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Phoenix Unbound

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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 ye 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.


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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 ye 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.

30 review for Phoenix Unbound

  1. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    ARC provided by Berkley in exchange for an honest review. “Witch-fire the villagers named it. An ancient magic woven into the flesh and fabric of a single girl child born each generation in Beroe. No one knew from whence it originated or why only one woman from every generation in a small village inherited it, but the village elders had kept its secret close and had deceived the Empire for decades.” When Berkley offered me this, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew the author wrote a book that ARC provided by Berkley in exchange for an honest review. “Witch-fire the villagers named it. An ancient magic woven into the flesh and fabric of a single girl child born each generation in Beroe. No one knew from whence it originated or why only one woman from every generation in a small village inherited it, but the village elders had kept its secret close and had deceived the Empire for decades.” When Berkley offered me this, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew the author wrote a book that many of my friends love, Radiance, but that’s honestly all I really knew. But friends, I was completely enthralled and captivated by this from page one. I never wanted to put this down, I fell so in love with the romance in this book, and this is one of my new favorite fantasy romances of all time. And I immediately added Radiance to my TBR! I will say that the world in this book is very dark, so please use caution while reading. Content and trigger warnings for rape (brief, but at the very start of the book), attempted rape, threats of rape, assault, slavery, captivity, death, murder, torture, gore, violence, sacrificial ritual, blood depiction, self-harm, misogynistic comments, sexual content and war themes. “Be still. Be silent. Some lust for beauty, others for fear. Don’t show them yours.” But in this world, every year the surrounding villages are forced to give the empire girls to be given to the gladiators for the night, to only be burned at a pyre come morning. And if a village refuses to give up a girl, they will be made an example of. The empire is the farthest thing from forgiving, and both our main characters witness this first hand. ➽ Gilene - Fire witch who has been the sacrificial girl for her village for the last four years, using her magic to disguises herself as a new girl. Even though she has to endure the torture of the night, she is able to walk free from the fire every year, without anyone noticing. Well, she didn’t think anyone could notice. “Surely, he couldn’t recognize her. She’d returned to the capital time and again with a different face. Her skills with illusion were as refined as they were with fire. The slavers never knew they brought the same woman from Beroe to Kraelag year after year.” ➽ Azarion - The prime gladiator of the empire for the last ten years. He is a slave, and forced to fight in the arena, yet it also constantly gains him the attention of the Empress who does terrible things to him, in and out of her bed. Yet, when the girls to be sacrificed come in, and he has first pick, he sees a girl that he knows has been there before. And she might be his only chance at freedom. And the two of their paths come together, and they are both harboring secrets that will change the outcome of the other’s world. Friends, I fell so hard and so fast for this romance. Let me for sure preface the rest of the review with that I am aware there is a very big power imbalance between Gilene and Azarion, since he does force her to help him more than what she agreed to. She is forced to be his captive for about half of this book, but it never feels like a stockholm syndrome type of storyline, at least not to me. And even though this is a dark book with a bit of a power imbalance, the author puts a huge emphasis on consent. And even when Azarion is using his privilege over Gilene, it is always and constantly challenged. “I will conquer all of the Empire to bring you back.” (Beautiful fanart by Melanie Bourgeois!) ❤ I think this book always has a really thought-provoking message about living your life for you, and not living your life for the expectations that your family places upon you. Duty is a huge theme in this book, and Gilene and Azarion both become aware that they are so much more than what they are expected to do, and that they both deserve happiness. And I loved watching them both come together, both willing to sacrifice it all for their homes, to both realize that they are worthy of love; not just glory. And even though this is the start of a series, I really appreciated that the author really made this feel like a complete book. There is no terrible cliffhanger (even though the twists and turns are abundant), there is no unnecessary angst, there are no scenes that feel like filler. Yet, you are left wanting to read a hundred more books set in this world. Seriously, I’m here and ready for a book about a certain healer, a certain witch who can speak to the dead, and a certain f/f side romance that had me swooning. Like, all three (or four) books now, please! I’m begging! Overall, I really loved this. The worldbuilding is fantastic, the writing is lush and beautiful, and the characters are phenomenal. I feel like it is so hard to find a good fantasy romance these days. Yes, there are a ton of good fantasy with swoon-worthy romances, and my heart will always love the PNR genre more than words, but I always have found it difficult to find a lot of actual fantasy romances. Honestly, the only other one that I love that comes to mind is The Bird and the Sword. Like, I hope 2019 is the year that we just get a ton of books that beautiful blend romance and fantasy the way that Phoenix Unbound has done, because I need more. I can’t wait to see what Grace Draven does next in this world. Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Youtube | Twitch The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication. Buddy read with Amy at A Court of Crowns and Quills! ❤

