GUEST REVIEW: Heart of Flames Book Review

You are a daughter of queens.

★ ★ ★ ★

Author: Nicki Pau Preto
Publisher: Simon Pulse

From GoodReads:

The world is balanced on the edge of a knife, and war is almost certain between the empire and the Phoenix Riders.

Veronyka finally got her wish to join the Riders, but while she’s supposed to be in training, all she really wants to do is fly out to defend the villages of Pyra from the advancing empire. Tristan has been promoted to Master Rider, but he has very different ideas about the best way to protect their people than his father, the commander. Sev has been sent to spy on the empire, but maintaining his cover may force him to fight on the wrong side of the war. And Veronyka’s sister, Val, is determined to regain the empire she lost—even if it means inciting the war herself.

As tensions reach a boiling point, the characters all find themselves drawn together into a fight that will shape the course of the empire—and determine the future of the Phoenix Riders. Each must decide how far they’re willing to go—and what they’re willing to lose in the process.

Guest Reviewer: Dom @ InkedthePage

Plot: ★★★★ 1/2
World: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★
Character Development: ★★★★ 1/2

Like Nefyra before you, your life will be a trial by fire.


Heart of Flames picks up immediately following the events of Crown Of Feathers — Phoenix Rider Veronyka fighting to control her emotions and her magic, while simultaneously trying to uncover the truth of who she really is — and what that means for her future. She has little time to ponder these questions, though, with a power-hungry Lord Rolan trying to provoke the Phoenix Riders at every turn, attempting to force the Golden Empire’s Grand Council into declaring war.

With The truth about Veronyka’s past hanging in the wake. She must decide to use her shadow magic to contact the only person who knows about her and her past to help, Val. But at what cost? Speaking to Val means not only addressing herself but Val’s lies and manipulations as the reincarnated Ashfire Queen.

 While opening her magic might be helpful, — it did help her fight the first war — her inability to control it as well as her sister means being vulnerable to Val. Despite being sisters, Val uses every weakness she finds in Veronyka against her, hoping for victory over her sister.

I pray you are able to pass
through the flames.

Character Development:
★★★★ 1/2

While there are several POVs through out the novel, our story still revolves around Veronyka. Veronyka is amazingly complex. She loves deeply and selflessly – despite what it may take from her. We journey through her growth from a meek young girl – a victim living in her sister’s shadow – to an independent woman fighting for the things and people she loves, even if it means doing things she doesn’t necessarily want to.

She doesn’t see good and evil, but love in all capacities and redemption possibilities across the board. This gives her an advantage that others may not, but also comes with a disadvantage that is hard to escape.

She understands that the right choice for somebody else might not be the right choice for her and seeks to understand people’s motives. We really delve deep into her past and her life in HoF.

Val is back — with a vengeance! She’s still the same manipulative and cold character we met in Crown of Feathers – cunning, deceptive, and malevolent.

Now however, with each flashback, we learn what has shaped her into the person she is, and why she treats Veronkya with such malice. Finally, we begin to see some of the cracks in her every strong, stoney demeanor. They help us to understand the choices she has made, and the one she continues to make.

 The relationship between Val and her sister is constantly evolving, making it difficult to predict what will unfold through out the story. Val’s emotions are constantly shifting – from cold as ice to a genuine desire to help her sister.

Tristan – though living most of his life in the shadows- has a good heart. He is a strong, willful boy but when it comes to his father, he is often hesitant in defying him and afraid of not being able to live up to his expectations.  His lacked a willingness to fight until Veronyka came into the picture. She is a friend to him, maybe one of the first to actually see him as a person.As w travel through the story, he opens up, letting his personality and heart come out of it’s shell. His confidence as he grows allows him to stand up for what he believes in – even if the end results are not as hoped.

With the help of everyone’ s favorite animal mage Sparrow, we get to know Elliot. Although he’s still a side character, his role in HoF helps push along the character development of many characters, and allows us insight into each of the other Phoenix Riders.

Sparrow acts like a little sister to him- sometimes even a friend– because she recognizes his heart and understands his motives. Her actions towards Elliot help his realize that his time for moping is over, and pushes him down the path to show the others how much he regrets his actions. His journey to regain everyone’s trust and forgiveness for his previous actions is heartfelt and understandable.

AHH! Sev and Cade are back! In HoF, we discover how they truly feel about one another. While they aren’t the center of the story, they do have some pretty serious moments. We explore their past and where they are both from, and how interconnected this story, and cast, really are.

I love how supportive and dedicated Cade is, even though he might not always approve of Sev’s choices. Sev learns that he has to make some pretty hard choices as a spy and often struggles on doing the right thing, or doing what he is there to do. Luckily, Cade is there right, by his side making sure he knows how much good he’s doing in the process. 

::: final thoughts :::

I really enjoyed this book more than the first. I loved getting to delve more into Veronkya and Val’s past, and their bond. Veronkya’s magic plays a big part in this book and we finally get to learn a little more about it and why it works the way it does. We get to see how strong she is both mentally, and physically. I loved the little side notes of the history added in and each of the characters parts and how they fit in with the story. It gives a full 360 view of all the things going on, which helps build on the complexity of the characters and the plot. Over all I’d give this book a 4.5 overall rating. 

Such is your inheritance.
A name.
A legacy.
An empire in ruin.

About the Author:

Nicki is a YA fantasy author living just outside Toronto, Canada. After getting a degree in visual arts, a masters in art history, and a diploma in graphic design, Nicki discovered two things: she loves to escape the real world, and she isn’t interested in a regular 9-5 life. Luckily, her chosen career covers both.