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Award-winning author Aliette de Bodard returns with a powerful romantic fantasy that reads like The Goblin Emperor meets Howl’s Moving Castle in a pre-colonial Vietnamese-esque world. 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 mothe Award-winning author Aliette de Bodard returns with a powerful romantic fantasy that reads like The Goblin Emperor meets Howl’s Moving Castle in a pre-colonial Vietnamese-esque world. 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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Award-winning author Aliette de Bodard returns with a powerful romantic fantasy that reads like The Goblin Emperor meets Howl’s Moving Castle in a pre-colonial Vietnamese-esque world. 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 mothe Award-winning author Aliette de Bodard returns with a powerful romantic fantasy that reads like The Goblin Emperor meets Howl’s Moving Castle in a pre-colonial Vietnamese-esque world. 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?

30 review for Fireheart Tiger

  1. 5 out of 5

    chai ♡

    ATTENTION, SAPPHICS! Fireheart Tiger is a sleek and sexy, fierce and fragile spill of a story that unfolds a roving feast of feelings, both beautiful and renewing. Aliette de Bodard deftly mingles subtly cutting court politics with tangled lesbian relationships, and renders both with breathless heat, intense intrigue and a deep, dreadful pang of yearning. “She’ll come back,” Giang says. “To conquer you. To reduce you to a different sort of ashes.” In the small space a novella allows, Aliette ATTENTION, SAPPHICS! Fireheart Tiger is a sleek and sexy, fierce and fragile spill of a story that unfolds a roving feast of feelings, both beautiful and renewing. Aliette de Bodard deftly mingles subtly cutting court politics with tangled lesbian relationships, and renders both with breathless heat, intense intrigue and a deep, dreadful pang of yearning. “She’ll come back,” Giang says. “To conquer you. To reduce you to a different sort of ashes.” In the small space a novella allows, Aliette de Bodard tells a sprawling story about potent, familiar forces that we know all too well in the real world, perfectly bound within the prism of a profoundly personal and intimate story. Memories of the time Princess Thanh of Bin Hai had spent as a royal hostage in Ephteria sat heavy and uncomfortable in her chest,a gnawing weight that threatened to eat at her unchecked for the rest of her life: the shock-bright clarity of unbelonging, like being thrown into ice water, and a palace set afire, the blaze carrying with it all the certainty of death. Thanh had since been sent home, the fire had died away, and the dust clouds had settled on the rubble, but in Thanh’s mind, she was always in exile, and it was always burning. Fireheart Tiger opens with a “friendly” visit from Princess Eldris—heiress to Ephteria, Bình Hải neighboring predator empire—and the visit not only brings with it the threat of Ephterian expansionist agenda, but also shocks Thanh into a terrible kind of longing, a pang of unfinished business. Thanh held her past affair with Eldris quiet and close, another secret to go along with her enormous other one: memories of another girl, garnished in fire and fight. Fireheart Tiger is a story about the all-conquering, all-devouring beast of empire, a blank-eyed and hungry thing, eager to catch its prey and rip it open, and about the fierce, indomitable women keeping it from setting its jaws upon their homes through diplomacy and negotiation and acid under the bitingly polite manners, holding it back by their fingernails through their sheer, magnificent will. And it’s a story about love and abuse: love that builds and baits for you a gold and velvet-soft trap, strips you down to a blind, and hopeless longing, and leaves you splayed out on the floor like the plucked petals of a ruined rose—all the tainted bits of broken comfort that we can’t grab hold of without getting cut first. And another kind of love: love that comes softly, like a dawning sun, and warms like fire in the teeth of winter—love fashioned not in blistering bitterness or a vicious desire to own, but in companionship, compassion, and understanding. But it is, above all, a story about learning to stand straight and steady and tall, like a branch that bends to the wind but never breaks, and feeling whole again, all your fragments coming back to you, meshing back together into someone who can orbit their own purpose and be answerable for themself. “A seed in a garden; and given enough time and healing, what flower might it blossom into?” All in all, Fireheart Tiger was such a delight to read. I wanted to be taken somewhere else by a story, and I was—I just didn’t expect to feel utterly and tenderly stripped to the bone by the gentle blade of the author’s voice. CW: Abuse and implicit rape attempt. If you liked this review please consider supporting me on Ko-fi ! ☆ ko-fi ★ blog ☆ twitter ★ tumblr ☆

