18 Mar 2019

#Review: PHOENIX UNBOUND by Grace Draven


Author: Grace Draven
Series: Fallen Empire #1
Source: Finished Copy via Publisher
Publisher: Ace Books
Publication Date: September 25, 2018
Overall Rating:
Diversity Rating:

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.
Amazon | Chapters | TBD

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book and chose to review it. This in no way impacts my opinion.

Please note: There is heavy and graphic content in this one, depictions of violence and rape, and multiple characters discuss rape. Please take caution before, during, and after reading this one if any of that triggers you.

There was a lot that I loved about this one but some parts that I didn't really enjoy at all, but overall I think it was a really good start to this series! I'll definitely be continuing on with it so I can see what happens next.

Let's start with the (really) good. I love the magic and, especially, the world building. I liked seeing how Gilene's magic worked and interacted with the world around her. A sacrificial lamb with a passion for justice, Gilene was a great heroine for this story. I thought there were some aspects to her personality that I didn't quite jive with, but she was a very good heroine. I liked how she was scared to go to the pyre but did so because she knew it was her duty.

I had mixed feelings about Azarion, and subsequently their relationship. Azarion was just as much a victim as Gilene, just in a different way, but he never really allowed Gilene a choice. She was forced to do everything because of him and his decisions where she wasn't given more than a dubious choice. I didn't like him as the Hero of the story. I thought he didn't quite think through all of his plans and actions and did whatever he thought was best for himself and not for the others around him. So.... he was a typical man.

But it was more than that. He was abrupt and never actually explained anything. He would make a decision and think "this is the right decision" without taking into consideration anyone else's feelings or the consequences of this.

I will say that I thought it was a good relationship in some ways. I liked how they slowly fell for one another. I am glad that it wasn't slave-master, which is what it kind of sounds like when you read the back. And I liked that they took the time to get to know one another before automatically falling in love.

And now for the (very) bad. The beginning (and back of the book about the plot) was like 3 chapters. I had to read them a few times before I truly understood that all the Exciting Plot was being rushed over in a few lines. This made it super confusing to me. I wasn't quite sure what was happening, where everything was headed, and if this was a true Fantasy or not. 

The vast majority of this book was travelogue (aka, the characters were going from Point A to Point B and we got to follow them around). Which I find super boring. There were some action scenes in the midst of this, but just like the initial scenes, these were rushed over in favour of a slow burn romance.

Again, the ending was rushed with the action and I was a little confused about how things played out. I also wish there was more of a discussion around the Empress and her role. She wasn't a heavily defined villain.

All that being said, I thoroughly enjoyed my read of this. There is a sexy on-screen sex scene and I liked the chemistry between the two characters near the end. I can't wait to see where this series goes and what happens to our heroes in the next book! I do recommend reading this if you are looking for a romance-heavy adult fantasy book. (*cough*Dani*cough*)


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed this one overall! Sorry you didn't love it enough to give 5 stars. Thanks for the trigger warnings.

  2. YAY I am glad you enjoyed this overall, even though you had some issues with it. I can't wait to see where the characters are going next!


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