Book Review: Feather and Flame

Never fear, there are no spoilers here! There is a trigger warning at the end of the post, but no plot details are given away. Happy reading!

If you’ve been around here for a minute, my Disney love is not a surprise. Combining my two biggest entertainment obsessions, Disney and books, is peak goals over here. So when I had the opportunity to read an advanced reader’s copy of Livia Blackburne’s Feather and Flame, I was beyond excited.

What I did not consider was the emotional distress of seeing one of my favorite characters once again placed in danger, because of course this is not a book where nothing bad happens to our favorite warrior. As a side note, am I the only one that would read books featuring my favorite characters, where they don’t struggle or make impossible choices, and just live their quirky, happy lives? Because I would read the heck out of that.

Feather and Flame is the second book in Disney’s Queen’s Council series. This YA series shows our beloved Disney princesses as young rulers of their own lands, aided by a mystical group of strong female leaders.

Feather and Flame is set in the time shortly following the events of the Mulan film, and many beloved characters make an appearance. Shang, the Emperor, and Mulan’s parents are all moving pieces in this new story. While Mulan has been training an all-female militia, China has been patiently waiting for the Emperor to name his heir. The Emperor’s council and Mulan are equally surprised when Mulan herself is chosen as the next leader of China.

As Mulan works to understand court life and the multilayered, nuanced language of politics, she once again finds herself fighting an uphill battle against sexism. Plus, it seems someone is working to undermine her. Mulan is fighting a different kind of battle, one with hidden enemies and once again, the fate of all of China on her shoulders.

We’re fairly accustomed to page to screen adaptations, but recently Disney publishing has been giving us books that continue on, or have some unique twist, on our beloved childhood films. It’s interesting to see how these characters are adapted from film to into bookish form. Original characters are given even more depth, and the new characters are fully developed, relatable, and lovable. Though the plot is well done, the characters really stood out in this one. Of course, I already loved Mulan and Shang, but this continuation of their story makes me like them even more. New characters, like Zhonglin and Liwen, are well developed and memorable. If Liwen got her own spinoff, I would not complain!

The plot is gripping and well paced, neither being too slow nor too fast. Chinese history and folklore are expertly woven into the world of Mulan, as Blackburne expands on the world-building Disney animators began. With a touch of magic, this continuation of Mulan’s story fits perfectly within the Mulan universe. As a complete and total Disney nerd, I am always excited and then terrified about these kinds of projects. But Blackburne really captured the heart of Mulan, and continued her story in the most wonderful way.

Blackburne kept the inspiring feminist heartbeat of Mulan while staying true to the tone of the films. The vibe and setting fit perfectly within my expectations, and I immediately felt pulled back to ancient China each time I opened my Kindle.

Feather and Flame will be available February 1, 2022 from Disney Publishing. Thank you to Livia Blackburne, Disney Publishing, and NetGalley for an advanced e-arc so I could share my honest opinions.

Trigger warning: there are small descriptions of blood, death, and battles. It is not overly graphic.

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