenix shaped bow. We’ve got girls proving they can do anything boys can do, archery, a solid magic system (hello animal magic!), awesome creatures (aka Phoenixes AND MORE), and a world rich in history. Join Veronyka, a poor orphan girl who dreams of being a phoenix rider one day. This is her journey.
The third and final book in the series comes out July 13, 2021!
Full Review
YA – Epic Fantasy – Crown of Feathers Trilogy

Thanks for reading this far!

Please note:
Cover images are from Goodreads/library catalogs/my own collection.
Books listed as Stand Alone were not considered part of a series at time of writing this post.