  2. 5 out of 5

    Katerina

    Phoenix Unbound is a contradiction. It is tender and savage. Sweet yet bitter. Beautiful and disgusting. Heart-breaking and heart-mending. And, put simply, I loved it. “She and this slave fighter shared a common truth. He dealt with sword and ax, and she with fire.” Once upon a time, a fire witch and a gladiator crossed paths. Gilene had accepted that as the only person capable of protecting her village, she would be degraded and burned year after year in order to satisfy the bloodlust of a corrupt Phoenix Unbound is a contradiction. It is tender and savage. Sweet yet bitter. Beautiful and disgusting. Heart-breaking and heart-mending. And, put simply, I loved it. “She and this slave fighter shared a common truth. He dealt with sword and ax, and she with fire.” Once upon a time, a fire witch and a gladiator crossed paths. Gilene had accepted that as the only person capable of protecting her village, she would be degraded and burned year after year in order to satisfy the bloodlust of a corrupt empire. Azarion though, despite being a slave and a toy for the perversions of nobility, never gave up. For ten years he plotted his revenge and fed on his righteous fury, until the fire witch, the agacin, was the answer to his prayers. With her help, we would finally be able to reclaim his birthright and all that was stolen from him. Gilene didn't follow him willingly. She had a duty and a responsibility of her own, and only after extortions and threats she came to his aid. Through malevolent spirits and bounty hunters, through trials of the body and the mind, Gilene and Azarion fought, despaired, persisted . And formed a bond that years of sacrifice and torment could not tear apart. Only fire could. “This is why I hate the Empire most of all. Because it's twisted us into people we despise.” Phoenix Unbound is a tragic, raw, brutal ode to human spirit, to resilience, to passion, to hope amidst nightmares. It's the story of a vile, rotten empire reeking of debauchery that beat, disgraced, abused the heroes but didn't manage to break their spirit, their ability to love and care and stand up and defy it, in their own way. There was something incredibly raw and matter-of-factly when Grace Draven narrated the horrors they both faced, their physical and mental scars. Throughout the story, my chest cracked in two. I kept holding my breath and refused to release it until I was certain that their pain stopped. But it never did. It simply co-existed with the fury, the love, the simple wonder of being alive. Under Sky Below, amongst wild horses and celebrations, in haunted barrows and fire trials, I found a gem. I kept it and clenched it until my hands bled. That's how this story made me feel. Phoenix Unbound may be classed as fantasy romance, and the slow-burning, all-encompassing and soul-wrenching romance was indeed the main factor that made this novel so, so special, but it was not the only one. The tribes and their culture were so colourful and vibrant, the descriptions so authentic that transported you to Azarion and Gilene's world. Mind, though, that it is not a book for the faint-hearted. Rape, abuse, murder, they cast the blackest shadows that gave a bleak vibe to a story that finds the perfect balance between light and darkness. The portrayal of the Kraelian Empire is explicit, painful, a devastation to compete the wild beauty of the Savatar and their lands. But Grace Draven's adept fingers wove with clinical precision a tale that didn't shy away from the horrors, but at the same time basked in precious, warm rays of sunshine. Azarion and Gilene were two incredibly drawn characters, rare in their self-awareness, the acknowledgment of their strengths and their flaws, driven by devotion, bound by a common goal and tethered by a affection that slowly transformed into a blazing inferno. There was a soothing calmness I associated with Gilene, even when she was restless, afraid or angry. On the other hand, Azarion is scored on my heart with his intensity, his patience, the chaos that awaited to be set free. Their scenes were particularly tender for a book so bloody and cruel. [Source of this incredible fan art] Fiery romance, intense battles, terrifying magic, solid worldbuilding and a struggle for freedom and love are the main ingredients that mark Phoenix Unbound as an intoxicating, unique story that every reader will devour! *ARC generously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review* Note: The quotes used in this review are from an uncorrected text and subject to changes. Review also posted on BookNest!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Laura Thalassa

    4.23.2018 What a freaking ride! This book was everything I wanted and more. I'm desperately hoping this is the beginning of a series because I need M-O-R-E! So if any of you have seen me on Facebook, you know I've been harping about this book for a while now. I mean, Grace won me over with Radiance, so I know anything she writes is gold, but when she happened to mention researching kurgans (totally worth Wiki-ing if you've never heard of the term before) the psycho archaeology nut in me went rabi 4.23.2018 What a freaking ride! This book was everything I wanted and more. I'm desperately hoping this is the beginning of a series because I need M-O-R-E! So if any of you have seen me on Facebook, you know I've been harping about this book for a while now. I mean, Grace won me over with Radiance, so I know anything she writes is gold, but when she happened to mention researching kurgans (totally worth Wiki-ing if you've never heard of the term before) the psycho archaeology nut in me went rabid. PSA: You DO NOT have to know anything about this topic to enjoy the book. I think Grace took pity on me because I was light-core stalking her updates on Phoenix Unbound, and I got an ARC. (*squeals* I still can't believe I got an ARC!) Moral of the story: creeping on authors can get you ARCs. Just kidding kids. Don't stalk. Now onto the book itself. (This book!!!!) Aside from the backdrop, it had an enemies-to-lovers story line, which I have SUCH a weakness for. Truly what I adore about these relationships are the wide range of emotions you feel for each character, and how, over time, they shift, seemingly without you noticing. Grace developed this masterfully. But perhaps the thing I love most about Grace's writing is how real it is. The characters aren't cliches, they look and think like real people; the world is so thoroughly and intricately crafted (more on that); even the magical elements are folded into the story in a way that makes sense. In this vein, there's a theme that runs throughout this book: nothing comes free--not love, not magic, not loyalty, not even freedom. Each one is hard fought for, and all have consequences. Now, the worldbuilding. I feel like this deserves a mention of its own. No one does fantasy like Grace Draven does. Seriously. I think that behind every amazing fantasy book is a lush, semi-historical backdrop, and this book is no exception. I'm pretty sure years of research went into the creation of Phoenix Unbound. Even though it's not a "historical" romance, the workings of the world were touched on in a way that made it so very vivid and impossible to write about without having a great deal of knowledge on the subject. Grace must've read up on how to ferment mare's milk and how to hand-dye linen. She must've studied how seasons affect the movements of herd animals and how that, in turn, might affect the nomads that live off of said herds. She must've researched guilds and gladiators and traveling merchants and archaic healing methods, and on and on and on the list goes. None of these details ever really draw attention to themselves (because this ISN'T a history or even a historical romance), but it's a testament to how truly singular Grace Draven is as a fantasy author that she makes sure she knows her world down to its most humble workings. All in all, Phoenix Unbound was a beautifully written fantasy that took me away from my life for a time. Grace weaves a spellbinding book that is impossible to forget. Even now, days after I've finished it, the story still lingers with me. I can't give this book enough praise. I came into it with stupidly high expectations, and it exceeded them all. *Now cue one hell of a book hangover.* 3.30.2018 I GOT AN ARC!!!!! This is literally my most anticipated read of the year, and I'm not sure I can handle having this thing on my kindle. I started this last night, and OMG, guys, GUYS, you know when you want to cry and shout at the same time because a book is so good you swear it was written for you? That's this mutha effin book. This BOOK. Alright, a much longer and fleshed out review is coming as soon as I finish this thing!

