Title: Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix
Author: Julie C. Dao
Date published: November 6, 2018
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?
I have a lot of Thoughts about this book. I was really excited for it when I finished FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS because I absolutely LOVED that book, and KINGDOM had just come out a couple months prior so I could immediately go and buy it for quick devouring. Or, I thought it would be a quick devouring. This book actually took me about 2 weeks to read?? For me, that is a bit slow, especially since I was so highly anticipating it. So, let us examine some of my Thoughts about this book and see what happened:
- I loved the legends. I thought the use of Feng Lu’s legends and fairy tales were really effective and well done in this book. Stories are super important to Jade’s mission of dethroning Xifeng in this sequel, and all the ones that were told were done so beautifully, and in a way that never felt like info-dumping even though it could have easily gone that route since they happened outside of the plot. The legends of Feng Lu only helped bolster Jade’s story and make the world of Feng Lu richer and even more vivid than it was in the first book.
- Jade was…meh. My BIGGEST problem with KINGDOM OF THE BLAZING PHOENIX was, unfortunately, Jade, the protagonist. I was looking forward to getting to know Empress Lihua’s daughter in this book, but unfortunately, she read like watered down milk to me. The fact that she was so nice wasn’t even the real issue to me; it was that she was BORING AF. It’s kind of explained why she struggled to be brave, but it wasn’t shown through her memories or actions, so she read as a really nice and overly righteous character with no real personality.
- I shipped the romance so much. I admittedly predicted the romance that happens in the book from the end of book 1, but I still shipped it because I loved Shiro in FOREST so much and I just wanted his story to have a happy ending. I wish it was a little more fleshed out in general, but at the same time, the romance wasn’t exactly the POINT of the story, so it was okay.
- Everything happened too easily. Obviously we know Jade is going to succeed in her goals because that’s what happens in books, but I felt that compared to Xifeng, Jade didn’t struggle as much. It seemed like everything was easy for her even though the author did sort of try to make her struggle. I just never doubted that Jade would succeed because she was always just “the good guy” and therefore would prevail. Also, none of the tasks seemed particularly insurmountable to me as they appeared, so I didn’t really doubt Jade would succeed and I was never on the edge of my seat.
- I liked the continuation of characters from book 1. I will say I was satisfied with how each character from the first book was woven into the story. I especially liked how Empress Lihua lived on, no spoilers, and came to be a part of Jade’s tale. I also loved seeing more of Shiro since he was my favorite of Xifeng’s companions in the first book. There was also more character development of another character that I won’t mention because spoilers that I was happy with because they became more interesting to me than they were in book one.
All in all, there were parts of this book that I did like, but in general, Jade being boring really colored how I felt about the entire story. Since Xifeng had so fascinated me and been such a complicated, layered character, Jade just didn’t stand out to me at all and I didn’t care about her as much as Xifeng even though Jade was the goody guy and Xifeng was the villain. Maybe I’m just more into villains? Who knows. Either way, unfortunately, this book was ultimately not as good as the first one and as I was hoping it would be.