Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven

Tuesday, September 11, 2018


by Grace Draven
Series: Fallen Empire #1
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Adult
Publisher: Berkley Publishing
Publication Date: September 25th 2018
Source: ARC received for review
Star Quotient: ★★★★
Kiss Factor: ✷✷✷✷

Phoenix Unbound would not have been on my radar had it not been for my good blogging friend, Jess. I'm very grateful that she urged me to pick up this breathtaking read because what a ride! Adult fantasy novels with a strong focus on romance are rare but books like Phoenix Unbound demonstrate just how much potential the subgenre has. I hope this book opens the door to more fantasy romance being published.

Every year each village has to send a woman to the Empire's capital to be used as prostitutes for the slave-gladiators fighting and to be burned alive as a sacrifice to the Gods in the Rites of Spring. For the past five years, Gilene, a fire witch with the ability to manipulate her appearance has been participating in this callous event to protect the women in her village. This year, however, things are different because of Azarion, a famous gladiator who blackmails her to escape the clutches of slavery. The tone of Phoenix Unbound, as you can imagine, was dark and brutal. The Empire's cruelty and violence were highlighted so brilliantly throughout the book. Clearly, Miss Draven is a sheer talent at world building because she has taken her time to create and flesh-out a setting that was as extensive as the character development here. I was fully immersed in not only the way of life of the Empire but also the other clans, particularly Azarion's one, the Savatar. Much of the plot revolved around Azarion using Gilene in order to escape and take his rightful place among his people. While there were definitely some slower moments, the book remained eventful and entertaining.

I attribute that partly to the phenomenal character development and partly to the luscious prose. Gilene was quite possibly my favorite character. She was brave and fierce and everything I could hope for from a fantasy heroine. Even when she is forced against her will to help Azarion, she remained true to herself and wasn't afraid to constantly call Azarion out for his behavior. She was a genuinely good person who cared greatly about others. She also experienced some growth in Phoenix Unbound as learned more about her super cool but draining abilities. By the end of the book, she was a much powerful version of herself and her growth was an absolute treat to experience. Azarion was also a character that I easily became enamored with. I was miserable reading about the torment that the Empire afflicted on him. It was hard to stomach, to be honest, but Azarion only worked as hard and as cleverly as he could in order to get out of his situation. Obviously, the woman in me was raging as he essentially kidnapped and blackmailed Gilene, but he had absolutely no other choice. Despite his actions, he was a good man who treated Gilene with respect just as long as he met his goals. When he was with his mother and his sister, he showed a much softer persona that I was very attracted to.

The romance in Phoenix Unbound was just the best kind. It was the perfect portrayal of the enemies-to-lovers trope. As Gilene and Azarion navigated their circumstances, they slowly began to trust and care for each other. Theirs was just the most amazing slow-burn romance. The progression of the relationship felt realistic and I delighted in every single scene that brought these two together. You cannot help but root for them and their happiness and Grace Draven delivered with the swoons. I was a hundred percent here for this memorable ship.

Phoenix Unbound was a terrific start to the Fallen Empire series. I've been told that this will be a companion series, so I am looking forward to what Grace Draven has up her sleeves for these characters. If it's going to be anything like Phoenix Unbound, then I am in for another stunning read.


Penguin Random House is hosting a sweepstake for Phoenix Unbound and a bunch of other fabulous reads. The giveaway runs from until September 19th 2018.


Do you enjoy fantasy romances? What are some of your favorites?
Let me know in the comments below!

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