Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao
What I drank: snurlough furlough cider (I’m not actually furloughed but i drink in solidarity)
PLEASE NOTE: I FOR SURE thought we’d done a review of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns but apparently we didn’t, so, first, don’t freaking read this until youve read that bc Blazing Phoenix is a sequel, and also I kind of have to talk about Forest in this review, so it will be spoilery if you didn’t read book 1.
What it’s about: Where Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is the Cinderella prequel (set in fantasy Asia), Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is the Cinderella story.
We pick up way after the events of Forest. Xifeng is now Empress of Feng Lu, and she’s sent her stepdaughter Princess Jade off to a monastary. Jade is now all growed up and summoned home, where things are the hottest of messes and she realizes she needs to take the throne. So with the help of a scooby gang, Jade quests and quests to raise some gods and defeat Xifeng.
Look, Blazing phoenix is fine. It’s a solid fairy tale-reimagining; its not on the nose in its retelling, has decent use of mythology, and its a fairly classic rising to the occassion story. Some things fall into place a little too conveniently, and I think it felt a little rushed at the end (like, her questing could have EASILY stretched over two books), but it’s a oerfectly fine book.
(speaking of that rushed bit – I didn’t know this was gonna be a duology and wonder if it was orginally meant to be a trilogy, bc it REALLY felt like some groundwork was laid for a third book, and then maybe that triology plug got pulled so she had to wrap it up right quick?)
Anyway, the point being it’s fine, but it just wasnt as good sa Forest. Forest was much darker, complex, and had a more unique take on retelling. Xifeng was a normal person who became a monster consumed by fear and desire, Jade is just like…a good person? So by comparison bad characters just looks EVIL and there’s not much conflict to spice things up.
Blazing Phoenix is fine, but Forest was just more interesting.
What I gave it: 3 stars
What I’d pair it with: mid-range Trader Joe’s wine?