Heart of Flames by Nicki Pau Preto – Review #Gifted
When I read Crown of Feathers in 2019 I couldn’t stop fangirling over it. I loved the characters, the complex relationships and the magical world that Nicki crafted. Obviously, I couldn’t wait to read the next book in the series! I am extremely grateful to Nicki for allowing me to be part of her #FirstRidersStreetTeam and gifting me an E-ARC of Heart of Flames. It has been wonderful to find so many people who are as enthusiastic about the series as I am.
Happy book birthday to Heart of Flames! Congratulations Nicki, it is an absolutely fantastic book and I hope you are so proud of what you have achieved. I am super excited that I can now fangirl over Heart of Flames with other people as they can finally grab a copy. If you haven’t picked up a copy yet GO GET ONE NOW!
*Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Crown of Feathers, so if you haven’t read book one then please check out my review here instead.*
Heart of Flames is absolutely stunning. I am a huge YA fantasy fan and this book is probably the best YA fantasy that I have ever read. It is very easy for a reader to say “OMG this is my favourite book ever!” We can fall in love with books so easily and although that is wonderful it is not always helpful when rating new books. So, I have been sat here comparing Heart of Flames to my favourite YA fantasy books. The real test is do I like it more than my current favourite A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas? Believe me when I say I love ACOMAF but the answer is yes, I really do and I think the writing is also superior.
The novel opens a few weeks on from the events of the last book, with the characters still dealing with the aftermath.
Characters & Relationships
I was SO excited to get back to Veronyka, Val, Tristan, Sev and Sparrow. The character development in the novel is fantastic for both the main characters and the supporting characters.
I love Sparrow, she is such a wonderful character and still reminds me a little of Luna Lovegood. Quirky and caring. It is fantastic that as a blind character Nicki does not hold Sparrow back. There is a lot of ableism in fantasy, which as a disabled person saddens me. Sparrow has her own gifts and always plays an important role. She cleverly sneaks around and has a knack for knowing a lot more than she is supposed to!
Elliot was a significant character in terms of the plot for book one but we didn’t learn a lot about him as an individual. I loved reading from Elliot’s point of view in this book and getting to know him better. He has such a different perspective from the other phoenix riders and it was really interesting watching him continue to make difficult decisions and develop as a character.
Veronyka learns a lot about herself in Heart of Flames and goes on a huge personal journey. After her experiences in Crown of Feathers, she has become a much stronger character. I love her resilience. She is superbly written, as is her sister Val.
Val is back with a vengeance. She is such a cool character. I loved learning more about her past and how that influences her now. Val can be cold and manipulative but there are always shades of grey and glimpses of the person she could be if she made different choices. The relationship between Val and her sister is ever-changing and makes it hard to predict what will happen in the story. I love how the book ends with Val and cannot wait to see her development in book three.
Sev! I will ship Sev and Kade all day long, not just because of the LGBT+ representation but they are both awesome characters. I love Sev’s chapters and how he develops as a character.
Tristan I find a lot more interesting than in book one. He has a bit more grit and confidence. Obviously I wanted to find out how is relationship developed with Veronkya and I was not disappointed. You’ll have to read it yourself to find out what happens.
Nicki Pau Preto is a master of writing from multiple points of view. In her first book she wove together each individual narrative beautifully but Heart of Flames is on a whole new level. Nicki worked really hard on balancing perspectives in this book and it really does show. I love each individual narrative as all of the voices are equally as strong and well written. It is rare for me to not want to skip forward when there are multiple points of view but the thought didn’t cross my mind whilst reading Heart of Flames. I was equally invested in what happened next to each of the characters. There are new perspectives in this novel and I particularly enjoyed Elliot being added to the pool of voices.
Another interesting structural aspect to the novel is the use of various documents or letters between chapters. The letters are written by characters who were involved in the Blood War, offering differing perspectives. The other quotes from books or poems also help to highlight the history of the world and it’s people.
There are many continuing themes in this series but bonds are the most profound. We explore different types of bonds; magical, natural, animal, between people and between people and animals (magical and otherwise).
Loss and grief are also themes explored throughout the novel. The Blood War meant that many people lost their friends, bondmates and family. The echoes of the war are still impacting characters in the story and the potential for another war weighs heavily on them. In many ways Veronyka has lost her sister and there is a grief for what could have been; a life never lived.
Heart of Flames is the sort of book that other YA fantasy books want to be. It has everything a fantasy lover could want in a book – a well thought out magic system, great pace, an interesting story, fantastically developed characters, masterful writing, disability and LGBT+ representation…. I loved every second of this book. It is lengthy but doesn’t feel it because it captures the reader so well. If you are a YA fantasy reader who enjoys high fantasy then I definitely recommend that you pick up this series. For those who have already read Crown of Feathers, savour every moment of Heart of Flames. It is brilliant.