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?
Trigger Warnings: abusive relationship, discussions of grooming, gaslighting
Tordotcom sent me an ARC via Netgalley. This does not change my opinion.
If ever I find myself in a slump after a gorgeous and sweeping epic, I can always count on Tordotcom to give me a short yet mind blowing novella. Fireheart Tiger is no different but still does something that I don’t think you could ever imagine a few years ago. It strikes the match on something that readers like me have been waiting to read more of.
If you’re looking for Howl’s Moving Castle and The Goblin Emperor but sapphic or you want a pre-colonial Vietnam all about a gay princess asserting her self worth than Fireheart Tiger hits just the right spot.
Thanh, a princess of Bình Hải, is cornered by others fixing their fantastical colonial imaginations upon her home. A struggle for domination and control forces its princess to negotiate. Eldris, a former lover and sword princess, comes into her life again. She is the outsider, from those that believe Thanh’s people to be less civilized and worthy of commanding their own self determination. Within the palace is another mystery. A fire elemental. Princess Thanh hopes to save her people from colonization.
Beneath that theme of self determination is a personal one for Thanh. The layers in the story start to unravel and someone starts to show their true self. Beyond the glamour, the regality, the sophistication lies the gaslighting, the control, and the abuse. The political realities of colonizers and Thanh’s relationships connect. Abuse is bound to the story that Aliette De Bodard has written.
I am often met with authors putting their two cents in when it comes to abusive relationships and time and time again I am met with the outsiders perspective, which inevitably always ends up insulting. One of the things that I love about this novella is the abuse, something that may surprise most readers. The abuse in this story is an important one and not a conversation I want to see forgotten in reviews for this book.
I love what Aliette De Bodard is doing. Not only is she writing a beautifully told story about a Vietnamese inspired world with a queer princess but she is also dealing with abuse outside the confines of hetersexuality and whiteness. I really am swooning over the way Aliette De Bodard writes about love. The love a person deserves after abuse is the most wonderful thing I could read, especially as someone that has experienced abuse. People experience different types of abuse but one of the common things we experience is fighting for your right to have the relationships you want in your life. Using fantasy to talk about healthy love is refreshing.
I fell hard for Thanh. She’s politically minded, commanding, and she knows what she wants not only for her people but for herself. I do not want to say much more. I want people to discover this one for themselves.
Fireheart Tiger sizzles with magic, subverting tropes of the genre while planting new roots and new walls for perspectives in a clamor for more fantasy like this. Dark and glimmering like a deep and bright fire in the woods, Aliette De Bodard’s writing is all consuming and it’s so very nice by the fire.