  4. 5 out of 5

    destiny ♎ [howling libraries]

    Every now and then, I get in these reading moods—more and more often lately—where I find myself craving a really good, swoon-worthy fantasy romance. I’d been in that mood for a few weeks when I decided to pick up Phoenix Unbound, and let me tell you, damn, does this book hit the spot. For Gilene, spring was the season neither of rain nor of planting, but of suffering. Born a fire-witch, one of Gilene’s various magical abilities is that she is unharmed by fire—which means that, in her village Every now and then, I get in these reading moods—more and more often lately—where I find myself craving a really good, swoon-worthy fantasy romance. I’d been in that mood for a few weeks when I decided to pick up Phoenix Unbound, and let me tell you, damn, does this book hit the spot. For Gilene, spring was the season neither of rain nor of planting, but of suffering. Born a fire-witch, one of Gilene’s various magical abilities is that she is unharmed by fire—which means that, in her village of Beroe, she is forced to attend each year’s sacrificial slaughter in the Empire, where a woman from each village is burned alive for entertainment and holy blessings. We quickly learn that her sacrifice comes not just from selflessness, but from the village’s shackles on her family; if Gilene refuses, her loved ones will pay the cost. So, each year, she burns again and again, as she slowly becomes this jaded, cynical woman whose sole purpose is to keep struggling through life until the next spring’s sacrifices. Despite (or as a result of) being a victim of so many varying abuses—whether it’s the village folk’s entrapment of her family, or the rape and burning she undergoes each spring, or the fact that she is forced to watch innocent women die at her side year after year—Gilene is such a strong, no-nonsense heroine, and I freaking love it. She’s tough as nails, but with a heart of pure gold, and she treasures her responsibility and family above all else. To endure was to survive. On the other hand, we have Azarion, whose “privileges” as the top gladiator in the Empire don’t negate the fact that he is a man who’s been sold into a vicious slavery trade. He faces daily abuses varying from physical to sexual and everything in between, and he bears countless scars, inside and out, but he is also a man with a mission to return to his people, and he refuses to let anything break him. My heart broke for Azarion every step of the way. I know he doesn’t always do the right things, but he progresses so much and recognizes his own flaws, and even before he reaches that point, I couldn’t bring myself to fault him because what he’s gone through is just so brutal. Plus, I know I always talk about this, but I’m such a sucker for grouchy heroes with mushy, soft hearts under their tough exteriors, and Azarion totally fits the bill. “This is why I hate the Empire most of all,” she said. “Because it’s twisted us into people we despise.” If you’re looking for a slow-burning, methodical fantasy story, look no further, because the bulk of Phoenix Unbound is actually about Azarion and Gilene’s journey to find Azarion’s people, and the lengths he must go to in order to reclaim his birthright. There’s a wonderful amount of world-building, as well as side characters everywhere you turn that are so lovable and complex (including my favorite, Azarion’s queer sister, Tamura). There’s nonstop suspense, and I was surprised by a few incredibly creepy scenes including dark, ghostlike entities that were not here to play. “I once thought I would always hate you, gladiator. That isn’t true now.” If you’re like me, though, what drew you to this story was probably the promise of a fantastic enemies-to-lovers romance, and this does not disappoint in the least. The buildup between these two is agonizingly slow at times, but in the best way—I flew through every chapter, knowing the wait would be worth it, and I was so right. Gilene and Azarion are two wonderful, wholesome, broken people, and watching them come together is the perfect star-crossed tragedy. I wanted so many more sweet scenes between them, and even if I wasn’t invested in the overall plot with the corrupted Empire, I know I would be coming back just for more of these two. Fate was a vicious taskmaster of cruel, arbitrary humors, but every once in a while, it granted a boon in its own twisted way. Phoenix Unbound was an absolutely delightful read that I could not get enough of. I binge read the entire book in one day, and immediately wanted more when it was over. I don’t know how I’m possibly going to wait for the sequel, but I am so happy that it’s listed as the beginning of a series, and I can’t wait to see what happens next! Content warnings for rape (including an explicit, on-page scene in chapter 2), physical abuse, violence, murder, imprisonment, infertility. All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to Berkley/Ace for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nenia ✨ Queen of Literary Trash, Protector of Out-of-Print Gems, Khaleesi of Bodice Rippers, Mother of Smut, the Unrepentant, Breaker of Convention ✨ Campbell

    I VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE TO READ AN ARC OF THIS #JUSTSAYING #CANTBLAMEMEFORTRYING #NEED #NEEDNEEDNEED #ALSONEED

  6. 4 out of 5

    Carole (Carole's Random Life in Books)

    This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books. I thought that this book was excellent. I had not read any of Grace Draven's work before picking this book up but I had heard a lot of really good things. Since the premise of this book appealed to me, I decided to give it a try which ended up being a very good decision. I made the mistake of starting this book just before I planned to go to sleep. I had planned to read just one chapter but the first chapter of this book blew me away This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books. I thought that this book was excellent. I had not read any of Grace Draven's work before picking this book up but I had heard a lot of really good things. Since the premise of this book appealed to me, I decided to give it a try which ended up being a very good decision. I made the mistake of starting this book just before I planned to go to sleep. I had planned to read just one chapter but the first chapter of this book blew me away and I didn't want to stop after just one chapter. It has been a long time since I picked up a book with such a strong opening. I had a great time reading this amazing story. Gilene and Azarion have both been through a lot. Gilene has been sent by her village to the capital as a sacrifice to be burned alive. She has a few special powers and has survived this event for the past five years but not without a terrible cost. Azarion is the best gladiator in the capital. He was sold into slavery ten years prior and it is really a miracle that he has been able to survive not only the fighting but the empress's whims. I liked both of these characters. Gilene accepted her role and did her best to continue to protect her village. Azarion has not given up hope of returning to his homeland and he sees that Gilene may be the key to making it happen. I completely understood his desperation and his willingness to force Gilene to aide him with his plan. This was a really exciting story that explored several unique and interesting settings. The horror of the Empire was incredibly vivid and emotional. It pained me to think of the needless sacrifice so many women were forced to make for the amusement of others. The book takes the reader on a journey of the lands surrounding the capital where each was a little different but still touched by the empire's power. Azarion's homeland was such a nice contrast to the capital and I really enjoyed learning about his village. There were plenty of action scenes to keep the pages turning. Azarion and Gilene find themselves in trouble at various points of the story and there were times that I found myself holding my breath because I was worried about how things would turn out. It was fun to watch them learn to start trusting and counting on each other. I thought that the romance that built between them felt very authentic. I really enjoyed the extra abilities of both Azarion and Gilene and thought it added an interesting element to the story. I would recommend this book to others. I thought that this book blended fantasy and romance in a spectacular manner that had me wanting things to work out for the characters more than anything. I can't wait to read more books in this series! I received a digital review copy of this book from Berkley Publishing Group - Ace via Net Galley and First to Read. Initial Thoughts I thought that this was really good. Gilene and Azarion were both great characters and I loved that we got to see then in a number of really interesting and varied settings. There was plenty of action and suspenseful moments in addition to a few that melted my heart. This one is definitely worth picking up.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Christie«SHBBblogger»

