[For an audio version of this article, please listen to Episode 61 of Recently Read on The Incomparable podcast network.]
It’s early morning, the end of the Bi-Hour of the Cat–and Thanh has been awake for most of it, staring at the wall and trying to cobble together thoughts in the emptiness of her mind.
If she closes her eyes, she’ll see Yosolis again, smell the snow and ashes on the night the palace burned–when everyone was too busy evacuating the real princesses to give much thought to the dark-skinned one in the attic room, the “guest” from the South who had been little more than a glorified hostage.
That’s the beginning of Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard. I’m Erika Ensign, and this is Recently Read.
Everything Aliette writes is beautiful, and this novella is no exception. Princess Thanh has been back at home in her home country of Bìhn Hi for two years after 10 as a political hostage in the court of the distant, more powerful nation of Ephteria. Her strict, harsh mother, the Empress, has agreed to allow Than to take point on negotiations with the nation where she spent so many years — and almost died in a huge fire that destroyed the Ephterian castle.
The last thing Than expected was for her erstwhile lover, Princess Eldris, to be part of the Ephterian delegation. And Eldris makes no bones about being there for her. If her complicated romantic feelings aren’t complicated enough, then why not throw in a fire elemental that’s been occasionally burning small items around the palace. Oh, and mix in some light blackmail for extra seasoning.
If any of those elements sounds like your thing, I definitely recommend checking out Fireheart Tiger. It was a very quick read, and honestly, if I have one complaint about it, it’s that it’s too short. I wanted more interactions between these characters. Especially between Than and Giang. If they have more adventures together, I’ll be hitting that pre-order button with alacrity!
I’m Erika Ensign, and this has been Recently Read.