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    3.5 stars. This fantasy novella is a lushly-told tale set in an ancient Vietnamese type of kingdom that's under the colonizing eye of a northern kingdom. Final review, first posted on FantasyLiterature.com: Princess Thanh was a royal hostage for many years in the northern country of Ephteria before being sent back to her home country of Bình Hải. Two years after her return, she’s a disappointment to her mother, the empress, who hoped that Thanh’s time in Ephteria would give her insights into that 3.5 stars. This fantasy novella is a lushly-told tale set in an ancient Vietnamese type of kingdom that's under the colonizing eye of a northern kingdom. Final review, first posted on FantasyLiterature.com: Princess Thanh was a royal hostage for many years in the northern country of Ephteria before being sent back to her home country of Bình Hải. Two years after her return, she’s a disappointment to her mother, the empress, who hoped that Thanh’s time in Ephteria would give her insights into that country’s government and culture, making her more useful as a diplomat. It’s especially important now that an Ephterian delegation is arriving, certain to make demands and threats that will encroach on Bình Hải’s independence. But Thanh is a quiet, somewhat uncertain person — too thoughtful and discreet, according to her mother — rather than a power player. Thanh is also hiding a secret: since a disastrous fire in the Ephterian palace, small items in her vicinity have a mysterious habit of catching on fire. And the only real relationship she had in Ephteria was a clandestine love affair with Princess Eldris, the heir to the throne. So Thanh is startled, and not entirely sure whether to be pleased, when Eldris shows up in the throne room as part of the Ephterian delegation. Eldris is confident and proud, the kind of princess who rescues herself rather than needing to be rescued. Her blue eyes still make Thanh’s heart skip a beat, and when Eldris follows Thanh out of the throne room, it’s clear that she still wants a relationship with Thanh. But political pressures, along with a blackmailing third party, threaten this sapphic connection between the princesses as well as Thanh’s position in her mother’s court. When the magical cause of the fires reveals itself to Thanh, it complicates her life even more, but offers Thanh some new choices and options when walls close in around her. In Fireheart Tiger, Aliette de Bodard spins a lushly-told tale set in an ancient Vietnamese type of kingdom, where a more powerful northern country of white people send their youth on Grand Tours to southern countries and have aims of colonizing those countries, extending their influence and power to other parts of the world. The power of Ephteria is echoed in the character of Princess Eldris, who sees what she wants and pushes to obtain it. Eldris makes a tempting offer to Thanh, but Thanh has some hesitations. While Thanh “knows” her mother won’t approve, the problems with their romance aren’t due to prejudice —homophobia seems to be completely absent from this world, unlike colonialism. So it’s never entirely clear why the Bình Hải empress wouldn’t jump at the chance to have one of her younger daughters married to the future ruler of Ephteria. Eldris is a potent symbol of a colonizing power, but it struck me that she could have just as easily have been a male character by simply swapping out the pronouns, and the paternalistic aspects of the story and her character would have even made more sense if that had been been the case. I almost wonder if she was a man in an early draft of this novella, because there’s so very little about Eldris’s character that seems innately female. It left me a little dissatisfied with Eldris as a character. The third part of the love triangle was intriguing, but not convincing to me as a love interest for Thanh, because her actual character — equal parts vulnerable child and threatening monster — simply didn’t strike me at all as one to inspire romantic feelings. So in the end, the political negotiations and conspiring were much more interesting to me than the romance(s) in Fireheart Tiger. If you're excited about the lesbian love triangle, it's pretty tame from a heat point of view. If you're not excited about it, well, it's a pretty minor part of the plot in one sense, but it does echo the larger themes of this novella in a very interesting way. In either case, there’s much to recommend about Fireheart Tiger, between the lovely, evocative writing and the layered description of a more vulnerable country (and person) being simultaneously seduced and threatened by a more powerful one. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC! Initial post: “A post-colonial Goblin Emperor meets Howl's Moving Castle” — SOLD. I am reading this as soon as I can get my hands on a copy.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Fadwa (Word Wonders)

    I had a galaxy brain moment of the1st of January and decided to start the year with this book, not only because I was almost sure I'd enjoy it but also because it's short, I'd be able to read it in an hour or two, feel accomplished and start the year with a bang. And I'm happy to report I was right about all of the above. I'm always way of novellas as they tend to be hit or miss for me, I'm either absolutely won over or I'm left wanting a lot more than what was delivered. Luckily FIREHEART TIGER I had a galaxy brain moment of the1st of January and decided to start the year with this book, not only because I was almost sure I'd enjoy it but also because it's short, I'd be able to read it in an hour or two, feel accomplished and start the year with a bang. And I'm happy to report I was right about all of the above. I'm always way of novellas as they tend to be hit or miss for me, I'm either absolutely won over or I'm left wanting a lot more than what was delivered. Luckily FIREHEART TIGER is one of the former, it did everything it set out to do and more. It even managed to have a couple twists and turns that managed to surprise me, especially for such a short read. There are so many things to love about this book but here are some of mine: - The worldbuilding: which I think might be divisive for people. If you like detailed worldbuilding that explains every single part of it, this might not work for you, but I loved it. Considering the fact that this novella is around 100 pages, anything more than what was given would have taken up too much page space. And we were given just enough to understand the world, the stakes and fill in the gaps as the story progressed. - The discussion around imperialism and colonialism. This book is set in a pre-colonial Vietnam-esque world where our main character's country is surrounded on all sides by people and countries who want to bleed it dry and control it. Using the age old colonial excuse of the people being "savages" who surely can't rule themselves. Thanh, the main character, being the princess is trying her best to stave off the colonizers. There were also many more themes explored that pack a punch in a very short amount of pages. - Thanh as a character. I usually don't connect much to characters in novellas, it's done and over before I can grow attached to them. But here, I surprisingly found myself caring about Thanh and whatever will happen to her next from the get-go. She draws the reader's sympathy pretty quickly. She starts off as this diplomate who's really good at politics and finessing the enemy, but she's also shy, quiet and unsure of her place in the court, especially having grown up outside of the country for so many years, so the legitimacy of her presence and knowledge are often tested and questioned. But she doesn't let up, she perseveres and grows into herself. - The exploration of abuse. This isn't really something that I expected to find in the book and I won't be going into the what and how of it because of spoilers and because I found that part to be even more impactful because I didn't expect it, but let's just say that we see Thanh being manipulated, gaslit and abused by someone she thought she loved and her only wish was to be worthy of them. But then things go awry and this person's real face surfaces.

