Aria embarks on a quest to return an egg to a Firebird's nest to stop the curse on the Kingdom, in the process forming alliances with different people, discovering her royal connections and falling in love with a handsome Knight. Aria is a slave, thrown away during a civil war and given to the Bone Witch. One day while Aria is out on a chore for the Bone Witch, she finds an injured Knight. She watches as the Knight buries something in the ground. She follows him further into the woods before revealing herself and offering to help nurse his wounds. The Knight introduces himself as Sir Roye de Roye a Chevalier de L'Etoile. Aria immediately falls in love with Sir Roye because she has never met a man as handsome and romantic-looking as him. Sir Roye explains that he has been fighting for King Demetri of Markovy who has been warring against Prince Sergey. Prince Sergey thinks that the King has a Firebird's egg which will hatch into a huge fire-breathing bird and has therefore been sacking the King's towns and villages in search of it. Aria helps him find shelter in a cave and promises to return with food and wine.
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Aria returns to the Bone Witch's cottage and tells the witch everything. The witch allows her to continue nursing the knight. One day, Prince Sergey arrives at their cottage with a lycanthrope. A lycanthrope is a half-man, half-wolf creature that can sense if a person lies. The lycanthrope senses that Aria knows where the Knight is hidden and they kill the Bone Witch and kidnap Aria. Aria leads them to where the Knight is hidden but on the way there, they cross a troll bear's lair and the bear attacks the men, giving Aria a chance to flee. Unfortunately, the lycanthrope uses his keen sense of smell to track her down again. This time, however, Sir Roye appears and offers to make a bargain with Prince Sergey. He tells the Prince that the egg is cursed and that King Demitri of Markovy has asked him to return it to the Firebird's nest before it causes more death and destruction. Prince Sergey still wants the egg and tries to kill Sir Roye after he shows them where he buried it.
Just as it looks like Sir Roye is doomed, the tables are turned as a giant cat leaps from the trees and attacks Prince Sergey. Sir Roye uses this opportunity to threaten Prince Sergey and his men to let him and Aria take the egg and go. The giant cat ends up killing Prince Sergey. Later on, it is revealed that the giant cat was really the Bone Witch. The Bone Witch tells Aria that it is up to her to lift the curse on Markovy by bringing the egg back to the Firebird's nest and she summons a firejay (essentially a bluejay-like creature) to help guide her on her quest.
She and the Knight must travel through settled lands to get to the Rift where the Firebird's nest is found. Aria is scared because the rift is the home of all sorts of fearsome creatures like troll bears, ghosts, ghouls, lycanthropes etc. They end up getting picked up by a sky-boat which is a boat that traverses the sky using wizard magic. Aria must sneak into one of the sky-boats to steal food and wine to feed herself and the Prince. She uses one of the magical invisibility spells the Bone Witch taught her. Inside one of the sky-boats, she sees the corpse of Prince Sergey who seems to be asleep, not dead. She inadvertently witnesses Prince Sergey being reanimated by a shaman. He comes briefly back to life in order to yell at his minions to search for Aria and Sir Roye, who have the Firebird's egg. She returns to Sir Roye and they decide it's better to keep moving before one of Prince Sergey's men find them.
Unfortunately, they are attacked by archers and Sir Roye creates a distraction so that Aria may take the egg and escape. Aria continues following the firebird further into the forest. She enters a forest town and uses her magic to escape once she has eaten her fill however the townsfolk are now on the hunt for her as they know she is a witch. Eventually she is captured and a Bishop sentences her to death. She must enter a shrine to become purified then be brought to a crag where she will be sacrificed to the Destroyer, a creature that the villagers believe takes children in exchange that it leaves the village alone.
Once she is left behind on the crag, she is greeted by a young girl riding a giant hawk who claims to be Persephone the Destroyer. After hearing Aria's story, Persephone takes her to her airship in the sky. Persephone reveals that her mission is to swoop down on hopeless villagers about to be overrun by enemies and save the children. Aria spends the next few weeks with Persephone, helping her rescue children on their travels. On one of their missions to save children from a harem that is being attacked by Tartars, Persephone is hit by a crossbow dart. Somehow she and Persephone survive but they are now prisoners of the harem. Persephone convinces the Sultana to work with her to rescue the children because the harem will soon be overtaken by the Tartars. The people of her sky ship help save the children just as the Tartars burst into the harem and everyone is brought to safety.
Persephone thinks that Aria must now continue on her original mission to bring return the Firebird's egg to its nest so she drops Aria off at the capital of Markovy. There, Aria learns that her father is none other than King Demitri himself. Aria finds herself becoming Princess Regent of Markovy until her younger brother, Prince Ivan becomes of age. There are factions within the kingdom that don't trust, Aria, however, and there are plots to assassinate her. One night, she meets an old friend named Sonya, from her time in the harem. Sonya tells her that her distant cousin, Baron Tolstoy, may come to assassinate her that night as he wants to be King of Markovy. As Aria is wandering her palace at night, she runs into Sir Roye, who had been brought there by Sonya. Aria is happy to see Sir Roye is alive and well and she returns to her apartments to fetch the Firebird's egg however it is missing. She, Sonya and Sir Roye decide they must escape the palace however Aria runs right into a trap laid by Baron Tolstoy. Aria agrees to go with Baron Tolstoy if he allows Sir Roye and Sonya to leave, unharmed.
Baron Tolstoy locks Aria back up in the palace and demands to know where Prince Ivan is. Aria did not know Prince Ivan was missing but she still refuses to tell her cousin any information that would endanger her brother's life. One day, a panel in her room pops open and a dwarf appears, beckoning for her to follow him. It leads her through a secret tunnel and into a hidden chamber where Prince Ivan and the Firebird's egg are kept safe. The dwarfs tell Aria that Sir Roye is locked in the dungeon, Sonya has disappeared and a sky boat is floating above the palace.
Aria saves Sir Roye and they escape onto the sky boat moored to the palace. In the process, however, Aria is severely wounded by an arrow that was shot by the soldiers trying to stop their escape. Despite Sir Roye's efforts to nurse her wounds, Aria's condition worsens. She is determined to return the Firebird's egg, however, and end the curse on the Markovy family. Aria barely manages to make it to the Firebird's nest but when she gets there, the Firebird is grateful that she has returned the egg and heals her. Aria rides the Firebird's back and they pick up Sir Roye. Together, they return to the capital of Markovy. With the Firebird to back up her authority, Aria forces the Baron Tolstoy to either choose to be executed or pledge his allegiance to Prince Ivan. The Baron Tolstoy gives his fealty to Prince Ivan.
The story ends with Aria making plans to be with Sir Roye once her brother is grown up and doesn't need her as a regent anymore.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like that the story mixes in fantasy with a healthy dose of history. I also like the poetic voice of the writer and his skill at writing vivacious characters with humor and wit.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene of the story was when Aria, Sir Roye and the Firebird return to the capital of Markovy so that Aria can assert her authority over Baron Tolstoy once and for all. It was a very epic scene and it was very satisfying to see the annoying Baron Tolstoy quivering in his socks from fear of being burned to a crisp by the Firebird.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that Aria was playful, adventurous and loyal in her love to Sir Roye, even when faced with other dashing handsome consorts.