Series: Fallen Empire #1
Genres: Fantasy Romance
Source: ARC, NetGalley
A woman with power over fire and illusion and an enslaved son of a chieftain battle a corrupt empire in this powerful and deeply emotional romantic fantasy from the USA Today bestselling author of Radiance.
Every year, each village is required to send a young woman to the Empire's capital--her fate to be burned alive for the entertainment of the masses. For the last five years, one small village's tithe has been the same woman. Gilene's sacrifice protects all the other young women of her village, and her secret to staying alive lies with the magic only she possesses.
But this year is different.
Azarion, the Empire's most famous gladiator, has somehow seen through her illusion--and is set on blackmailing Gilene into using her abilities to help him escape his life of slavery. And unknown to Gilene, he also wants to reclaim the birthright of his clan.
To protect her family and village, she will risk everything to return to the Empire--and burn once more.
Its difficult not to make some initial comparisons between Phoenix Unbound and The Hunger Games because of their similar settings. There are people from villages sent to the capital for the entertainment of the citizens-the men have to fight gladiator style battles and the women are burned alive. However, Phoenix Unbound is fantasy romance so in this story, Gilene, our heroine, has magic that saves her. She is a fire witch and escape being burned alive. This means she has to be her village’s sacrifice every year. She meets a gladiator who can see through her magic and forces her to help him escape as well.
Azarion blackmails and forces Gilene to help him. Helping him escape is only the first step she discovers. He needs to bring back an agacin (witch) to help him claim the throne from his dastardly cousin. Gilene isn’t happy about being forced to help him. If she doesn’t get back to her village, the elders will hurt her family for sure. Both these characters are battle hardened and world weary. Azarion lies without compunction and Gilene will use her magic to save herself. Even though Gilene is, essentially, being kidnapped, there is a bit of commonality for them. Both have suffered at the hands of the empire.
This is a fantasy romance, so there is world building to be done and Draven does it well. I’ve not read Draven’s books before so Phoenix Unbound was an introduction to her writing and I enjoyed it. It takes a great author to avoid information dumping yet still guide the reader through this fantasy world. The story started a bit off for me-its not for lack of action or anything, but I think I was having trouble really getting sucked in for the first couple chapters. Honestly, this has always been a struggle for me with fantasy. However, Draven’s writing is superb! She is a master at painting with words and every word on the page is executed with a purpose and prose. Its exquisite. I actually hope this is made into an audiobook soon. I think it would be delightful to listen to with a talented narrator.
I’ve intentionally not given a lot of details about the story. You should experience it. I will say…I was about to throw my precious kindle across the room near the end because I thought bad things were afoot. You have been warned.
- POV: 3rd
- Tears: no
- Trope: magic
- Triggers: View Spoiler »There is a rape scene early on that might be upsetting to some readers. Also, several fights to the death and a mass human sacrifice. « Hide Spoiler
- Series/Standalone: stand alone
- Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »no « Hide Spoiler
- HEA: View Spoiler »yes; no epilogue « Hide Spoiler
authors like Ilona Andrews, Anne Bishop, Laura Thalassa…then you will probably like Phoenix Unbound!
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Fantastic review. This book has been on my TBR ever since I heard about it and although you’ve kept your review light on the details (which I thank you for, yay no spoilers) from what you have said this will definitely be a book I will be buying and reading. I have read one other Grace Draven book and I really enjoyed it so hopefully this will have a similar vibe. There is so little fantasy romance out there so I am always going to buy those I see coming out.