    Title: Phoenix Unbound Series: Fallen Empire #1 Author: Grace Draven Release date: September 25, 2018 Cliffhanger: No HEA(view spoiler)[Yes (hide spoiler)] She and this slave fighter shared a common truth. He dealt death with sword and ax, and she with fire. Neither commanded their fates. This is exactly the kind of fantasy I love to read, but is so difficult to find. The storyline instantly engaged me, first of all. Which is not very common in the genre, as a general rule. The first in a fantasy seri Title: Phoenix Unbound Series: Fallen Empire #1 Author: Grace Draven Release date: September 25, 2018 Cliffhanger: No HEA(view spoiler)[Yes (hide spoiler)] She and this slave fighter shared a common truth. He dealt death with sword and ax, and she with fire. Neither commanded their fates. This is exactly the kind of fantasy I love to read, but is so difficult to find. The storyline instantly engaged me, first of all. Which is not very common in the genre, as a general rule. The first in a fantasy series tends to take more time to get into because of the world building detail. In this case, Grace Draven has done a flawless job setting the scene in bite sized increments that allow you to sink your teeth into the real flesh of the story. I didn't waste a moment of this book. I painstakingly consumed it, savoring the atmospheric world one word at a time. You will take a trip out of the dank cells at the coliseum with captive blood soaked gladiators, through haunted towns, barrows with demonic guardians, past the imposing fire veil to the beautiful Sky Below. Where revenge will be satisfied, and two reluctant hearts will twine together that are destined to be torn apart. Azarion and Gilene's personal plights are front and center from page one in gritty, raw, detail. Enslaved to the foul Empire, they no longer have the privilege of living a normal life. Their whole existence is narrowed down to one simple goal: survival. Honor, perseverance, and courage are traits they both share, and they were both equally heroic characters in their own right. Be prepared for them to cast their spell upon you and leave you utterly enchanted. When the struggle only pleased the torturer and made the torture worse, you stopped fighting and learned to endure. To endure was to survive. Gilene has the unfortunate duty of being the sacrificial lamb for Beroe year after year. Every generation, one person is born with her gift of fire manipulation. They're expected to become a "Flower of Spring" to be burned on the pyre as an offering to the gods. She faces her responsibility with grim obedience, because the alternative would weigh too heavily on her conscience. How could she refuse, when other lives would be lost unnecessarily? Possibly even those in her own family? While I admired her for her incredible strength, those she protected were selfish and weak in comparison. I loathed them all for hiding behind her, and forcing her into a lifetime of hell. Physically and emotionally, she's a force to be reckoned with. Spiritually she is broken. The bitterness she feels towards the gods is something that holds her back from grasping who she truly is. She is a woman of immense power, even holding the ability of illusion, which is unheard of for other fire witches. Her latest illusion is about to fail her in the most spectacular of ways, and it will change her life forever. Azarion is the Gladius Prime at the Coliseum. After ten years of enslavement to the Empire, he has become the fiercest fighter to play in their deadly games. He lives with one goal in mind, and that is to return to the Stara Dragana and reclaim what was stolen from him so long ago. All of the torture he's suffered only fueled the fire inside him to find justice. Gilene is his key to achieving that, and he doesn't hesitate to coerce, threaten, and kidnap in order to set his plan in motion. There wasn't a moment of boredom with these two as they made their way to his clan on their long journey. Their path certainly wasn't for the faint of heart, but luckily they were both well used to tests of character and strength. Together, they were a force to be reckoned with. Grudgingly, on her part. While he grew closer to everything he ever wanted with each step they took, hers took her away from where she was honor bound to be. The tension between them was well done, ratcheting up my excitement to see them come together and help find some measure of healing. Painful memories battered him. He allowed them their abuse, then pushed them away. He might one day be able to face them and not flinch, scatter them into nothing because they no longer meant anything to him, but today was not that day. This book. This incredible book. I loved every single minute in between the pages, and my mind refused to leave long after I closed it. It holds nothing back and goes right for the jugular. It was brutal fights, lovers finding tender solace, awe-inspiring backdrops, and some kick ass, powerful magic. Most importantly, as you can expect from Grace Draven, she has created characters you have no choice but to become invested in, and root for good to conquer evil. It's invigorating to find a fantasy that isn't something you've read a million times before. It was different even from what I was expecting based on what she delivered in Radiance. It had a noticeably darker tone, but she didn't skimp on the emotional development of the romance in between the suspense. It was a slow burn in the background that was magnificent when it finally sparked. The ending was breathtaking!! My heart was in my throat the entire time, and I was white-knuckling my kindle through the action. And the good news? There is NO cliffy at the end, it leaves you with more story to tell, but not in a place of suspense. So really, what are you waiting for? Go one-click this stunning introduction to the Fallen Empire series, where a thrilling adventure awaits you. FOLLOW SMOKIN HOT BOOK BLOG ON:

