Award-winning author Aliette de Bodard returns with Fireheart Tiger, a powerful romantic fantasy that reads like The Goblin Emperor meets Howl's Moving Castle in a pre-colonial Vietnamese-esque world.
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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?
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De Bodard (Seven of Infinities) crafts a high-stakes lesbian love triangle in this tightly plotted fantasy novella. The land of Ephteria sends guns and silver to B nh H i in exchange for a series of increasingly bold demands: first exclusive merchant rights, then a princess to be kept as a guest-captive in Ephteria, and now extraterritoriality and a military presence in B nh H i's capital. Princess Thanh of B nh H i is not a warrior or a politician like her sisters, but she was the one chosen to live in Ephteria and has since become romantically involved with the Ephterian Princess Eldris. She also has literal firepower thanks to her relationship with Giang, a fire elemental whose home, a tiger-shaped pendant, was stolen by the Ephterians, and who burns down Ephteria's palace in an attempt to gain her freedom. Now Thanh and Giang are back in B nh H i navigating Thanh's family's court. But when a noble blackmails Thanh over her affair with Eldris, Thanh faces a bitter choice: give up everything she has for a life with Eldris in Ephteria, or remain with Giang in a home where she's treated as a pawn? The answer convincingly combines sex, politics, and betrayal. This is an ideal pick for fantasy fans longing for non-European settings.
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Deliciously compact worldbuilding
This sapphic, Vietnamese-inspired historic fantasy is warm and cozy, like sipping tea in front of a blazing fire, with a cat sitting on your lap, where the cat might turn into a tiger and the fire might burn your palace down. Aliette has the knack of compressing enormous amounts of world-building into a very few pages. You can easily read this story in a single bite, but it immediately plunges you into the deep back-story of a princess-hostage, the fraught politics of maintaining an unequal power balance, and the personal hazards of re-igniting an old love affair. (With the delicious queer context of a world in which a princess could take a princess as her consort.) But not everything is what it seems, and sometimes the seductive lure of someone who sees you and desires you—when no one else seems to value you—is the deepest peril of all.
OK, that sounds like I’m trying out to write book blurbs. But really, Fireheart Tiger is delicious and heart-warming and leaves you guessing until the end.