Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix (Rise of the Empress #2) by Julie C. Dao
Publication: November 6th, 2018
Genre: YA Fantasy
This fairy tale retelling lives in a mystical world inspired by the Far East, where the Dragon Lord and the Serpent God battle for control of the earthly realm; it is here that the flawed heroine of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns finally meets her match. An epic fantasy finale to the Rise of the Empress novels.
Princess Jade has grown up in exile, hidden away in a monastery while her stepmother, the ruthless Xifeng, rules as empress of Feng Lu. But the empire is in distress and its people are sinking into poverty and despair. Even though Jade doesn’t want the crown, she knows she is the only one who can dethrone the empress and set the world right. Ready to reclaim her place as rightful heir, Jade embarks on a quest to raise the Dragon Lords and defeat Xifeng and the Serpent God once and for all. But will the same darkness that took Xifeng take Jade, too? Or will she find the strength within to save herself, her friends, and her empire?
Set in an East Asian-inspired fantasy world filled with breathtaking pain and beauty, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is filled with dazzling magic, powerful prose, and characters readers won’t soon forget.
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Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix takes place many years after the first book. But, we now get to read it from Jade’s point-of-view. I didn’t think I would enjoy Jade as much as Xifeng but I did a lot. She was just as spunky and smart. I think what I enjoyed most was how she went on a journey to discover herself just as Xifeng did but they went on different paths. I enjoyed the inner struggles she faced and the outer struggles she faced to help her country. The story started with Jade being summoned back to the palace from her father and step-mother. But when she arrives her father is sick but it is rather suspicious because he seems to be sick on purpose. To further her suspicions there are rumors that Xifeng is killing girls and Jade knows she needs to help save her country from the turmoil. As the story progresses we get to see some oldies from book one and a lot of fun adventures that Jade must overcome.
I love Julie C. Dao’s writing so much and I can’t wait to see where she goes with her writing in the future. The book is magical and features a lot of cool places that Dao describes with wonderful flare. She transports you to her world and you get immersed within it. I think my favorite thing is how she writes antagonists. She writes with twisted and sinister pros that keep me engaged on every turn.
Jade is a spunky girl who grew up in a monastery and loves the wild freedom of that life. She doesn’t understand life in the palace but she learns quickly. She is loyal and fiercely protective of those she loves. Wren is someone who helps Jade on her trip. She lives for freedom and is incredibly strong physically but also mentally. She doesn’t like Jade at first but over time we get to learn why and she becomes very helpful and loyal. Koichi is Shiro’s son who takes a romantic liking to Jade and vice versa but it’s subtle and slow to happen. He is very sweet and incredibly funny. Fu is a ghost that we meet later in the book and we find out he is the crown prince who was killed and he is haunting Ming who is Wei from book one. I love both of these characters so much and I was so happy when the reveal happened. Obviously, Xifeng was just as sinister and evil as in book one and I loved it. She is one of the best antagonists ever.
“We learn about ourselves when we learn about others.”
“There is only destiny,” Xifeng said, her teeth gritted, “and those too afraid to seize it.”
“I love you,” Lihua murmured, “more than all the stars in the sky.”
“There are so many expectations for women and girls,” Jade went on. “How to be proper, how to behave. But you push against them. Always. And who said heroes have to be men? Why can’t just a girl summon the army of the gods? Why can’t just a girl save an empire?
“Sometimes I think Xifeng’s the only one who knows what women are capable of, and that’s why she’s on that throne. I don’t agree with anything she’s done,” Jade added. “But she believed in herself, and that’s what’s missing in me.
“I did pretend to marry her because it was safer for you to disguise yourself as a servant. But also because it was easier with someone I hadn’t the slightest intention of loving.”
“You’re here now. Play your part in my destiny as you were meant to,” she pleaded. “Be with me, if you truly love me. Do you? Wei looked deep in Xiefeng’s eyes. “Yes,” he said fervently. “I love you. I always have loved you, and I always will.” And then he tore his sword from its sheath and plunged it into Empress Xiefeng’s heart. “I love you,” he repeated, tears pouring down his cheeks as he stabbed her again and again. Blood gushed out and stained her green silk robes. “I love you. I love you.”