Monday, June 20, 2022

Fireheart Tiger, by Aliette de Bodard, ISBN 9781250793270 February 2021

Thanh is a princess sent off at twelve as a hostage to another, allied nation Ephteria. Her experiences over the next ten years include falling in love with Princess Eldris, who will someday be Queen of Ephteria, and surviving a fire that destroys a palace there, and kills a lot of people. 

In the course of escaping that fire, she meets Giang, a servant girl from her own country of Binh Hai, who helped her get out of the burning palace, and whom she could never locate afterward.

Now she's back in Binh Hai, the least favored daughter of the Empress, and nominally responsible for managing negotiations with Ephteria. Ephteria has been growing stronger, a threat at least as much as an ally and trading partner, and negotiations will be tricky. Along with the more usual members of the delegation, Princess Eldris has come, and she has her own plans.

Meanwhile, Thanh has been haunted by hints of fire ever since her return, and worries that she's mad. Instead, she discovers, about the time the delegation arrives, that Giang is, in fact a fire elemental--who had been trapped in a cabinet in Ephteria for many years, until someone opened the cabinet to show off the jewel she had been embodied in. Giang also wants something from Thanh.

It's a beautifully told story of romance, love, intrigue, and danger, and Thanh has to work out both who she can trust, and where her duty lies. She's always been quiet, accommodating, dutiful, and unappreciated. Now she has to make some major decisions, some of which her mother the Empress will strongly object to.

It's a very absorbing story. Recommended.

I received this novella as part of the 2022 Hugo Finalists Packet, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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