  8. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    Grace Draven books always seems to have a very interesting premise, but for whatever reason I just never find myself really drawn into them. They are written well enough with believable (yet a little sparse) world building, but the story pacing is where I find myself zoning out at times. The basic idea behind this book is that in a fantasy world there is an empire that forces every town to sacrifice a woman to be taken to the capital for a ritual burning. One town has a woman (Gilene) who can't Grace Draven books always seems to have a very interesting premise, but for whatever reason I just never find myself really drawn into them. They are written well enough with believable (yet a little sparse) world building, but the story pacing is where I find myself zoning out at times. The basic idea behind this book is that in a fantasy world there is an empire that forces every town to sacrifice a woman to be taken to the capital for a ritual burning. One town has a woman (Gilene) who can't be burned by the flames, so she is sent every year. This year in the capital she meets a man (Azarion) who is forced to be a gladiator for the empire and he blackmails her into freeing him. He neglects to mention he is also going to need her help so he can win back his position in his hometown/clan (none of this is a spoiler - it's in the blurb). I liked that Gilene resists Azarian at first but I wished there was more witty bickering or something between them. Instead they travel together quite a bit which isn't exciting, and then there is some clan politics which is a bit boring, and then at the end there is a big battle because basically every fantasy book ends with a battle. None of that stuff interested me much. I was hoping for perhaps some dramatic cultural shunning of Gilene by Azarian's clan, or conniving attempts to kill Azarian immediately upon his return. Instead everything happens in a pretty linear fashion with no real twists until pretty much the very end. Once again I find myself reading the first book of one of Draven's series, but feeling zero need to read any subsequent books. Let me know when she starts a new series, I'll probably give it a try once again anyways LOL

  9. 4 out of 5

    Corina☞BookTwinsReviews

    Phoenix Unbound has been a highly anticipated novel for me. I have enjoyed Grace Draven’s past novels and I couldn’t wait to read this first book in a new series. I enjoyed getting into this new story. Phoenix Unbound opened up a wonderfully vibrant and detailed new world. The premise alone was fascinating. Engaging characters, and a slow burn romance kept me flipping the pages. A gladiator and a witch just sounded too fascinating not to pick up. And I’m glad I did. Grace Draven knows how to tell a Phoenix Unbound has been a highly anticipated novel for me. I have enjoyed Grace Draven’s past novels and I couldn’t wait to read this first book in a new series. I enjoyed getting into this new story. Phoenix Unbound opened up a wonderfully vibrant and detailed new world. The premise alone was fascinating. Engaging characters, and a slow burn romance kept me flipping the pages. A gladiator and a witch just sounded too fascinating not to pick up. And I’m glad I did. Grace Draven knows how to tell a story. Layered, complex and captivating, Phoenix Unbound promises a new wonderful series that I can’t wait to read more about it. But I must admit, the novel wasn’t perfect. At times the story dragged, and the chemistry between the characters was slow to develop. That could have been because it was the first book in a new series, or because it was only the first book about this couple. At this point I don’t know if the second book will be about Gilene and Azarion again or not. I would certainly love for it to be about Gilene and Azarion. I want to know so much more about this couple, and they just started on their journey together. But what I can say with certainty is that I’m hooked. I want to read more about this fascinating world, its people and the characters I met so far. For more of my reviews: My Blog: Book Twins Reviews Facebook Blog Page Twitter Subscribe to Blog

  10. 4 out of 5

    Hollis

    So, right off the bat I have to clarify that this isn't quite as good as Wraith Kings or Master of Crows or, my all-time fave, ENTREAT ME. The writing for this particular new series feels different, not bad different, just.. had you handed me this book and had me guess the author, I would never have suspected Draven. I don't know if it's just me or what but I look forward to discussing that with others as more and more people get their hands on this title. "I may curse your name for dragging me h So, right off the bat I have to clarify that this isn't quite as good as Wraith Kings or Master of Crows or, my all-time fave, ENTREAT ME. The writing for this particular new series feels different, not bad different, just.. had you handed me this book and had me guess the author, I would never have suspected Draven. I don't know if it's just me or what but I look forward to discussing that with others as more and more people get their hands on this title. "I may curse your name for dragging me here. But I shall never forget this place. I shall never forget you." That said! I definitely enjoyed this. The worldbuilding, the various cultures of the people within, the magic, it was all interesting. We have a reluctant partnership between our two leads, though said partnership is more in a reluctant captive to their captor situation, but the slowburn subtle change in their relationship is delightful. It isn't as intense or swoony as Draven's previous OTPs but she's a spunky fire witch who is driven to annual sacrifice and pain for her people because she feels it is her duty and he's an unwilling gladiator who has survived a decade of violence and abuse with the hope that one day he will return to his home. "What if I had fallen or couldn't keep up?" "I would have carried you." The pacing does feel a mite off, some weird transitions, and because this is listed as first in the series I definitely expected a cliffhanger with the way things start going near the end. And there wasn't one. Which made certain events feel kind of.. off. I don't know. The very end was great but there was a weird lull after a whole lot of action and I don't really know if there is to be more or what. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this. Though it maybe lacked some of the usual Draven magic and intensity that I've come to expect, all the elements are still there and so I'm going to round up on this baby. 3.75 "not all shackles were fashioned of iron" stars

  11. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    Phoenix Unbound contains a complex, captivating, dark and compelling plot that I couldn't help but love every second of it! That being said, its a snowball rolling down the hill read. It starts out with a young woman being sent by her tribe as a sacrifice to the evil ruler's gods and ends up being SO. MUCH. MORE. What can I say but I'm completely hooked. Draven writes a high fantasy packed with all my favorites, magic, mayhem, romance and writing that rivets the read to the pages. I simply can't Phoenix Unbound contains a complex, captivating, dark and compelling plot that I couldn't help but love every second of it! That being said, its a snowball rolling down the hill read. It starts out with a young woman being sent by her tribe as a sacrifice to the evil ruler's gods and ends up being SO. MUCH. MORE. What can I say but I'm completely hooked. Draven writes a high fantasy packed with all my favorites, magic, mayhem, romance and writing that rivets the read to the pages. I simply can't wait for more in the Fallen Empire world. Quite frankly after finishing Phoenix Unbound, I know I will be heading off to read more by Grace Draven! I received this ARC copy of Phoenix Unbound from Berkley Publishing Group - Ace. This is my honest and voluntary review. Phoenix Unbound is set for publication September 25, 2018. Rating: 5 stars A FAVORITE Read for 2018 Written by: Grace Draven Series: The Fallen Empire (Book 1) Paperback: 400 pages Publisher: Ace (September 25, 2018) Language: English ISBN-10: 0451489756 ISBN-13: 978-0451489753 Genre: Romantic High Fantasy Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Phoenix-Unboun... Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/phoe... Itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/phoe... Want more check us out on Tome Tender Book Blog or on Facebook

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mogsy (MMOGC)

