WHAT A JOURNEY!
These are the only words that left my mouth after reading Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix.
I already expected the vast contrast between Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, and Julie C. Dao’s first book, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. It was like day and night, and I mean it in a really good way.
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns came with mostly dark and gory vibe in it, considering that it is a reimagining of the Evil Queen. On the contrary, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is filled with colors and extravagant visuals, and otherworldly adventures that will always leave you on edge.
Ancient East Asian setting
I’ve said this a lot of times on many of my book reviews that features any historical setting, but I will keep saying it. I love historical settings and I specifically love Asian historical settings the MOST!
I used to only watch historical Korean dramas or what they call Sageuk dramas, but early this year, I got so interested in Chinese dramas which led me to explore more, and there I found myself falling in love with Wuxia dramas – literally translated as “martial heroes” – or adventures of martial heroes in ancient China. It is basically like the Chinese version of Sageuk dramas, but more flying and martial arts.
If you love Wuxia, you’re going to fall head over heels with the Rise of the Empress duology. Not only with the premise, but also with all the political substance and fantasy adventures.
Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix also reminded me of Fushigi Yuugi. Princess Jade was on her quest to find different relics in order to defeat our dear Xifeng, just like how Miaka was on her quest with her celestial warriors to find the Shinzaho artifacts in order to summon Suzaku, the phoenix guardian.
Likely so, there are plenty of magical and supernatural events in this journey.
Related article: Four Celestial Emblems (Chinese mythology)
Far Eastern inspiration
Well, to be very honest, I know nothing about the folktales of the Far East, but reading this book made me do a lot of research. And when I say a lot, I really mean A LOT. I dedicated hours of reading tales, as well as historical backgrounds of different East Asian empires. It was crazy fun!
This one is basically the tale of the Dragon Lord and the Serpent God’s battle to overtake and control an empire. Again, I know nothing about Far Eastern folktales, but one this is for sure – you’ll get to picture some amazazzing dragon and celestial guardians.
A fun adventure
I really love Asian fantasy adventures, and I specifically love those that are meant to be read in a very detailed and leisurely manner like you’re in an adventure as well.
Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix can either be read fast, because YOU. JUST. CAN’T. STOP. Or you’ll read it leisurely – like I did – because you want to absorb each and every detail of the goddamn book!
Not only that, but also because this book imprints a very scenic imagery in my head that I can’t help but do sketches on my ARC while reading.
There’s no fun adventure without good companions. With Princess Jade on are her loving and trustworthy friends, Wren and Koichi. The chemistry between the three is immeasurable. Along the way, they also gathered additional companions that completed the journey.
I always tend to lean on having a supporting character as my favorite on most of my reading cases because many supporting characters are usually the level-headed and most likable ones. But with Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, there’s no doubt that Princess Jade is my favorite among the troop.
Princess Jade is calm and collective; she’s smart and she thinks before doing something rash or irrational. When she first met Xifeng, I always applaud her for her logical and rational behavior while around Xifeng. And even with her kind and demure nature, she has her inner kick-ass spirit.
AND I LOVE THAT.
Having Jade was a total 360 degree turn from our wicked Xifeng. I had a love and hate relationship with Xifeng and just rightfully so. If I am to read a book with anti-heroine, I must be given something that really screams “ANTI-HEROINE”, and Xifeng is definitely THAT unforgiving one. Having Xifeng’s dark and profoundly malevolent nature through and through has highlighted Jade’s pure and virtuous moral standards.
It’s that great.
Also, compared to Forest of A Thousand Lanterns, I personally think that Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is a lot easier to read. It can be because FoaTL has an unconventional premise (in a good way!) to it, or maybe simply because Dao’s writing has tremendously improved.
Either way, Julie C. Dao has succeeded into taking me in an extraordinary adventure, and that’s all that matters.
PS, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is a companion novel to Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. It can be read even without reading the predecessor book.
Disclaimer: The Royal Polar Bear Reads and I organized a PH blog tour for Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix. I received an ARC from Penguin Random House International in exchange for an honest review in participation for blog tour. This doesn’t affect my opinion of the book in this review in any way.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julie C. Dao
Julie C. Dao (www.juliedao.com) is a proud Vietnamese-American who was born in upstate New York. She studied medicine in college, but came to realize blood and needles were her Kryptonite. By day, she worked in science news and research; by night, she wrote books about heroines unafraid to fight for their dreams, which inspired her to follow her passion of becoming a published author. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is her debut novel. Julie lives in New England. Follow her on Twitter @jules_writes..
BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE
Tour organized by The Royal Polar Bear Reads and The Nocturnal Fey