4 out of 5 stars.
Echo is a somewhat normal girl who happens to be semi-adopted by a race of semi-avian, magical creatures who normally keep themselves hidden from humans. The Avicen (the bird guys) are at war with a race of semi-dragon creatures, also hidden from humans. Tired of the endless war, the Ala (Echo’s adopted mother) sends Echo on a hunt for the mythical Firebird, a legend said to possess the ability to stop the conflict. Echo is joined by her best friend Ivy, but also a couple of dragons, Caius and Dorian, who are likewise hoping to stop the war. Interested parties on both sides are willing to murder to stop the recovery of the firebird by the opposing species, so Echo’s group has to avoid two groups of assassins and soldiers.
First, some of the banter is laugh out loud funny. The story is told from multiple POVs, but each is clear and distinct. You get to know each of the characters very well, very quickly, which is a testament to the author’s skill. I liked every main character, though some were more quirky than others. They are complex and empathetic.
The world building also really resembles Laini Taylor’s (that is one hell of a recommendation for those who are not familiar with her work), so I can see why they are advertising the similarities. There is a hidden magical world just underneath the one we inhabit, and only a few people manage to bridge both realities. Echo and her friends have to maneuver through the human world, tracing the firebird’s path, while hiding magic from the unsuspecting humans.
Echo struggles with identity, being an orphan who was taken in by the Avicen but never fully comfortable with them. She has to deal with her sense of loyalty to the Avicen for taking her in being directly in conflict with her desire to find the firebird with the help of their sworn enemies. She has to put aside her preconceptions and accept the help of people she thinks are evil in order to stop greater evil.
My one big complaint is that the cover made me really think this was going to be a fairy tale like fantasy, and it is not. It was great, just not what I was expecting going in.
I enjoyed the characters and writing in this book. I found it well-written, almost lyrical in places, with a great sense of humour in the banter. Great for fantasy geeks like myself.