  4. 5 out of 5

    jenny✨

    The prose in this novella is beautiful (not to mention that cover!!), buuuut the stakes just weren’t there for me. I couldn’t quite connect to Thanh. I didn’t feel invested in her relationships or frustrations—which is SUCH a shame, because this is an incredibly gorgeous world that de Bodard has woven, featuring sapphic characters and a pre-colonial fantasy drawing Vietnamese inspiration. What really took away from my experience with this book was the romance, which overshadowed the lush world-b The prose in this novella is beautiful (not to mention that cover!!), buuuut the stakes just weren’t there for me. I couldn’t quite connect to Thanh. I didn’t feel invested in her relationships or frustrations—which is SUCH a shame, because this is an incredibly gorgeous world that de Bodard has woven, featuring sapphic characters and a pre-colonial fantasy drawing Vietnamese inspiration. What really took away from my experience with this book was the romance, which overshadowed the lush world-building I would’ve liked to explore far more. I thought I could deal with a love triangle in a novella, but I realized partway through Fireheart Tiger that I’d misjudged myself. Part of this is a function of the form; it’s hard to flesh out relationships in 90-odd pages, and particularly when you’ve got interesting magic and political intrigue playing out, too. But another part of my dismay comes from the insta-love, and the fact that I can’t fathom the chemistry between any of the characters. I wish we hadn’t been thrust into the romance between Thanh and Eldris (or (view spoiler)[Thanh and Giang (hide spoiler)] , for that matter); perhaps if this had been a full-fledged novel, we could’ve seen more of the build-up and better understood the depth of their feelings for each other. Bottom line: High expectations and a not-quite-fulfilling execution have left me wanting. :( Thank you NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Emma☀️

    This novella has it all - from magic, betrayal, queer romance to political intrigue. I really enjoyed it! rtc Thank you to Macmillan-Tor/Forge and Netgalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    AnnaLuce

    / / / Read more reviews on my blog / / / 2 ½ stars I was intrigued by this novella's premise—The Goblin Emperor meets Howl’s Moving Castle in a Vietnamese inspired setting—by its cover and of course by the promise of sapphic love story. Sadly, I can't say that Fireheart Tiger was a particularly good read. As per usual, if you are thinking of reading this I recommend you read some more positive reviews as my one is not a particularly enthusiastic one. Fireheart Tiger would have probably worked a l / / / Read more reviews on my blog / / / 2 ½ stars I was intrigued by this novella's premise—The Goblin Emperor meets Howl’s Moving Castle in a Vietnamese inspired setting—by its cover and of course by the promise of sapphic love story. Sadly, I can't say that Fireheart Tiger was a particularly good read. As per usual, if you are thinking of reading this I recommend you read some more positive reviews as my one is not a particularly enthusiastic one. Fireheart Tiger would have probably worked a lot better if it had been told in a larger format as under its thinly rendered characters and world lies a potentially interesting story. Sadly, this is not a fully fledged novel. The first few pages deliver some exposition: our main character is Thanh a princess who was sent off to Ephteria as a political pawn (ie hostage). Now she's back to her mother’s court (a place which is hardly described) where she chafes against her mother's rule. Thanh's self-pitying is interjected by various memories, mainly, one of a fire, and another one of a kiss she shared with the blue-eyed Eldris (her blue eyes are her major character trait) who is from Ephteria. With 0 preamble she finds herself reigniting her relationship with Eldris...it isn't clear why as Eldris is as 'magnetic' as a slice of stale bread. Thanh too is the classic supposedly quiet and smart yet totally hapless heroine who really grinds me nerves. She claims to care for her country but spends the majority of her time passively thinking about Eldris and of how her mother is evil and uncaring. Thanh's mother, however one-dimensional, made for a much more compelling character. There is also another girl who after one brief meeting Thanh begins to call 'little sister' (or something along those lines) even saying that she misses her when this girl isn't around (after one day?). Eldris is clearly bad news, she is creepy but fails to be a truly manipulative or charismatic villain. The other 'bad guy' is portrayed in a very cartoonish manner (“We're going to have such a lovely time together”) . Perhaps I approached this with the wrong expectations. I hoped for something more mature and complex. The dialogues were clunky, the descriptions clichéd, the love story was unconvincing and undeveloped, the main protagonist was a boring Mary Sue, and the setting was barely rendered.

