I picked up Fireheart Tiger a while back because I was looking for something a bit more about personal growth. I’ve found that the stories I enjoy are the ones that focus on the main character growing (or understanding more about themselves) as they navigate events around them. In this regard, Fireheart Tiger is a lovely novella.
The main character, Princess Thanh was sent away to a northern kingdom at the age of 12 as little more than a tool or bargaining chip. Unfortunately, there was an accident that resulted in an entire palace getting burned down and many were hurt by it. This accident weighs heavy on Thanh’s heart and soul. The novella begins 10 years later when she is back in her home country and is a bit of a disappointment to her mother.
Things pick up when they receive visitors from that northern kingdom which brings not only diplomatic tensions but also Thanh’s former lover, Princess Eldris. Stuck between navigating the constant disappointment from her mother and the way that Eldris only sees her as a prize to be won, Thanh struggles with feeling like she doesn’t matter in this world.
Thanh coping with that feeling of worthlessness and how it is fed by those she thinks love her is what this book is really about and really where it shines.
A love triangle is introduced in this story and unfortunately for me, it fell a bit flat. It could be because it is really hard to get that development in alongside Thanh’s personal growth in the space of a novella. I would have also really loved to see Thanh begin to understand that she matters from herself – instead of being told from another person or being.
Ultimately though, Fireheart Tiger is a gem of a story and worth reading. I really would love to read more stories in the setting and world that De Bodard has created.