    4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2018/09/24/... The first and only other book I’ve ever read by Grace Draven is Master of Crows, and clearly she has come a long way in the almost ten years since then. What hasn’t changed at all though, is her knack for writing a swoon-worthy fantasy romance. Speaking of someone who typically stays away from this subgenre, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Phoenix Unbound. Set in a world inspired by the bloodier and more decadent elem 4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2018/09/24/... The first and only other book I’ve ever read by Grace Draven is Master of Crows, and clearly she has come a long way in the almost ten years since then. What hasn’t changed at all though, is her knack for writing a swoon-worthy fantasy romance. Speaking of someone who typically stays away from this subgenre, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Phoenix Unbound. Set in a world inspired by the bloodier and more decadent elements of the Roman Empire, this story follows the journey of two people thrust together under unfortunate circumstances. Every year during the Rites of Spring, the capital holds a lavish festival in which a great bonfire ceremony takes place requiring each village to offer up a young woman as sacrifice to be burned alive. However, the village of Beroe has a secret: for the last five years, they have sent the same woman. Gilene is her name, and as a fire witch, she cannot be burned. Using her magic, she changes her appearance, takes her place on the pyre, and then conjures up an illusion of a grand inferno to mask her escape so that she can survive to do it all over again in a year’s time. While this process is painful, demoralizing, and traumatic, Gilene sees it as her sacred duty to perform, as it means sparing the other young women in her village a horrifying fate. But this year, she did not anticipate Azarion. For close to a decade, he has been forced to fight in the brutal arenas to satiate his empress’s bloodlust, becoming a gladiator of much renown. And for some reason, he can see through Gilene’s illusions. Using her as a key to his escape, Azarion kidnaps Gilene after the ceremony, threatening to expose her secret if she doesn’t accompany him back to his village and help him reclaim his birthright. Trusting in his people’s reverence for fire witches, he hopes that Gilene’s support would allow him to challenge for the role of clan head, a position that was his before a traitorous cousin sold him into slavery. Thinking of Beroe and her own family, Gilene has no choice but to do what he says, realizing that the sooner Azarion can get his revenge, the sooner she can return home and prevent more death. What she didn’t foresee, however, was how the idea of home would also change for her. I’ll admit it. There’s a lot of fantasy romance fiction out there that makes me want to cringe, tear my hair out with frustration, or roll my eyes at the cheesiness of it all. Apparently though, I’ve just been reading all the wrong books. Phoenix Unbound is proof that good writing can make all the difference. Building a believable, complex romance is an art, and too many authors try to rush the process without first establishing a connection between the characters. It is a step that becomes even more critical when considering relationships like the one between Gilene and Azarion. Hate-to-love romances are immensely popular, but I find they also get bungled a lot in many books, mainly because timing and rhythm have to be just right. Happily, Draven doesn’t miss a beat. Readers already know Gilene and Azarion will fall in love, but the narrative makes them (and us) work for it, drawing out their courtship and delaying the gratification until the two characters are emotionally invested in each other, and we’re emotionally invested in them. This does mean the romance takes longer to develop, but it’s worth it, and I think the results speak for themselves. Far from making me want to cringe (or tear my hair out, or roll my eyes) the final scene in the book almost moved me to tears because it was so perfect and beautiful. Plus, I can’t say the measured pacing of the romance really bothered me at all, since there was so much else going on in the story to occupy my attention. Despite some of the more well-trodden tropes, there are many other aspects of the book that feel genuine and unique, like the personalities of the characters, both major and minor. Each person comes across as real and lived-in, with distinct attitudes, motivations, strengths and flaws. Draven also brings her Fallen Empire world to life with lushly described details and stunning imagery, instilling feeling into her environments which provides an extra emotional layer to the events and character interactions playing out on the page. My point is, Phoenix Unbound isn’t simply about a love story. It is the full package. Grace Draven has been working hard at her craft, and it shows. This book is full of beautiful and tragic moments, scenes of both ferocious violence and intense passion. The exquisite slow-burning romance between Gilene and Azarion is balanced with outstanding characterization and world-building, fueling my enthusiasm and interest in the story as its developments unfolded. Fantasy romance authors and readers take note, because this is the way it should be done. This novel drew me in completely, and I hope we’ll be seeing more from this universe.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cait • A Page with a View

    This was a DNF so I'm leaving off a rating... too much swearing and too little that I connected with or cared about.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Douglas Meeks