  7. 5 out of 5

    human [on hiatus]

    something-something meets HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE ?????? *clicks want to read* *passes out* something-something meets HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE ?????? *clicks want to read* *passes out*

  8. 4 out of 5

    charlotte, (½ of readsrainbow)

    On my blog. Rep: Vietnamese coded characters & setting, lesbian mc & lis CWs: implied domestic abuse, sexual assault Galley provided by publisher I’ve read 5 or 6 books by Aliette de Bodard this year and consistently loved them all, so it was no surprise that I enjoyed Fireheart Tiger as much as I did. It’s on the shorter side for a novella and it so effectively tells the story that it sets out to, you feel at once satisfied with what you have and desperately craving more of the world and charac On my blog. Rep: Vietnamese coded characters & setting, lesbian mc & lis CWs: implied domestic abuse, sexual assault Galley provided by publisher I’ve read 5 or 6 books by Aliette de Bodard this year and consistently loved them all, so it was no surprise that I enjoyed Fireheart Tiger as much as I did. It’s on the shorter side for a novella and it so effectively tells the story that it sets out to, you feel at once satisfied with what you have and desperately craving more of the world and characters. The story follows Thanh, who has returned to her mother’s court, after years away in Ephteria and following a mysterious fire in the royal palace. Now she is a diplomat, but this places her directly in the path of her first love, Eldris, a princess of Ephteria. Eldris wants Thanh for a wife, and her country in the bargain too wouldn’t go amiss, and Thanh has to choose between this or fighting for something more. One thing I love about Aliette de Bodard’s writing is how easily it builds a world for you to immerse yourself in. It’s like, there aren’t any excess words used (if that makes sense). There are no long passages of exposition, it’s all built seamlessly into what’s happening. As someone who periodically skims over exposition, I really enjoyed that about this book. At the centre of the book is a love triangle. I’m not someone who really likes love triangles as a trope, but here, both of the love interests were women and it was so refreshing. Of course, it isn’t the type of love triangle where you’re actually conflicted over who the mc ends up with, so I suppose that also helped. But my point is, the book was overwhelmingly sapphic in the best possible way. I never want to read a love triangle that’s not between three women ever again. So if you were at all on the fence about reading this book, let this be a sign to come down off the fence and do so. And all the rest of Aliette de Bodard’s works while you’re at it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    Simply put: Fireheart Tiger was gorgeous. I don't believe I've ever read such a wonderfully contained and satisfying novella before this one. And while the world can leave one wanting for more (*raises hand*), it would not be for lack of resolution of the story told here. At its core, Fireheart is a romance, but the main story is one of self-growth, of breaking out of toxic relationships and realizing your worth, one small step at a time. Codependency is a major theme and is something the protago Simply put: Fireheart Tiger was gorgeous. I don't believe I've ever read such a wonderfully contained and satisfying novella before this one. And while the world can leave one wanting for more (*raises hand*), it would not be for lack of resolution of the story told here. At its core, Fireheart is a romance, but the main story is one of self-growth, of breaking out of toxic relationships and realizing your worth, one small step at a time. Codependency is a major theme and is something the protagonist, Thanh, struggles with throughout the book. I felt it was a very thoughtful examination of unhealthy relationships, with a character who is craving love and the approval of others because of her own insecurities. With that said, the story never gets too heavy or dark with its theme(s) and the flame of hope is a beacon throughout. I could honestly go on at length about so many aspects of this book—the lovely Vietnamese-inspired worldbuilding; the gentle and healing romance; the lush, evocative writing; de Bodard's skilled hand at keeping so many layers perfectly balanced—but I think it's better for a reader to experience this book for themself. Needless to say, I highly recommend Fireheart Tiger, and while I have a few small complaints about a couple things, I could honestly give it a flat five stars...or flames 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sahitya

