Published by Crown Books (1.21.2020)
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: eARC, 368 pages
Every year since the Ashlords were gifted phoenix horses by their gods, they've raced them. First into battle, then on great hunts, and finally for the pure sport of seeing who rode the fastest. Centuries of blood and fire carved their competition into a more modern spectacle: The Races.
Over the course of a multi-day event, elite riders from clashing cultures vie to be crowned champion. But the modern version of the sport requires more than good riding. Competitors must be skilled at creating and controlling phoenix horses made of ash and alchemy, which are summoned back to life each sunrise with uniquely crafted powers to cover impossible distances and challenges before bursting into flames at sunset. But good alchemy only matters if a rider knows how to defend their phoenix horse at night. Murder is outlawed, but breaking bones and poisoning ashes? That's all legal and encouraged.
In this year's Races, eleven riders will compete, but three of them have more to lose than the rest--a champion's daughter, a scholarship entrant, and a revolutionary's son. Who will attain their own dream of glory? Or will they all flame out in defeat?
This one is rather hard for me to review, because I had some pretty mixed feelings about it. First, I just want to say that the concept is EPIC!!! Alchemy! Phoenix horses!!! I loved the riders’ use of specific alchemical components to basically upgrade their horses. The concept was the shining gem of this book, and ultimately the main thing that kept me interested. I adored the horses and everything about them. The race was cool, too – it had a very Hunger Games-esque feel to it, but more magical. I will say that the end of the day death was pretty rough: every night, the phoenix horses died to be reborn again the next day. It was hard to watch them die, but View Spoiler » the worst was when Bravos stabbed his horse to death. It also sucked when other riders poisoned their competitor’s horses :( « Hide Spoiler I disliked how some of them treated the horses as nothing more than a tool to win.
The phoenix horses were definitely my favorite part, and I really wish there’d been more! I was disappointed at how short the actual race was. It didn’t start until halfway through, and only made up about 40% of the entire book. I craved more! If the focus of the whole book had been on the horses, it could have easily been 4-5 stars for me. I wasn’t super jazzed about the rest of the story, and I was pretty bored in the beginning, to be honest. The snippets of phoenix horses and alchemy were the only thing keeping me going because I didn’t really care about any of the characters. Which makes me so sad! I really enjoyed Nyxia, and Scott is awesome. This book was one of my most anticipated releases, and I feel like something is wrong with me because I didn’t enjoy it more :(
I found Adrian to be meh. He didn’t seem to have much personality or dimension, and I struggled to find anything worth cheering for in his character. I liked Imelda at first, but her character arc totally lost me mid-race. In the beginning I was on her side because she was stepped on and looked down on, but later, View Spoiler »after she broke out of the race, « Hide Spoiler her story line kind of lost my interest. I don’t know why, I usually love rebellion stories. Perhaps because I was so interested and invested in the race aspect? I just didn’t really care about the war and rebellion, and found myself growing quite bored with it.
I will say, however, that Pippa grew on me! She struck me as a spoiled, frivolous, rich brat at first, but toward the end I found myself actually cheering for her. I really wanted her to win! Plus I loved that her point of view was written in second person, present tense, very unique!
Overall, this book was fun while I was reading, but won’t leave any kind of lasting impression on me outside of the phoenix horses. I’ve already forgotten almost everything but them – I had to refer back to the book for my review, sadly. I didn’t enjoy it as much as Nyxia, but still worth the read for the magical quality of the alchemy and phoenix horses! I have no doubt most everyone will love this book!
Writing style: 4/5
Overall rating: 3.5/5