Book Reviews

Review: Heart of Flames by Nicki Pau Preto

Heart of Flames defies words. It is a stunning sequel about the raging fire of obsession, the simmering flames of duty, and full of precious characters. If you liked Crown of Feathers, you have to read Heart of Flames.


You are a daughter of queens.

The world is balanced on the edge of a knife, and war is almost certain between the empire and the Phoenix Riders.

Like Nefyra before you, your life will be a trial by fire.

Veronyka finally got her wish to join the Riders, but while she’s supposed to be in training, all she really wants to do is fly out to defend the villages of Pyra from the advancing empire. Tristan has been promoted to Master Rider, but he has very different ideas about the best way to protect their people than his father, the commander. Sev has been sent to spy on the empire, but maintaining his cover may force him to fight on the wrong side of the war. And Veronyka’s sister, Val, is determined to regain the empire she lost—even if it means inciting the war herself.

Such is your inheritance. A name. A legacy. An empire in ruin.

As tensions reach a boiling point, the characters all find themselves drawn together into a fight that will shape the course of the empire—and determine the future of the Phoenix Riders. Each must decide how far they’re willing to go—and what they’re willing to lose in the process.

I pray you are able to pass through the flames.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

Heart of Flames is a gripping sequel that will only stoke the fire of your love for Sev, Elliot, Tristan, Val, and Veronyka. Pau Preto is a master of multiple perspectives, ending each chapter on a hook, enticing us to keep reading until suddenly the book is finished. Overall, Heart of Flames is about love that borders on obsession, our desires to fix our past mistakes, and our need for transformation. Like phoenixes, in many ways Heart of Flames feels like all of our characters stand at a crossroads. Do we step into the flames of transformation or let our own fears consume us?

These characters in Heart of Flames have my entire heart. It’s one of those series where I love them all, even my favorite chaotic problem children. Full of character growth, Heart of Flames allows them to develop. Now that we may have our feet on the right path, it’s the challenge of staying on it. To make the commitment every day to either go back to what’s easy, who we used to be, or to blaze forward. We are all driven by our desires for connection, for family, or for revenge. The question is if we will let our own desire, our own ambition, swallow us whole.

Themes of Connection

Once again Heart of Flames is full of world building. Introducing new myths and creatures, the world of phoenixes will entrance you. An important theme of Heart of Flames is the question of whether or not the bonds we have with people weaken or strengthen us. Those we love can be used against us, kidnapped or taken as tokens assuring our cooperation, but they can also inspire us, make us brave, strengthen our own skills. Letting people in is not a weakness and love freely given is worth more than it is taken.

In our quest for our ambition, we can be tempted with manipulation. The easy way to assure loyalty. But throughout Heart of Flames our characters have to figure out if these chains are worth it. There is value to be found in something freely given. Ambition is another theme running through Heart of Flames. In both small and large ways, we are asked whether we can put aside our own individual desires for the good of the team or the country. We are faced with ambition that always hungers for more. That is never sated and always left wanting.


Through our own ambitions, Heart of Flames asks us what makes a good leader. In a few ways, Heart of Flames reminded me of Thor Ragnorak. The ways the familial struggles are played out over an entire kingdom, leaving ruin in its wake. Is it really ruler ship if all you win is a kingdom of ashes and ruins? Our quest for power can consume us, but how do we stop ourselves? Or how will we be stopped?

Heart of Flames is a book about transformation. Who will we become when we have to, in the fire and in spite of the flames? I have become so invested in these characters, their dreams and fears, their loves and hopes. In Heart of Flames, Pau Preto builds on their foundations and allows them to spread their wings. Whether it be the queer romance (m/m), the presence of phoenixes, or the themes of obsession, Heart of Flames has my whole heart.

Find Heart of Flames on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound & The Book Depository.


What is your favorite fantasy series with animals? I also adore the Black Wings Beating series!

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