    When I first saw the announcement of this novella, I didn’t even need to know the premise before adding it to my tbr. And when I saw that stunning cover, my excitement only doubled. I had so much confidence that the author would wow me in just a few pages, and I’m so happy to report that I was right. I find the novella format very fascinating - the less number of pages should realistically not give us enough time to feel invested in the characters or the stakes, but what I’ve realized through re When I first saw the announcement of this novella, I didn’t even need to know the premise before adding it to my tbr. And when I saw that stunning cover, my excitement only doubled. I had so much confidence that the author would wow me in just a few pages, and I’m so happy to report that I was right. I find the novella format very fascinating - the less number of pages should realistically not give us enough time to feel invested in the characters or the stakes, but what I’ve realized through reading quite a bit of short fiction in 2020 is that the authors who frequently write in this format are masters at their craft, skillfully able to make us emotionally engaged in the story right from the get go. And that’s exactly what happened here. Thanh is a very sympathetic character and I instantly liked her, started worrying for her and just wanted her to be safe. I can’t go into details about the other characters without revealing spoilers but every one of them was fully realized, and it was fascinating to me that I was able to glean most of their motivations despite everything being so subtle. The world building is also seamlessly integrated without any infodumps, giving us the right amount of information so that we can follow along with the political intrigue and the diplomatic negotiations. The pacing is perfect, never feeling rushed but also fast enough that’s it’s easy to forget everything else while reading it. And I just can’t say enough about the prose - it was absolutely beautiful and poetic and so very full of feeling. But the most surprising part of the book was how delicately the author handled some of the themes. The primary one is a critique of colonialism, showing us how arrogant the imperial powers are about their inherent righteousness, calling the others “savages” and subtly threatening to occupy them. We also see how this arrogance manifests in personal relationships, a sense of entitlement that makes them feel that they have the right to love and can’t be denied, manipulating and gaslighting to get their way. The author never tells us any of this though, she makes us feel and understand all of it just through normal seeming character interactions, and I thought it was brilliantly executed. In the end, all I can say is that if you love short fiction, you can’t miss this. If you love Asian sapphic fantasy stories like I do, then this is absolutely perfect for you. And I would definitely recommend this to anyone who loves a flawless blend of cutthroat politics, diplomatic maneuvering and a pining romance, set in a lush and beautiful fantasy world.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    This novella is so powerful and resonant (on themes of colonialism, domestic abuse, and more), so gorgeously written, and it has such an empowering and cathartic ending - and ohhh is the final romantic thread lovely as well! I was lucky enough to read a draft and was absolutely blown away by it. I'm so glad lots and lots of people get to read it now! This novella is so powerful and resonant (on themes of colonialism, domestic abuse, and more), so gorgeously written, and it has such an empowering and cathartic ending - and ohhh is the final romantic thread lovely as well! I was lucky enough to read a draft and was absolutely blown away by it. I'm so glad lots and lots of people get to read it now!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tammie

    Thank you to Netgalley and Tordotcom for providing me with an e-arc in exchange for an honest review! This is an absolutely stunning novella. I think with novellas, it can often be hard to convey your message and themes in such a short number of pages, but I think Aliette de Bodard did a fantastic job. Fireheart Tiger is a quiet, but fierce tale of a princess named Thanh who was traded to a foreign kingdom as a teenager, and has now returned to her Mother's empire and has to play the role of a dip Thank you to Netgalley and Tordotcom for providing me with an e-arc in exchange for an honest review! This is an absolutely stunning novella. I think with novellas, it can often be hard to convey your message and themes in such a short number of pages, but I think Aliette de Bodard did a fantastic job. Fireheart Tiger is a quiet, but fierce tale of a princess named Thanh who was traded to a foreign kingdom as a teenager, and has now returned to her Mother's empire and has to play the role of a diplomat. This novella takes place in a world that is inspired by pre-colonial Vietnam, and tells the story of a princess who is trying to do the best for her country that is on the cusp of being colonized, while balancing her own personal interests and a past that haunts her. I loved this story. I thought the worldbuilding was exquisite, though if you are someone who likes a bit more hand-holding in your worldbuilding, this might not be your cup of tea, but for me personally, especially with novellas, I love this style of worldbuilding where you have to read between the lines and figure things out on your own. Our main character, Thanh, is so compelling and nuanced, which is incredible for such a short number of pages. Her relationship with her mother is so complex and I loved seeing it develop throughout the story. Where this novella shines for me is in the way it explores its themes - colonialism, imperialism, and individualism vs collectivism, and self-worth. For such a short book, it really packs a punch in terms of delivering themes that are very thought-provoking and impactful. I loved the way Bodard compared Eastern vs Western sensibilities in this story, and incorporated Vietnamese culture and language so unapologetically. While I am not Vietnamese myself so am not an ownvoices reviewer, I definitely saw some connections to Vietnamese folklore, especially in Giang's character, and her relationship with Thanh. The writing is also stunning, and I honestly cannot recommend it enough if you are looking for a short but impactful story.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mara

    3.5 stars -- This is a really strong novella that definitely entices me to read more from this author! I think the world building was particularly intriguing for so few pages, and I really liked the thematic content suggested by the romantic relationships. I think this would have benefited from being a little longer (possibly a short novel?) or as a part of series, but overall, a really satisfying quick read

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jeann (Happy Indulgence)

    Fireheart Tiger is a Vietnamese royalty novella about a Princess in political negotiations. She faces abusive relationships with her mother and past lover & the book is all about the parallels between Western and Eastern rule. It was refreshing to read a book only featuring Asian characters as well as sapphic relationships (although I wasn't a fan of either love interest). Although it is a novella, it really does pack a punch as the main character works through her abusive relationships, comes to Fireheart Tiger is a Vietnamese royalty novella about a Princess in political negotiations. She faces abusive relationships with her mother and past lover & the book is all about the parallels between Western and Eastern rule. It was refreshing to read a book only featuring Asian characters as well as sapphic relationships (although I wasn't a fan of either love interest). Although it is a novella, it really does pack a punch as the main character works through her abusive relationships, comes to her own and begins the process of healing. It shows the subtle and not so subtle ways that one can an unbalanced hold over a character, whether as a family member, age and naivety or even status as well. I really enjoyed the magic in the novel as well and the unexpected way it manifests itself as an explanation for past trauma. It adds a magical element to the incredible royal world that is deftly explained through honorifics and the political negotiations from an Eastern Kingdom. I thoroughly enjoyed Fireheart Tiger and my only caveat is that I think it would've been a brilliant full length novel as some of the character transitions (eg. relationships) happens a bit too quickly for my liking. The way it shows enough without telling to give you a fair impression of the world and character motivations is done so brilliantly. Check out Happy Indulgence Books for more reviews!

