I received this e-arc from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
After finishing this book I had no words for it. I knew immediately after reading the synopsis and finding out that there were 1. Phoenix riders and 2. A girl having to disguise herself as a boy, that I would love it. And. That. Cover. It is absolutely beautiful! This book was so well written. For Nicki's debut, I was insanely impressed. I've already put this in my top 5 favorite books I read this year so far. I was so impressed with the world, and history behind this amazing world, and the characters. Nicki has a way of writing characters that you will fall in love with and won't be able to stop thinking about. She also is an amazing world builder! I loved this world she created.
So we have 3 POVs and letters to tell us about the past. There is Veronyka, Sev, and Tristan. Veronyka is an orphan along with her older sister Val. Veronyka and Val are very different in their thinking, and how they see the world. This ultimately makes Veronyka want to leave her sister to find the Phoenix riders on her own. Not only does she have to travel alone to find them, but once she does she can't be herself. She has to disguise herself as a boy.
Sev is hiding a secret and also pretending to be something he is not. When he gets himself mixed up with a few slaves who know the truth about him he finally starts seeing who is really should be.
Our last POV, Tristan, is in the Phoenix rider camp training to become a Phoenix rider. His father is the commander over the camp and tends to be a tad harder on his son than anyone else. I really enjoyed each POV. Sev was my least favorite in the beginning but after a wise almost halfway in, I really appreciated his parts.
I really loved how we also go to know more of the history with the letters between the sisters. And I really enjoyed learning all the history of this world. Nicki seriously did an amazing job. I loved how she wrote about the Phoenixes and the special bonds they have with their human. I thought that was pretty awesome. And I really loved that all of these characters were strong in their own ways. At first glance, you don't see it, but their development was on point.
I read about half of the book since I got the arc, but I ended up finishing the audiobook. I recommend buying the book of course, but the narrators did such a wonderful job bringing these characters to life. I'm really glad that I got a chance to listen to it. I am so excited to get my hands on the second book!!!
Veronyka - I loved Veronyka from the start. She was just so sweet and caring. Even though she has been through so much it didn't make her bitter. I did hate that she seemed so alone. Yes, she had her sister, that has always taken care of her, but Val was the super opposite of Veronyka in so many ways. I love how she knew what she wanted and she wasn't going to let anything get in her way. She was such a strong character.
Val - I disliked Val from the start, and even at the end. I definitely understood her more after finishing the book, but it didn't make me like her in any way. Val always seemed so mean and deceiving. I didn't like how she treated Veronyka at all. I am excited to learn more about her in the second book.
Sev - I'll be honest, I didn't really like Sev in the beginning. But he slowly grew on me. He developed as a character so much in this book.
Kade - I wasn't too sure about Kade in the beginning either. I didn't like how he treated Sev at first.
Trix - I loved Trix. I loved everything she had to say. I also had a feeling I knew who she truly was.
Tristan - I really enjoyed Tristan. He was such a great character. He could have been a brat because of who his father was, which honestly, sometimes he did act pretty jerkish. But there always seemed to be a good reason for it. He really is just a great guy.
I wrote so many notes down for this book and had so many feelings and emotions during this. I will try to keep it somewhat short though. Can't promise anything...
The idea of Phoenix riders sounded so amazing. I immediately liked Veronyka and disliked Val.
Animage. People who can bond with animals, but most importantly, that can bond with Phoenixes.
So Sev's parents were Phoenix riders that were killed in the war. He survived but had to live horribly. He works for the government that he hates but is able to say alive because of it. And no one has any clue that he is an animage. I felt bad for Sev after finding out about his parents.
The moment that bondservant was rude to Sev, I knew that he was going to be a fun side character in this book. I loved how he talked to Sev like they were on the same playing field.
Man, When Veronyka came back to the house to see the people in there robbing them, I am so glad she wasn't seen. I loved how Sev helped her out and how Veronyka returned the favor. Honestly I thought that Val might kill Sev.
I just couldn't understand why Val was so cruel to Veronyka.
So when we meet Trix, I was hoping she might be Val and Veronyka's grandmother. At that moment it didn't seem to be the case.
I was so mad at Val when she killed Xephyra. I don't understand why she would do that. Poor Veronyka. I cried right alongside her.
