Been hearing about this book for a while and it’d been on my TBR for months at least, so I jumped on the opportunity to read it when I saw it on the library app. The audiobook was good from a narrator perspective but I’m not sure how I feel about the story really.
In a world where the flightless are ruled by those who can fly…
When her father dies just before her birthday, seventeen-year-old Aderyn inherits the role of Protector of Atratys, a dominion in a kingdom where nobles are able to transform at will into the bird that represents their family bloodline. Aderyn’s ancestral bird is a swan. But she has not transformed for years, not since witnessing the death of her mother – ripped apart by hawks that have supposedly been extinct since the long-ago War of the Raptors.
With the benevolent shelter of her mother and her father now lost, Aderyn is at the mercy of her brutal uncle, the King, and his royal court. Driven by revenge and love, she must venture into the malevolent heart of the Citadel in order to seek the truth about the attack that so nearly destroyed her, to fight for the only home she has ever known and for the land she has vowed to protect.
As always I’m suffering from the fantasy audiobook symptom of not knowing how to write the names… bear with me!
I had quite a bit of trouble getting into it, it felt a bit cliché run-of-the-mill YA, even though the idea that the characters can transform into various animals really got me. What bothered me in the beginning was the idea that in this world, the nobility is justified by physical power (only the flying can be nobles) and that wasn’t really questioned. But it gets better? As in the injustices are wrapped into the story and supposedly the main characters are working on making things better, or at least not worse.
The plot itself is fairly standard, though I did like the concept of people being able to transform and fly, and I was a bit confused why that linked to them hurting other creatures with a touch. Feels like a curse of sorts… I really enjoyed the politics side of it, but I did not really enjoy the romance plot. I mean, the love interests treats Aderyn like shit and we’re supposed to be happy with his excuse. Girl can do better!
I did really enjoy Aron’s character, the perspective he brought as a disabled character in a highly ableist society (can’t fly? you’re nothing! even if you’re literally the prince) and I think there was potential there for Aderyn and him to truly relate to each other, but it wasn’t exploited since she did not trust him til the last hour or so… I appreciated the way the story wrapped up though. It’s also very soft queer, as in it’s mentioned in passing that Aron is bi but it has no bearing on the plot, there’s a few mentions that queer people are a Thing but anyway those in powers need heirs, etc. so your feelings are irrelevant. Wish it’d been a bit queerer.
Loved to hate the villain of the story as well, it was a nice touch the way he started as an ally. And the way the novel did not take a black and white approach to good – the heroine’s father was plotting against the king, but the king may or may not have killed her mother… and he (the king) is a despicable monster too. It would have been really easy for the authors (and Aderyn) to take a side there, and they did not. As for Siegfried, as I said I loved to hate him, and I appreciated his sneakiness and how his abusive nature is portrayed, but I was also pretty confused by the Game of Thrones-esque idea that he was sexually involved with his sister. You really didn’t need that to convey that he’s a monster and an asshole, it felt added for shock value only.
So overall I’d say I enjoyed the story, perhaps more than I originally thought, but I’m also not wholly convinced, especially because it dropped the ball on the idea of social justice and possible people’s uprising that was teased at the beginning, in favour of machinations between the powerful (as much as I enjoyed those).