  15. 5 out of 5

    C.L. Clark

    Very sweet and lovely...dare I say heartwarming? With so much of the flare for language and world I’ve come to expect from Aliette de Bodard.

  16. 5 out of 5

    imyril

    A gorgeous novella about finding the strength to free yourself from abusive relationships - both personal and political - and how sometimes that which we fear most can help set us free. Now that it's settled, I think what I like best is that while quiet, insightful Thanh benefits from the confidence her unexpected ally provides her, it's her own unacknowledged strengths that hold the key to carving out a place for herself rather than simply accepting the roles her mother and lover would assign h A gorgeous novella about finding the strength to free yourself from abusive relationships - both personal and political - and how sometimes that which we fear most can help set us free. Now that it's settled, I think what I like best is that while quiet, insightful Thanh benefits from the confidence her unexpected ally provides her, it's her own unacknowledged strengths that hold the key to carving out a place for herself rather than simply accepting the roles her mother and lover would assign her. Full review I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sana

    'A post-colonial Goblin Emperor meets Howl's Moving Castle, where a young woman discovers her power lies not in her inheritance or her allies, but in her own sense of self-worth and the unexpected love of a powerful fire elemental.' YES, PLEASE 'A post-colonial Goblin Emperor meets Howl's Moving Castle, where a young woman discovers her power lies not in her inheritance or her allies, but in her own sense of self-worth and the unexpected love of a powerful fire elemental.' YES, PLEASE

  18. 5 out of 5

    Heather Jones

    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 powe 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.

  19. 4 out of 5

    The Captain

    Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this fantasy novella eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . . I really do enjoy Aliette de Bodard's writing and was excited to read this novella.  It was a quick read at around 100 pages but the length is its greatest flaw.  The basic story is easy to follow and was compelling but I felt that too much background and emotion happened off the page.  This was particularly true with Giang.  Giang was the most interesti Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this fantasy novella eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . . I really do enjoy Aliette de Bodard's writing and was excited to read this novella.  It was a quick read at around 100 pages but the length is its greatest flaw.  The basic story is easy to follow and was compelling but I felt that too much background and emotion happened off the page.  This was particularly true with Giang.  Giang was the most interesting character in the story by far and yet doesn't appear often, wasn't really explored, and thus made the ending rather unbelievable and confusing.  The world building also felt kinda flat. What I did enjoy was the main character, Thanh.  Her history of having been a hostage to a foreign nation, her forbidden love affair, and her relationship with her mother were very intriguing.  I just think that this novella would have been better off expanded in length so that all of the fascinating elements could have been explored satisfactorily.  Arrrr! So lastly . . . Thank you Tor.com!

  20. 4 out of 5

    solanne

    this cover is stunning and I stan the queer excellence its blurb promises

  21. 5 out of 5

    fanna

    September 21, 2020: If I hadn't already got excited after seeing it's a romance fantasy, the pre-colonial Vietnamese-esque world is really getting me IMPATIENT FOR THIS. September 21, 2020: If I hadn't already got excited after seeing it's a romance fantasy, the pre-colonial Vietnamese-esque world is really getting me IMPATIENT FOR THIS.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Arina

    Pitched by the publisher as Howl’s Moving Castle meets The Goblin Emperor. Fireheart Tiger is all about reclaiming yourself in the face of more than one type of abuse and colonization, and about how environment and personhood interconnect. A fantasy novella inspired by pre-colonial Vietnam, it introduces mythological elements that render wonder to a story that is already captivating, sharp, and bursting with feeling. It never ceases to be a deeply intimate journey about finding oneself among the Pitched by the publisher as Howl’s Moving Castle meets The Goblin Emperor. Fireheart Tiger is all about reclaiming yourself in the face of more than one type of abuse and colonization, and about how environment and personhood interconnect. A fantasy novella inspired by pre-colonial Vietnam, it introduces mythological elements that render wonder to a story that is already captivating, sharp, and bursting with feeling. It never ceases to be a deeply intimate journey about finding oneself among the rubble of one’s insecurities and fears, and as such, reclaiming individuality and freedom from more than one type of oppressor. Sometimes that freedom comes quietly and resolutely, and sometimes in order for that freedom to rise, one must burn and start anew. The author shows us both sides of such transformation, delivering romance, politics, and a sincere exploration of abusive relationships. The world is richly built and the relationships between both neighbor and foe craft tension into a story that slowly unravels to subvert all of the reader’s expectations. In a fantastic use of the craft, Aliette has written a story of both inner and outer conflict, beautifully exploring her character by reflecting her in the setting. Fireheart Tiger is a heartfelt, vibrant story with lots of magic and betrayal, dealing with abusive relationships, filial piety, and colonization, even as it bursts with a tender, sapphic relationship that unfolds throughout. **** My warm thanks to The Nerd Daily and Tordotcom for the ARC. My review remains my honest opinion. Read my full review on The Nerd!