    I was not sure exactly what to expect from this new series from Grace Draven since I am hopelessly addicted to her “Wraith Kings” series but I did not want to see that story rehashed into another series but since I have pretty much considered almost everything she has written in the 5 Star area I was expecting a lot so I should not have worried, totally different story and setting. Can’t say I was disappointed since we have somewhat of a basic epic fantasy type of a plot where we have a couple th I was not sure exactly what to expect from this new series from Grace Draven since I am hopelessly addicted to her “Wraith Kings” series but I did not want to see that story rehashed into another series but since I have pretty much considered almost everything she has written in the 5 Star area I was expecting a lot so I should not have worried, totally different story and setting. Can’t say I was disappointed since we have somewhat of a basic epic fantasy type of a plot where we have a couple that meets under somewhat horrific circumstances and proceeds along a line of escape while rolling around in a love/hate relationship (mostly hate for at least a third of the book) but a gripping story emerges as we go along and as with most epic fantasy type stories it is detailed in the telling. This story does not allow you to go along with some fairy tale idea that bad things never happen to good people, there are some bad times and horrible people which give it a depth of realism missing from many such books of this genre but it does make you crack an evil smile when payback comes. We have old revenge plots, an evil empire, an even more evil Empress (seriously evil), some really hard decisions, a bit of old magic, impossible odds and so what more could you want? The thing that makes her writing a bit more than others, a believable romance that has no “insta-love” involved that many writers use to save pages or because it is hard to do, this story makes it look obvious. Her forte IMHO in this genre is her ability to weave the romance into the body of her stories and slowly make it a main component and not a “plug in some romance and sex here” type of formulaic writing style. I won’t detail the plot, there are some surprises and both of our couple are pretty hard headed and stubborn but also feel they have a great responsibility (which in the case of our heroine is convoluted and no easy choice in any direction). I love the way this plays out and the ending was thankfully pretty much no cliffhanger and if not for a couple of dangling threads you would think it was the end of the story which made me love it even more. I had to think about this story for a long time to decide the rating I would give it because I loved the ending so much but at the same time it was well into the second half of the book before it became a “can’t put it down” story so 4 Stars and assuming there is a 5 star book or 2 coming in this series.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    Happy release day to this book! I *loved* it. Obviously. -------------------------------------------- WOW. this is my first book by this author and WOW. OMG. I NEED MORE. i own 2 of her other books - the wraith king ones, i think the series is called? i just noticed there is a 3rd coming out so i might try and wait till it's finished before reading because ugh i cannot handle waiting!! i ADORED this. so hard. i need to put my words together but i'm struggling. enemies to lovers = SOLD. i love a good e Happy release day to this book! I *loved* it. Obviously. -------------------------------------------- WOW. this is my first book by this author and WOW. OMG. I NEED MORE. i own 2 of her other books - the wraith king ones, i think the series is called? i just noticed there is a 3rd coming out so i might try and wait till it's finished before reading because ugh i cannot handle waiting!! i ADORED this. so hard. i need to put my words together but i'm struggling. enemies to lovers = SOLD. i love a good enemies to lovers but hate when it's not developed properly - i don't want them to fall in love overnight or suddenly be besties and then lovers. no. i want it to be gradual, i want to feel the change, watch their relationship develop and mature. i want to understand both sides and want to smoosh them together. this book hit all the nails on all the heads and there was much smooshing wanted. and granted. GAH. so much love. the world building was fantastic - sufficiently confusing at first but made sense quickly without treating the reader like an idjit. everything seems so realistic and you can tell the author did her research on little things. the cultures, the different groups of people - i felt like i was there. i understood why gilene wanted to do what she wanted to do, even though i didn't necessarily agree. in the end, i loved how it all played out and who came to visit/help her. i totally got teary. it was beautiful in all the ways. i was SO into this book, these characters, i was so cranky that i had to go to stupid sleep instead of continuing. but as soon as i woke up, i dove right back in and it was everything. i am so so in love with this characters, this world, this story. so yeah, five - ten! - stars, need the next one, absolutely amazing and wonderful, i hope her other books are this fantastic because even though i'm telling myself i will hold off, i know i won't be able to resist. i can also see myself rereading this one before the next one comes out. ---------------------------------------- wow. wow. WOW. loved it. WOW. review to come closer to release date. but seriously. LOVED IT. when is the next one coming out?! ARC received from netgalley in exchange for honest review

  16. 4 out of 5

    Minni Mouse

    2.5 stars because after the first few action-packed and suspenseful chapters, the rest was surprisingly boring. Like, long-journey-to-nowhere-and-aimless-basket weaving-with-the-in laws level of boring. THE GOOD 1) Book chemistry at first with the Ancient Civilizations setting and slave trope and gladiators and escaping together and speshull powers. 2) Gritty worldbuilding in those first few chapters with violence and depravity. I was about to settle in for a grim, unabashed fantasy story. THE BAD 1) 2.5 stars because after the first few action-packed and suspenseful chapters, the rest was surprisingly boring. Like, long-journey-to-nowhere-and-aimless-basket weaving-with-the-in laws level of boring. THE GOOD 1) Book chemistry at first with the Ancient Civilizations setting and slave trope and gladiators and escaping together and speshull powers. 2) Gritty worldbuilding in those first few chapters with violence and depravity. I was about to settle in for a grim, unabashed fantasy story. THE BAD 1) Wait, what? So why does Gilene have the ability to change her face? Why was there no mention whatsoever of her family and brothers after her abduction right before their eyes? What was the significance of that haunted Midigar city? Who or what was the main antagonist supposed to be if not the Empress or Azarion's cousin? What was the point of the Guild caravan since we spent so long with them? Why 2) If felt like this was the first draft of the story rather than the final. Missing character development, uneven plot development, and murky world building all up the wazoo. We'd have whole chapters of scenes and secondary characters that literally added nothing crucial to the story other than to weigh it down. 3) Zero chemistry between Gilene and Azarion. 4) Zero effs about the purpose of the story or what each main person's character motivation defined their journeys. FINAL THOUGHTS Felt like a weaker, bastardized version of both the culture assimilation of Warprize as well as the goddess powers of Immortal Fire ...except without the intrigue and mysticism and quality. Romantasy is one of my favorite genres ever and I was so incredibly excited to start this book. Unfortunately, it lost whatever tone it was going for and became an off-kilter blend of half-hearted wanderings. It wasn't a romantasy, guilty-pleasure kidnapping journey like A Promise of Fire , a depraved story like Mistress of Rome, a blending of cultures and romance like Outlander, nor a mythology fantasy like Red Winter . It just felt so out of place and dull. Started liberally skimming by 20% through the end. Unfortunate misfire by a trusted favorite author.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sophie "Beware Of The Reader"

