RELEASE DATE: September 25th, 2018
AUTHORS: Grace Draven
GENRE: Adult, Fantasy, Romance.
PUBLISHER: Ace Books
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.
“I will conquer all of the Empire to bring you back.”
I’ve never read a Grace Draven book but I always wanted to. When I’ve heard of Phoenix Unbound, I decided to give it a shot because I really loved the synopsis and I couldn’t resist a good fantasy romance. This book was a bit slower than I had expected but I did enjoyed reading the whole story. Gilene and Azarion were wonderful characters and I really loved the slow burn romance between them. I liked the historical setting and the captivating writing style. The plot was interesting but there’s a lot of travelling in it. I wish there was a bit more action as well. Nonetheless, It was a good start to a new fantasy series and I’ll be definitely checking out more books from Grace Draven.
Every year, The Krael Empire does an annual celebration known as the Rites of Spring where each Village is required to send a girl as a living tithe to sacrifice them to the gods by burning them alive in the fire pit. Gilene from Beroe is the only fire witch in her village who has the unique ability to manipulate fire and change her appearance by creating illusion. In order to save the women from her village, Gilene participated in Rites Of Spring for the last five years each time with a new disguise. It’s a secret that keeps them alive and if the empire ever finds out about it, her whole village will be burned down for their treachery. When spring arrives once again, Gilene prepares for the same routine, but this time her life takes a new turn when a famous gladiator sees through her illusion. He blackmails her that he’ll reveal her secret to the Krael Empire if she doesn’t help him escape from his life of slavery and moreover he also wants her to help him reclaim his birthright as chief of his clan. To save her village and her family, Gilene reluctantly agrees to help him and accompanies him back to his homeland.
Gilene was a strong, brave, and selfless character who’s very loyal to her family and her village even though they don’t deserve it. She sacrifices herself over and over again just to save them. Even after going through so much abuse, she still stood strong. She’s a very determined girl and I really liked her. Azarion was an interesting character. He’s a strong, and handsome Gladiator. Just like Gilene, he’s also suffering from the empire’s enslavement for ten years. Even though he’s the prime gladius of the arena, he hates the life he was living. Besides the coliseum fights, he often gets abused in the private chambers of the empress just for her sick entertainment. I really felt bad for the life he was living and I wouldn’t blame him to escape that hell in any way possible even if it’s through blackmail or force. I really liked the slow burn romance between Gilene and Azarion. Their relationship began as enemies, but soon they turn into allies and next into lovers. They don’t trust each other at the beginning, but during their journey they start developing feelings for each other. Their romance was very well done. The secondary characters were okay-ish. No one intrigued me as much as the main characters but I’m still curious about the caravan traders that Gilene and Azarion met in the first half.
The plot was interesting and compelling, but to be honest things became quite predictable in the second half for me and there are some parts which felt slow. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed the whole journey. The first half is mostly a road trip and second half is focused on clan fights but we didn’t get enough info about the Krael empire. I hope we get all our answers in the next book. The pacing of the book seemed slow because of the long journey, but the plot kept me hooked till the end. The book was written in Gilene and Azarion’s thrid person POV. I loved the writing style of the author, it was beautiful and captivating. The historical setting was fantastic. The world the author created was brutal and Violent. It was quite similar to the Roman empire that loved enslaving people and conducting coliseum-style pit wars for their entertainment. The magical and the mythological aspect in this book seems very interesting and I would love to learn more about them.
Overall, I really liked this book! It was an enjoyable ride filled with romance, adventure, magic and action. Even though it isn’t a total perfection, It is worth giving it a shot and I can’t wait to know what the author has in store for us next.
I highly recommend this book to all the fantasy romance lovers.
TRIGGER WARNINGS: Rape, Violence, Abuse, Murder, kidnapping, Torture, death, and Gore.