  23. 5 out of 5

    The Nerd Daily

    Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Arina N Few things could call to me more than “sapphic romance set in a reimagined pre-colonial Vietnamese fantasy world”. Promising a political/cultural clash enveloped by a romantic exploration of the self, Aliette de Bodard’s latest novella is a short book that goes by in an incandescent flash of fire (yes, I love metaphorical puns and I will make them myself if I have to!). Pitched by the publisher as Howl’s Moving Castle meets The Goblin Empe Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Arina N Few things could call to me more than “sapphic romance set in a reimagined pre-colonial Vietnamese fantasy world”. Promising a political/cultural clash enveloped by a romantic exploration of the self, Aliette de Bodard’s latest novella is a short book that goes by in an incandescent flash of fire (yes, I love metaphorical puns and I will make them myself if I have to!). Pitched by the publisher as Howl’s Moving Castle meets The Goblin Emperor, Fireheart Tiger is a story all about reclaiming yourself in the face of more than one type of abuse and colonisation, and about how environment and personhood interconnect. It introduces mythological elements that render fantastical wonder to a story that is already captivating, sharp, and bursting with feeling. Read the FULL REVIEW on The Nerd Daily

  24. 4 out of 5

    elaine

    i am sad that this didn’t work for me :// 100 pages of thanh waffling between being pathetic about eldris and feeling incredibly sorry for herself + halfheartedly rendered characters that don’t deliver their potential

  25. 5 out of 5

    Emmy Neal

    Thanh is the third princess of Bìanh Hả, she is not destined for the throne or to be a great general like her older sisters. Instead, she was sent as a hostage to Ephteria--the slowly encroaching colonial power--where she fell in love with their commanding (and demanding) princess Eldris. And perhaps, more notably, where one night the entire royal palace burned to the ground. A fire that has haunted more than Thanh's memories--it has followed her home, burning leaves in empty tea cups or flaming Thanh is the third princess of Bìanh Hả, she is not destined for the throne or to be a great general like her older sisters. Instead, she was sent as a hostage to Ephteria--the slowly encroaching colonial power--where she fell in love with their commanding (and demanding) princess Eldris. And perhaps, more notably, where one night the entire royal palace burned to the ground. A fire that has haunted more than Thanh's memories--it has followed her home, burning leaves in empty tea cups or flaming high in lanterns when she is unawares. When the empress places Thanh as their negotiator with Ephteria's trade delegration, Thanh does not expect to be negotiating with her former lover. Suddenly, the power Thanh has never had is in her hands--political, romantic, and even fire itself, if only she knew what she needed to do to save her country, her family, and herself. Thanh's deliberate thoughtfulness and cautious navigating of politics, combined with her burning desire to do what's best, will immediately ingratiate readers. The f/f romance(s) are lush and heartfelt, while tying neatly into both the plot and character development. de Bodard has done incredible worldbuilding with this story, and I desperately hope it's the start of a series of hopepunk novellas. I want nothing more than to see how Thanh fares with her demanding mother the Empress, how hopefully Bìanh Hả manages to negotiate and defeat colonialism, and how the magic of Thanh's relationships unfolds.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kogiopsis

    I mean, I love Aliette de Bodard's work, so this was pretty much a shoo-in. For such a little book, this novella is impressively complex, deftly weaving together interpersonal relationships and international diplomacy into a coherent story. At its heart is Thanh, who struggles with feeling she has no value beyond what is granted to her by others - especially her mother and her erstwhile lover. The narrative is as much about her learning to trust herself as it is any of the layered external confli I mean, I love Aliette de Bodard's work, so this was pretty much a shoo-in. For such a little book, this novella is impressively complex, deftly weaving together interpersonal relationships and international diplomacy into a coherent story. At its heart is Thanh, who struggles with feeling she has no value beyond what is granted to her by others - especially her mother and her erstwhile lover. The narrative is as much about her learning to trust herself as it is any of the layered external conflicts, and that paid off wonderfully in the end. My favorite aspect by far is the way that an unhealthy (view spoiler)[abusive (hide spoiler)] relationship parallels the dynamics of colonialism - it's an apt metaphor, and one that works well here as foreshadowing, especially in the beginning of the book when it seems like maybe the romantic relationship might be alright... Least favorite part was the use of 'li'l sis' and 'big sis' as endearments, partly because 'li'l' felt like it didn't really fit in the vocabulary of the world and partly because (view spoiler)[the characters who referred to each other this way ended up in a romantic relationship (hide spoiler)] . I'm assuming that this is a common form of address in Vietnamese, similar to many cultures where older people are all addressed as 'aunty' or 'uncle', but it felt weird here. With all that said: I know that not every novella needs to be the beginning of a series a la Murderbot but... I would totally read sequels to this, so I'm hoping de Bodard is not done with Thanh or her diplomatic career.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Althea

