A review by domreadsall
Fireheart Tiger, by Aliette de Bodard

emotional reflective fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.5

Actual rating: 3.5/5

Fireheart Tiger is a short novella that focuses on Thanh, a quiet princess who acts as a diplomat when the nation of Ephteria comes to try and claim more of Thanh’s home country for their own. While I loved the premise and enjoyed some elements of the execution, Fireheart Tiger didn’t quite live up to my (admittedly high) expectations.

I found the prose gorgeous in Fireheart Tiger—there were so many turns of phrase I highlighted for their elegance and beauty. The overall atmosphere and the glimpses we get of the worldbuilding were some of my favourite parts, though I definitely wanted more worldbuilding. Thanh as a main character in particular shines in my opinion, and her personal arc through the novella was engaging and satisfying.

However, I think I went into the novella expecting a more lighthearted sapphic fantasy romance, but that wasn’t what I got. I think the path Fireheart Tiger takes has important messages and this didn’t knock down my rating; it handles more serious topics like colonization, abuse, trauma, and self-discovery quite well. What did knock down my rating was a lack of clear character motivation and rushed character development; there was a bit of whiplash in moving from one situation to the next without sufficient grounds to establish it. Were the novella a little longer to let the characters and world breathe more, I think it would have been a full 4 stars for me.

Overall, I still think this was a solid read that many will enjoy, particularly if you (like me) have been vibing with the non-Eurocentric queer fantasy we’ve been blessed with in the last couple years; I haven’t seen Vietnamese-inspired fantasy much at all and I’m glad it’s in the world!

Thank you to Tor Books and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

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