Fireheart Tiger, Aliette De Bodard – Book Review

Hello Humans! If you’ve been here since the very beginning (few of you I suspect but you never know) you may recall that Aliette De Bodard’s House of Shattered Wings was one of the early books I read and reviewed for this channel. Since then I’ve read a lot of what she has written and loved pretty much all of it – so I was very excited to have a chance to read an early digital copy of her latest Tor Novella Fireheart Tiger. Let me tell you all about it!

Goodreads Summary:

Quiet, thoughtful princess Thanh was sent away as a hostage to the powerful faraway country of Ephteria as a child. Now she’s returned to her mother’s imperial court, haunted not only by memories of her first romance, but by worrying magical echoes of a fire that devastated Ephteria’s royal palace.

Thanh’s new role as a diplomat places her once again in the path of her first love, the powerful and magnetic Eldris of Ephteria, who knows exactly what she wants: romance from Thanh and much more from Thanh’s home. Eldris won’t take no for an answer, on either front. But the fire that burned down one palace is tempting Thanh with the possibility of making her own dangerous decisions.

Can Thanh find the freedom to shape her country’s fate—and her own?

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This book was marketed as ‘Howls Moving Castle meets The Goblin Emperor‘ which are both books I have read (though I was less of a fan of The Goblin Emperor). For me personally I didn’t draw too much of a connection between those books and this – beyond the very obvious ideas of fire spirits and uncertain heirs – but maybe that was me being dense. That’s not to suggest I think this book isn’t worth reading – it is – but if you’re going in expecting to get those exact same feelings from this book I think you’ll end up feeling disappointed. Hopefully we’ve all learned to take comparisons with a pinch of salt at this stage but you never know.

I did think this was a good novella, as many will know my criteria for enjoyment of a novella is for it to be both succinct and also satisfying – essentially I want enough plot that it doesn’t feel like a thought experiment and an ending that leaves some things open but does actually finish the story. This book satisfied those criteria which is great – I would say it lingers more on the conceptual ‘leaving things hanging’ side of things than the ‘story focussed’ but that also might just be my interpretation of the book.

One thing I found very interesting was that after reading this I happened to be rereading The House of Sundering Flames (the third book in Aliette De Bodard’s Dominion of the Fallen series) and while I won’t spoil that there is an idea of living fire and vengeance in that too – I found that fascinating as a theme and it’ll now be something I look for in other books.

I actually read this book twice – and I wasn’t sure if I was going to talk about it here, but hey why not – because the first time I read it I was reading it with WAY too western an eye – there are elements of this book, in particular the terms of endearments that characters use for one another, that just do not work if you don’t know about their use in Vietnamese. So if you’re thinking about reading these I suggest checking out the author’s twitter for some more information about that – it makes the book FAR better (and you also learn something which is always a good thing).

Overall I thought this was a strong novella, I liked the themes and the ideas presented, the love story/triangles were sweet and I liked the development across the story for the main character. I think perhaps things felt just a little bit rushed but sometimes that does happen in novellas and I personally tend to flesh out some of the elements in my head (which I enjoy).

This story has a lot to say about colonialism, freedom, romance and standing up for yourself against those who think they know more than you. While I can’t say I think this book will be for absolutely everyone I think fans of the author’s previous works will have a good time.

My rating: 4/5 stars

I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley – all opinions are my own.

Fireheart Tiger publishes February 9th!

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What say you? Will you be reading this? Let me know in the comments below!

J

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