Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard
Read before: No
Ownership: Preordered because how could I resist?
Spoiler free review: Probably, will try not to spoiler.
Content warnings: abuse, attempted rape (not graphic, implicit, trauma is dealt with but it’s still there), violence, colonialism
I really like Aliette’s writing, her way with words is like no other, as you can see from my review of In the Vanishers’ Palace and the F/F February exclusive interview for Beyond a Bookshelf. And then you comp this book with The Goblin Emperor and Howl’s Moving Castle.
I’ll start this review with my biggest complaint. It is not long enough. I mean by novella standards it is perfect, but I do wish this was a bigger book. That is in itself I guess also a compliment? Because I’d read a much longer book with Thanh and mischievous fires.
Now, this is a book about a negotiation, of Thanh trying to be a diplomat and help save their country as it is being colonised, seen as an exotic cute small country being fought over by other countries. It reminds me of various countries that had different colonisers and how that went on in actual history, so it was interesting to see the little signs, which I suspect some might miss if you’re not from a background that pays attention to those signs. And then there’s the whole relationship with Eldris, who is very interested in Thanh, but the question is why? It is a fun romance but is it worth becoming more?
In such a small book it packs a massive punch and I highly recommend reading it, since you can not only see Thanh trying to navigate the diplomacy task and knowing that in a way they are doomed and have to find a way out and choose the lesser evil. It is a tricky situation. Plus the slight magic touches and fire that seems to stick to Thanh no matter what is causing her to question her sanity, which is absolutely a delight and also a curious little thing opening up new choices to Thanh.
We also see Thanh navigate her relationship with her mother and in a way, how she sees herself and her abilities to navigate the world and find her own place in it. I am trying to avoid spoilers, so will stop here, but I do recommend you read it.
One last thing I do have to note is that for survivors and those of us who have lived through some of the things Thanh does, the red flags are extremely obvious, but for others they may not be, and my point to that is that yes, it is easy to overlook them if you don’t know. Do not judge without knowing.
Finally, as I said, as a survivor, the power in the words behind this book was inmense, and I felt extremely emotional as I read and as I saw the story develop, my heart soared, and hoped and hurt and it was intense, but so worth it. Hope you find it as good as I did or even better.