I love that Veronyka tried everything to bring her Phoenix back to her but I hated that it didn't work.
Veronyka deciding to leave was such a good idea. It was what she needed to do. But I did feel bad for Val. They are sisters, and they haven't been apart from each other.
I really liked Tristan's POV right away. He was a very likable character.
I was so glad when Sparrow found Veronyka. I really liked Sparrow too. She was such a great person with such a great attitude about everything. She was the perfect person to run into and so very helpful.
I was wondering during all this, how Val was doing alone.
Veronyka is going to dress like a boy! I was sad that she would have to leave Sparrow though.
I was so glad she made it and that it was Tristan that found her. Traveling alone must have been so hard.
Well, I was sad that they wouldn't let her be a rider, but I get why. It makes sense. I loved that she still asked to stay and help. I thought that was a great idea.
Veronyka is so strong. She was able to travel alone and find the riders, get the commander to keep her at camp, and get passed the "interrogation". I'm glad Val taught her to train her mind against things like that.
I loved how Veronyka and Tristan's friendship is starting. It seemed rocky at first, especially when she made him look bad during the course. All their time together practicing was perfect though. She finally got a chance to see the real Tristan. I thought it was so awesome that they were both helping each other out in so many ways. I was starting to get super anxious though. You could tell that Tristan was having some sort of feelings for "Nik" and you could definitely tell Veronyka started having feelings for him. I just scared how Tristan was going to react to all the news.
I had no idea that Trix knew exactly who Sev was. However, I knew Sev was going to still want to help them. You could slowly see how he was starting to care about the cause and see that he could be someone different. And at this point in the book, I have fully invested in all of the characters.
The scene where Tristan is showing his father what he has learned was awesome. Veronyka's idea was genius. And I loved how Tristan trusted her enough to with the plan. By this time I was getting even more anxious about how Tristan was going to take the news of "Nik"
I really enjoyed learning more about the sisters as well.
I couldn't believe Val came, but I should have known she would. She still didn't seem sorry at all. It was like she just came to ruin it for Veronyka.
Yup, Trix has to be Val and Veronyka's grandmother. She has to be! I am so sad she is dead though. I really liked her.
Man, when Xephyra came I seriously freaked out!
So I was really hoping that Veronyka was going to say something when she was talking to them. I understand why she didn't but it was super selfish of her.
The raids! I loved how the storylines were tied in.
Sev!!!! I was super excited when Sev got there. He warned them what was really happening and he brought eggs! That was crazy. I did not see that one coming and I was so nervous that he was going to recognize Veronyka and say something.
I really wanted to understand Val. And Shadowheart, everything was finally unfolding.
I was so mad at Val, but at the same time, I'm glad she did it. What a sucky way for Tristan to find out though. I knew Veronyka was eventually going to tell him but I was so glad that he wasn't that mad at her. I had a feeling he wouldn't be.
Tristan really taking charge was amazing.
Wow, they rode together!! That was an awesome scene. I was so scared that Rex was going to die. I would have been so crushed.
Wahoo! They won the riders back.
I was so sad to find out Chirp died. Poor Sparrow.
I was super glad that Veronyka talked to Val. I thought that was super important to do.
Ugh, I was so ready to find out who Veronyka really was!
I freaked out when it was revealed that Val is Avalkyra Ashfire!!! What the world! So insane.
So I was now wondering if Veronyka is Pheronia. I'm not sure if that is possible though. I was also somewhat sad that Val ended up being Ashfire. Honestly, I thought it was going to be Veronyka. I thought Ashfire was a really good person... and Val definitely doesn't seem like she is.
I loved that Sev wants to be a spy like Trix!
Tristan being so understanding made me so happy!
Yes!!! WhenVeronyka told the Commander the truth. She stood up for what is right even though he only wants to keep her if she keeps pretending. And I was so happy that Tristan stood up for her, and he had a plan. Moira coming and standing up for her as well was amazing. I loved when she said Veronyka looked like a queen of old! Seriously made me tear up.
Y'all!! That. Ending!!! So Veronyka is Pheronia's daughter!!!!! I cannot wait for this next book!!!! I need it in my hands ASAP! I'm so honored that I was approved for this ARC and I hope to get approved for the second book!!! Everyone needs to go out and read this book! Also, Those purple sprayed edges on some of the editions look amazing!!!