    This is my first novella by Aliette de Bodard and I'm already desperate to dive into more of her work! As it is such a short novella, you would think that not too much happens in it, but so much action is packed into so few pages that despite its rather simple synopsis surrounding diplomatic negotiations, you leave with the feeling that you've been on a whirlwind journey to a whole new world and lived a whole lifetime with the main character! Speaking of, the characters were so well developed fo This is my first novella by Aliette de Bodard and I'm already desperate to dive into more of her work! As it is such a short novella, you would think that not too much happens in it, but so much action is packed into so few pages that despite its rather simple synopsis surrounding diplomatic negotiations, you leave with the feeling that you've been on a whirlwind journey to a whole new world and lived a whole lifetime with the main character! Speaking of, the characters were so well developed for such a small book, with the world building perhaps even more so. I know I say this of quite a few novellas but this is one that I particularly would have loved to have seen as a full length novel. When the novella starts, it almost feels as if the reader is flung in halfway through the story, and there is so much that happens in the book that it could easily be developed on to become a whole novel, or even a series, and I would have happily devoured it! That being said, this was a gorgeous and hopeful story and I can't wait to read more by the author!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Johanna

    A sapphic novella set in fantasy pre-colonial Vietnam, main character Princess Thanh navigates political negotiations with the colonizers who once held her hostage. Although short, I enjoyed the world-building as well as Thanh’s inner dialogue as she grapples with her past trauma of surviving a fire and remembering the girl who saved her and still managing to deal with her current responsibilities, an overbearing mother, and confronting her first love. I was intrigued by the fire elemental chara A sapphic novella set in fantasy pre-colonial Vietnam, main character Princess Thanh navigates political negotiations with the colonizers who once held her hostage. Although short, I enjoyed the world-building as well as Thanh’s inner dialogue as she grapples with her past trauma of surviving a fire and remembering the girl who saved her and still managing to deal with her current responsibilities, an overbearing mother, and confronting her first love. I was intrigued by the fire elemental character and satisfied with the ending. I do think this story could have been benefitted more as a full novel but appreciate what the author was able to do in this shorter format.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lauren James

    [Gifted] A noblewoman in a fantasy pre-colonial Vietnam falls in love with a princess, befriends a fire spirit and has to decide what her future will be. I loved the inter-country political negotiations, which was detailed enough to feel realistic without dragging. The length here was just right too: a novella with bite, a queer love triangle and realistic relationships.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nicky

    Received to review via Netgalley This is blurbed as The Goblin Emperor meets Howl's Moving Castle... and it's really not like either of those, to my mind, so I really wouldn't recommend it as such. There's a touch of politics, yes, but Thanh isn't much like Maia and nor is her position very similar except in that they're both in a precarious position in a court (though Maia's risks feel quite different to Thanh's)... though now, a few weeks after reading the story, I suppose I do recognise Maia's Received to review via Netgalley This is blurbed as The Goblin Emperor meets Howl's Moving Castle... and it's really not like either of those, to my mind, so I really wouldn't recommend it as such. There's a touch of politics, yes, but Thanh isn't much like Maia and nor is her position very similar except in that they're both in a precarious position in a court (though Maia's risks feel quite different to Thanh's)... though now, a few weeks after reading the story, I suppose I do recognise Maia's road to taking control of some of his power echoed in Thanh's story. It might be more alike than it seemed on the surface, now it's settled. When it comes to its other big comparison point, for me it lacks the humour of Howl's Moving Castle. It is also obviously completely devoid of any Welsh influence, and is not aimed at the same age group. It shares one central plot element, sort of. I'm a little confused about these comparisons, to be honest; I always suck at comparing books to one another, but I still don't see the comparison here. In any case, it's a queer story set in a Vietnamese-influenced court. Thanh is a princess, but she's most definitely a spare: originally sent away as a hostage, now returned and asked to negotiate with those who previously held her hostage. She has two main memories of her time at the other court: her affair with another princess, and a massive fire that overtook the palace and nearly left her stranded. Both of these things are, obviously, relevant. I found the way the plot played out fairly obvious; as a novella, it paints in pretty broad strokes. There are some hints of nuance in Thanh's mother's characterisation and motivations, which helps, but mostly it's fairly straight-forward and works out the way I expected. (I'm very surprised by people who don't recognise the abusive relationship for what it is, though, and think that's intended to be the romance -- so maybe it's more subtle than I thought and I just trust Aliette de Bodard a bit too much!) For a story of this length, I don't usually expect to be surprised, though, and I did very much enjoy the queer relationships and the glimpses of a different kind of court life and attitude to that more familiar to me from history and Western-inspired fantasy. In the end, it didn't blow me away as much as I'd hoped or expected -- which is partly, I think, due to those comparisons to two books that mean a lot to me. It was enjoyable to read, but not like The Goblin Emperor in the ways I hoped for, and even less like Howl's Moving Castle. We all take different things away from stories, and it's clear that my version of The Goblin Emperor and Howl's Moving Castle don't overlap with the understanding of them taken away by those who made these comparisons. It's worth keeping that caution in mind when comparison titles make something sound like it's going to be completely up your alley, I guess!

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