Phoenix Unbound (Fallen Empire, #1) by Grace Draven
Narrator: Katharine McEwan
Series: Fallen Empire #1
Also in this series: Dragon Unleashed
Publication Date: September 25, 2018
Format: Audiobook, eBook
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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.
Phoenix Unbound is the first book in Grace Draven’s Fallen Empire series and it follows a young woman named Gilene who was born with fire magic. Each year, the Empire demands a sacrifice from each village in the form of a young woman who will be burned to death for the entertainment of the masses and each year, Gilene has been the sacrifice for her small town. With her fire magic and illusion, Gilene has been able to trick the Empire into believing that her town sends a new sacrifice each year and each year, her small town makes her pay the price.
When Gilene comes across the Empire’s winningest gladiator, her life is forever changed because Azarion knows Gilene’s secret. He can see through her illusion and knows she’s been coming every year. He needs her help in escaping his enslavement because he needs to go back home and re-claim his title and his family. He also needs to make sure that those who sold him into slavery pay for their crimes.
Rowena: Alright, so what did you guys think? Did you guys enjoy this book as much as you did Shadow and Ice? =P
Holly: I listened to the audiobook, and the first few chapters were pretty slow for me. I don’t know if it was because I was listening instead of reading, or just the book itself, but I struggled. By the halfway point (perhaps a bit sooner, I didn’t really pay attention to where I was at in the book) it picked up. Regardless, I ended up really loving it. Shadow and Ice, not so much.
Casee: Okay, I finally read this book and I really ended up enjoying it. I don’t think I liked it as much as you two did, but I did really like it. It started out really, really slow for me. I listened to it on audio. I liked the narrator, which always helps. It really wasn’t until they got back to Azarion’s homeland that the book started getting interesting.
Ha. This book was loads better than Shadow and Ice. The two don’t even compare.
Rowena: I read the eBook and was fine. I didn’t think it was slow at all, but that could have been because I was so bored through Shadow & Ice that the mystery behind what Gilene did for her village, every single year had me sitting up and taking notice right from the jump.
Holly: I really loved Gilene in this book. She was such a strong woman. I really identified with her determination to save her family, even if they didn’t necessarily deserve her sacrifice.
Rowena: Like Holly, I loved Gilene so much in this book but I also really loved Azarion. They were both going through so much that it was hard not to sympathize with them. I completely understood why Azarion did what he did to Gilene at the same time that I understood why Gilene had to get back to her village, and why she felt she had to continue to do what she does year in and year out even though her village probably didn’t deserve her sacrifice.
Holly: I understood why Azarion did what he did, too, though I didn’t fault Gilene for being angry at him over it. I also got why she needed to go back to her village. They definitely didn’t deserve her, but she couldn’t turn her back on them and I respected that.
Casee: I did find Gilene and her history interesting. I also found her a little insufferable. She was constantly fighting Azarion. I understood that, but at the same time I was like give it a rest, girl. Bide your time.
Holly: I didn’t find Gilene insufferable, though I did find myself thinking she needed to relax a little. She spent her whole life being told she had to do this one thing, so I understood where her head was at.
Rowena: That was the same for me. It’s hard not to sympathize with her considering the big sacrifice she had to go through every single year and then how else was she to respond to Azarion kidnapping her? I would have been fighting his ass at every turn too.
My favorite parts of the story were when Azarion and Gilene were back in his home…and when she fooled those guys that tried to attack her and the people of Azarion’s village. The way that she made the fire all big was great and I loved seeing her come into her own powers, especially in the end when she’s back in the empire. What were some of your favorite parts of the book?
Holly: I loved Azarion’s culture. It reminded me of the Dothraki from Game of Thrones. I really liked the time they spent with Azarion’s clan. His mom and sister were great, and I liked how Gilene proved herself. The scene you mentioned, definitely, plus her actions at the end. I loved how brave she was, and how willing she was to sacrifice it all for others.
Rowena: Yeah, same.
Casee: My favorite part of the book was when Azarion thought Gilene was lost to Agna forever. I think that scene truly showed the depths of his feelings for her. And when they found each other again? Sigh. That was just about perfection.
Rowena: How about Azarion’s cousin? I’m not going to lie, it brought me much joy when Azarion killed that little bitch with his Legolas horse shenanigans. That was great.
Holly: I loved it when Azarion finally took care of his cousin.
Rowena: Overall, I thought the story was interesting and I’m interested in keeping the party going. I’m thinking that homegirl from the caravan people is going to get a book and the other girl from the Empire, the one that was supposed to be burned up with Gilene the day that she went nuts on the empire. Which, by the way, was fantastic.
Holly: I think the caravan healer will have a book, and the other girl you mentioned. I hope we have more info about what’s next soon.
Casee: I did think it was interesting when Holly asked me if I thought Azarion was going to be Gilene’s hero. I never he thought he might not be. I did wonder how it was all going to work out though.
Rowena: This is was my first book by Grace Draven and it was a good one so I’m definitely keen on reading more from her. I give this one a 4 out of 5. What about you guys?
Holly: The story was definitely interesting. The beginning was slow, but the second half more than made up for it. I loved Gilene’s strength of will, and her determination to do the right thing no matter what. I loved Azarion, and how protective he was of her and how determined to do the right thing with his clan. I’m really looking forward to the next book. 4 out of 5
Casee: I’m giving this a 4 out of 5.
Holly: 4 out of 5
Rowena: 4 out of 5
I’ve enjoyed a number of books by Grace Draven; I’m looking forward to reading this one, too. Interesting to see that you all ended up with the same rating despite some different takes on the book. Thank you all!
Ooh, I hope you’ll keep us posted after you read this book. Let us know how you liked it. 🙂
Rowena, I read the book over the weekend and quite enjoyed it. I could certainly appreciate Gilene’s anger at Azarion while I could also understand why he took her captive. I’d agree with your rating.
I too will be interested to see what comes next in the series. The healer from the caravan and the woman who communicated with the dead seem to be likely future heroines.
Oh yay, I’m so glad that you enjoyed it Kareni! I can’t wait to see what’s next.