Review of “Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix” (Rise of the Empress #2) by Julie C. Dao

Dao, Julie C.Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix. New York: Philomel Books, 2018.
Hardcover | $18.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1524738327 | 356 pages | YA Fantasy

5 stars

Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is a wonderful second book and conclusion to the Rise of the Empress duology. Just as the first book provided insight into Xifeng’s backstory and why she made choices she did, this book provides a fresh new take on the story of “Snow White,” with Jade being a sympathetic heroine and one who’s easy to root for. While it can be hard seeing Xifeng as the villain after rooting for her in the prior book in spite of it all, I felt Jade was loyal and good and still had the strength to go up against her stepmother.

It was nice that Xifeng’s past still played a pivotal role, with Wei making an unexpected appearance and being pivotal in taking her down. It’s great that, even though there is that shift in focus, there is still this issue to be resolved, and in an unexpectedly poignant way.

I also love the growing complexity of the world building, and hope we see more stories in this world, even if it’s not focused on these characters necessarily. Like, the Crimson Army is so freaking cool, and I think it would be cool to explore more with the different deities, since the Dragon King played such an important part in this book.

I would recommend this book to fantasy fans, especially if they like dark and gritty retellings.

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