Title: Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix
Author: Julie C. Dao
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Series: Rise of the Empress, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns was one of my favorite books of last year, so I was so excited when the sequel finally came out. After yet another library haul redo, I decided to keep Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix: I didn’t want to take it back to the library before I’d had a chance to read it. I was richly rewarded for my patience, and Julie C. Dao has become one of my favorite authors with this spellbinding, lush duology! It picks up where Forest of a Thousand Lanterns left off, with Xifeng’s stepdaughter, Jade, coming of age. With beautiful prose, magic, secrets, folktales, and more than one magical creature, I loved Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, and I was so happy with how these two wonderful books ended! I can’t wait to see what Julie C. Dao has in store for us next!
Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix picks up where Forest of a Thousand Lanterns left off, with Xifeng’s stepdaughter, Jade, coming of age to eighteen. I loved how this book brought Jade, as a young adult, into the spotlight. Forced away from court and her father at the young age of four, she is forced to navigate the glittering, treacherous arena that is her stepmother’s court. All the while, she is trying her best to deny what is her true birthright: the throne that her stepmother has stolen, through wicked magic, murder, and deceit. Forced again to leave her rightful home, Jade of the Great Forest must reach deep inside of herself to claim what is hers by right and law, even if it means confronting all of her deepest fears and fiercest demons…
I really enjoyed this book! It took a little bit to get into it, since it had been a while since I’d read Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. But Dao returned with gorgeous prose, breakneck pacing, strong, well-drawn characters, magic, shocking twists and thrills, more than one awesome magical creature, and an amazing ending! Sequels make me so nervous; I call it sequel anxiety, because there have been so many times where I’ve loved a book and was so exciting for the next one, and got let down. But that wasn’t the case with Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix. I loved how, in this book, it was Jade in the spotlight, fighting for her rightful place on the throne and the broken land of Feng Lu. Her character development was wonderful; it was my favorite part of the novel for sure. I loved watching her transition from a sheltered, naïve girl into a strong, courageous young woman, and I also adored her friends, Wren and Koichi. I really liked the way that the story felt like a classic folktale; I’m such a sucker for anything that feels like a fairy tale. And that ending! It was so fulfilling and exciting; that, too, was one of my favorite parts. My feelings are bittersweet, but overall, I really loved The Rise of the Empress duology, and I can’t wait to see what Julie C. Dao is going to do next! Absolutely stunning! The bottom line: Gorgeous, thrilling, and courageous, I loved Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, and I’m so sad that it’s all over! More please! Next on deck: My New Crush Gave to Me by Shari Petroff!