A review by stormywolf
Wings of Shadow, by Nicki Pau Preto

adventurous emotional inspiring medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


 I can't begin to tell you how pumped I was for this book. I didn't even want to read the book's summary, I was so ready to just dive in. With the last couple series enders I've read being a bit disappointing, I probably should have had a bit more apprehension going in, but with my re-read out of the way (and two amazing audios enhancing my experience) I was eager to see what the shadows had in store for me...

I don't know if I can say how much I loved this book. The characters, the action, the relationships, the tension, the pacing, the themes, and the ending all resonated with me—I don't think my eyes were dry from the halfway point on. Not from sadness, mind you, but just the emotions of everything.

First, the characters. Having them carried over through three books now, there's probably not much I need to expand upon to familiar readers, but this is really where the characters' major qualities come to shine. Veronyka is kind, almost to a fault, wanting nothing more than peace and prosperity for everyone, but she's also not so naive to think that peace can be reached without conflict. Still, if there's a way to mitigate casualties, she will do everything in her power to find and fight for it.

But while Veronyka is definitely the main protagonist of the books, she's not the only one whose story is being told. Tristan is the epitome of a supportive partner, and I loved every moment he was in the narrative. He did seem to be in awe a little more than might be deemed normal/healthy, but I'll allow that his partner is far from average. Still, when he wasn't wound up in Veronyka's narrative, he did have some development with his father and as a leader. But honestly, most of his story was tied directly to Veronyka, which I was okay with. I mean, it seems kinda silly to set him up as a great career war commander when this is the last book in the trilogy, right?

Sev's story, meanwhile, was a good balance of romance (which was A++), self-introspection, and essential plot progression. Sev's always been a bit of an over-thinker, good at being in his head while not showing anything to others, so having him regress back to some of his old ways after being separated/isolated at the end of the last book is pretty understandable. Didn't make me not annoyed with him for a while, but thankfully words are actually said and the stupidity passes relatively quickly, leaving him to continue doing what he does best: think of outrageously cunning plans no one else would consider, and be an adorable, selfless boyfriend.

Elliot's narration gets a reprise in this book, but is soon joined by newcomer Sparrow in some equally adorable and plot-essential storybits. I absolutely loved Sparrow in previous books, and finally getting her voice was a welcome surprise, especially when it came to her conversations and wit. And Elliot, trying his best not to offend or slight anyone rendering him effectively paralyzed to act, and then berating himself for his inaction was all too relatable. Getting to see these two's interactions was always a favorite, and now even better with both their perspectives.

And then there's Val. No doubt you've read stories with villain narrators, chapters thrown in here and there to showcase their depravity or foreshadow the protagonist's future plight. Avalkyra's chapters not only show the actions of the enemy, but also develop her in her own right. We saw it a bit in the last book, how she was eager to have Veronyka's loyalty, her companionship, but only on Val's terms. Now that their relationship is truly broken we see the desperation take hold, giving us a greater understanding and empathy towards later events in the story. I don't know that I really appreciated her as much until the end of the story, but I'm thankful she was there.

I think that's the main message of this trilogy: empathy and love, especially towards one's enemy, can accomplish impossible things. We unfortunately don't see it as much with the common folk (animage vs non-mage) as we do with the sisters, but there are bits here and there. Cooperation, setting aside differences and misgivings to accomplish a common goal, seeing the humanity and life in others being equally deserving of respect and appreciation as one's own, allowing for forgiveness and acceptance in order to move forward... All these may seem hopelessly idyllic, naive, or childish when juxtaposed with the reality of war and politics and injustice, but I loved them. After all, what's fantasy for if not a place to dream a little?

Touching on the romance a bit more, since I know you're all eager to know how deep this series gets, it's actually pretty chaste. None of the romantic encounters continue past kissing and relatively light cuddling. Disappointing for some, perhaps, but definitely more welcoming for younger readers and those who aren't comfortable with more explicit scenes. And yes, there is more LGBTQIA+ representation present here, with some new characters being introduced or further fleshed-out, as well as our returning gay and bi/pan leads.

On the negative side, I did have some minor confusion with regard to some of the letters we read at the ends of chapters. There are a few letters sent between M and S, but it took quite a while for me to figure out who the correspondents were. Well, actually the M became apparent fairly quickly, but the S took me until the very end of the book.
SpoilerTook me a while to remember Ilithya had the last name Shadowheart since last names are very rarely mentioned.
Sure, I finally connected the dots on my own, but it may have been nice to have more concrete confirmation in the text.

Then there were just two things that I found problems with, and those are probably more down to over-analyzing than actual faults... First was the logistics of phoenixes' reincarnation ability. I feel like we got bits and pieces throughout the series, as they became relevant, but I definitely could have used a refresher or reference guide before the climactic battle. It mainly comes down to some of the deaths suffered, and why/how some phoenixes came back but others didn't. Did they choose not to? Or were they not able to because of other factors? And what were those factors? I guess I wanted more science, which sounds silly when it comes to a fantasy series, but there you go.

My other concern was with what I perceived to be an allegory in the finale. Obviously it's a spoiler, so...
SpoilerWith Veronyka's sacrifice of her magic, I felt like it was a confusing, and somewhat damning message. On the one hand you have someone coming away from war injured, traumatized, missing something they'll never get back—which is very relatable to those who have fought or otherwise been irreversibly injured—stating that theirs is a fate worse than death—which is a BIG yikes for that allegory. On the other hand you have that injury being a magical thing, a way of connecting to others, irreversibly damaged—which yeah, I can see infinite isolation being a 'fate worse than death'—yet that magic isn't held at all by a majority of humans—which kinda implies that non-animages are inherently lesser? Another big yikes.

I get that Veronyka needed to have some sacrifice, some way of illustrating that she had given everything in her desire to help Val. But the message I got from it was either the message that injured war vets don't have anything to live for, or that anyone in-universe without animal-magic is basically sub-human. If you were gonna go for magic, have it be an all-out inability to connect, to feel anything. I think this was what the book was going for, it just didn't focus on the details enough and kept just calling it loss of 'magic'.
I still think the ending was fantastic, everything I ever wanted from the series, I just would have tweaked the wording/focus of that one part a bit.

Overall, this is my new highest-recommended fantasy series. I just can't stop pushing it at people on Likewise or Facebook, and I'm definitely adding them to my gifting list for birthdays & holidays (as soon as the paperbacks come out). The diverse and intricate characters, the uplifting and relatable themes, and the fantastical and well-developed setting all combined into an endlessly engaging and emotional series which I will love to visit again and again. If any short stories or continuations ever come about in this world, which I wouldn't consider completely outside the range of possibility, I will pounce on them in a heartbeat. As it stands, I'm eagerly awaiting any future projects (2023?!) and updates from the author, and will be singing this series praises for quite some time.

[For those interested, this series is also being made into a webcomic on WebToon. It's not yet through the first book, but it does look to be a fantastic adaptation so far. So be sure to check it out here: Crown of Feathers

Expand filter menu Content Warnings