Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard is an Asian-inspired fantasy novella that comes out on February 9th! More specifically, it is a Vietnamese-inspired fantasy which examines colonial interests on the country. A huge thank you to Tor.com Pub and Netgalley for the e-ARC!
Fireheart Tiger follows princess Thanh. As a child her mother sent her to the Ephterian court as a veritable hostage. She believes her mother considers her less valuable than her sisters.
She has been back in her home country for years, but her knew role in a negotiation brings her face to face with Ephteria again. The country comes in the form of Eldris, an Ephterian princess with whom Thanh had an affair. But Eldris isn’t the only piece of Thanh’s past that has materialized.
Overall, I enjoyed Fireheart Tiger. As a novella it is a quick read, but you don’t get an in-depth view of the characters for the same reason. The worldbuilding is also somewhat slim. At times, I felt like I was grasping at straws, trying to piece together things we weren’t told. But, I felt like I got a better feel for the characters and relationships than in Silver in the Wood.
Thanh is a character that some people will enjoy, and others won’t. I fell into the earlier camp, thank goodness! I thought she was an interesting look into her world. Her charged relationship with her mother brought a unique voice to the story, and one I could appreciate.
I did have a couple problems with the book. Not that they were problematic elements. Just things that bothered me. Eldris, as a character, is a representation of a colonial force. But, we don’t see her controlling or abusive behaviour until another character points it out and suddenly her actions are in stark contrast to what they were before. I would have liked to see more hints of her behaviour throughout the text, not only at the pivotal moment.
My second issue is a spoiler, I’ll hid the text in case you don’t want to see it!
Unfortunately, I just didn’t see any chemistry between Thanh and the fire spirit, Giang. I think part of the issue for me was that they called each other little sis and big sis…but then also had a romance? It also felt like the romantic implications came out of nowhere. It was zero to 100 real quick.
I would still recommend Fireheart Tiger for a quick, sapphic, Vietnamese-inspired read! This isn’t a fantasy setting that we see a lot of, most Asian-inspired fantasy focuses mainly on Japan, China, Mongolia, and a occasionally a little Korea thrown in, so it was great to see some South-East Asian representation in this genre.
It really all comes down to what you are looking for in a novella. I thought Fireheart Tiger was fun and interesting, despite some issues I had with it.