REVIEW: Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard
Award-winning author Aliette de Bodard returns with a powerful romantic fantasy that reads like The Goblin Emperor meets Howl’s Moving Castle in a pre-colonial Vietnamese-esque world
Fire burns bright and has a long memory….
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?
Dear Ms. de Bodard,
Wow, what a cover. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it. Of course even without the cover or the enticing blurb, I still would have wanted to read this. It took me a few pages to find my feet but before I knew it, I was caught up in Princess Thanh’s struggle to find self worth and “to be seen.”
Sent away to a foreign court by her mother at the age of twelve as a pawn, Thanh spent years being ignored. Even when the palace of Ephteria burned to the ground, no one but a servant girl bothered to try and get her, a princess of Binh Hai, out of the flame filled building. She was then simply forgotten. That is until the Crown Princess suddenly appeared at her door and they started a torid six month affair that Thanh finally broke off as she’d listened when people spoke of how Eldris used people and then discarded them when she got bored.
Now Thanh is supposed to prove her worth to her mother the Empress and to her country. All those years in a foreign land were to give Thanh a chance to know the enemy, learn how they think, act, and what they will do. But the Ephterians have arrived knowing what they want and are in a position to demand it. Thanh knows she has little to bargain with and an already poor position in the negotiations. Then her past lover appears and it seems that finally Thanh is seen. Is valued. Is loved.
Binh Hai appears to be an alternate universe Vietnam ruled by Empresses and surrounded by other smaller independent kingdoms currently being imposed on by a stronger northern country. Thanh fears that she will continue to be a disappointment to her mother. She’s always been the pawn, the one who doesn’t shine beside her important sisters. No one actually sees her or values her.
As Thanh begins to unravel the mystery of her past and how it connects to her present, she is faced with choices: how to try and negotiate from a position of weakness, how to impress her mother, and whether to trust someone who says they love her. For a person who has always longed to be noticed and prized, Thanh’s actions and thoughts make total sense. This is her chance, her moment, and she can gain not only a wife but also secure some independence for her country. What she does will matter. People find themselves willing to set aside doubts and misgivings in such situations. When she realizes what she’s up against, I was glued to my ereader with my heart pounding.
Thanh doesn’t always initially make the right choice. She makes some mistakes. She’s human. In the end, things aren’t perfect but Binh Hai now has a chance to maintain its sovereignty and Thanh gathers herself together and takes a big risk. She finds self worth and possibly love and I was thrilled to watch her do it. B+