    “The two of them were bound by a common past of subjugation and a resolve to overcome the damage it wrought.”   4 solid stars   I think this first quote is the best way to symbolize Azarion and Gilene’s relationship as well as give you a taste of Grace Draven beautiful yet not too flowery ‘s writing. I had no idea this book was about to be published untill I saw its review on Mel’s blog. It was a one click as I adored Eidolon! What I got was a solid, steady story about a very slow burn relationshi “The two of them were bound by a common past of subjugation and a resolve to overcome the damage it wrought.”   4 solid stars   I think this first quote is the best way to symbolize Azarion and Gilene’s relationship as well as give you a taste of Grace Draven beautiful yet not too flowery ‘s writing. I had no idea this book was about to be published untill I saw its review on Mel’s blog. It was a one click as I adored Eidolon! What I got was a solid, steady story about a very slow burn relationship. Grace Draven didn’t make the romance the focal point of this story. As it probably is the setting of a series, I expect or rather need more of a romantic trope in the second book. This was about two people who have been toys of a cruel empire. Most people are abused by this empire who does not care for its citizen but rather indulges its sovereigns. Among the rulers prevails the evil empress. The whole purpose of the book is to escape the empire’s clutches, plot a revenge against the traitors and ultimately against the empire. When Gilene meets Azarion it’s not insta love nor insta lust nor insta friendship. There may be some compassion as Gilene realizes Azarion is a pawn and goes through insufferable cruelty in the pit but also at the hands of the empress. She is chained to her fate, condemned to burn again and again to spare her village because of the empire’s sick amusement. He is forced to fight and kill every day just to be abused and raped right after. When Gilene tends to Azarion’s wounds she does it with care and empathy. Yet she resents Azarion for what he’ll force her to do. Never in her life had Gilene a real choice, a chance to do what she wanted. Azarion capturing her to help him get his revenge did nothing to endear him to Gilene’s eyes. Yet as the story progresses and Gilene discovers not only someone courageous and manipulative but someone loyal, dedicated and true to his word her opinion will sweeten. From unwilling ally she’ll come to really help Azarion in his endeavor and will wish for his success. The pace of the story is steady. Not too slow to get boring, not too fast to overlook important details it lets Gilene and Azarion’s relationship unfurls progressively. You have action in the book and sometimes you’ll tremble when confronted with evil ghosts but you are not on a crazy ride either. Well yes, sometimes you ride hard as you are pursued but what I mean is there is a balance in everything in this book. I loved that Grace Draven took the time and the care to give us details about this world and time. How you tend to wounds, how traders live, how nomads live and what they eat, forage etc. Yet again this is just enough details to give life to this world and not too much to drown you. I also loved that Grace Draven made the building of the relationship believable. If you had been abducted, blackmailed to help your captor reach his goal, you would not fall into his arms like a lovesick teenager. No you would be cold, mistrusting yet forced to rely on him for your own safety in world where women are raped and enslaved. It would take time to warm up to him. It would take him defending you against ghosts and soldiers, him tending to your wounds and his family’s loving eyes to begin trusting him and care for him. “What if I had fallen or couldn’t keep up?” “ I would have carried you.” That’s what happened to Gilene. Azarion was immediately awed by Gilene and it was understandable as his people worship the fire goddess Agna. She was agacin to his eyes and they were revered by his people. But if Azarion admired Gilene he was above all else a very determined and practical man who knew that without the agacin his chance to reclaim his birth right were slim to non-existent. If he kidnapped her and was determined to force her compliance he did it with remorse and regret. Grace Draven portrayed strong but not flashy characters. When I used the word “steady” in my introduction I had Gilene and Azarion in mind. Gilene was a very courageous woman. Proud and dedicated to her mission. Not easily frightened yet not foolish either. She endured her suffering every year and paid a high price for her magic, wearing her scars with pride as it was a testimony to her sacrifice. “Be still. Be silent. Some lust for beauty, others for fear. Don’t show them yours.“ She was a no-nonsense kind of heroine. Gilene cared for others yet usually kept them at arm’s length as no one had ever opened their heart to her. Even her own family did not really show love. “No other woman in Beroe is safe from fire. It would be wrong and cowardly of me to let them burn when I can go in their place and survive. It doesn’t mean I have to like it because I’m willing to accept it.” She was the perfect counterpart to Azarion.   Azarion is a hero in shades of grey. He had to become hardened by the years of torture. He had to bury deep what he went through each day to be able to survive and one day get his revenge. Him abducting Gilene shows that her would do everything to reach his goal. Strong, handsome, determined, loyal and smart are all adjectives describing Azarion. Reading Phoenix Unbound was like drinking fine champagne: you don’t rush through it you savor your time. So why not five stars? Because I feel the ending was lacking something. I would have loved some more pages about “after”. Yet I suspect this is the best choice as all will be developed in a second book. One missing star too because if I love slow burn this was more than slow burn. I want more romance. Once more I hope this comes in the second book.   Recommend it? Absolutely! Have you read it? Or do you plan to read it now? Thanks for reading! Sophie Find me on: Wordpress: Beware Of The Reader Facebook: Beware Of The Reader Facebook group : Beware Book Boyfriends Alert Instagram: @bewareofthereader Twitter: @BewareOffReader

  18. 5 out of 5

    Melie

    Protected from the pyre's fire by her magic, Gilene has been masquarating as her village's tithe to the empire for the last 5 years. It all comes to a stop when she's found out by a gladiator who sees through her illusions and blackmails her into using her gifts to help him escape. I've been a fan of Grace's work since I got my hands on Randiance and Phoenix unbound was just as lovely (though Radiance is still my #1 because nothing beats comparing eyes to parasites and describing your love inter Protected from the pyre's fire by her magic, Gilene has been masquarating as her village's tithe to the empire for the last 5 years. It all comes to a stop when she's found out by a gladiator who sees through her illusions and blackmails her into using her gifts to help him escape. I've been a fan of Grace's work since I got my hands on Randiance and Phoenix unbound was just as lovely (though Radiance is still my #1 because nothing beats comparing eyes to parasites and describing your love interrest as having horse teeths). The start of the book might be a little rough for some since it deals with heavy subjects but it's definitely worth pushing through. Phoenix unbound has a beautifully crafted world with a fair ammount of time and thought put into building its cultures and traditions as well as the characters themselves. It's a book with depth and romance with genuine affection.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    ARC provided by Berkley in exchange for an honest review My friend Melanie at Meltotheany suggested I request this ARC due to all the rave reviews, and I am forever thankful she did! This book was such a treat and I cannot recommend it enough! Surely this will be one of my favorite fantasy books of the year. Please keep in mind I haven’t read a lot of adult fantasy romance, so I don’t have much to compare this to. But what I read totally exceeded my expectations and makes me want to branch into th ARC provided by Berkley in exchange for an honest review My friend Melanie at Meltotheany suggested I request this ARC due to all the rave reviews, and I am forever thankful she did! This book was such a treat and I cannot recommend it enough! Surely this will be one of my favorite fantasy books of the year. Please keep in mind I haven’t read a lot of adult fantasy romance, so I don’t have much to compare this to. But what I read totally exceeded my expectations and makes me want to branch into this genre more. Usually I either gravitate toward YA fantasy (which usually has an abundance of romance) or adult high fantasy where the romance is very minor. So when I discovered this book is centered around two people who are trying to escape together (which totally screams “they’re going to be spending a lot of time together and fall in love”), I was totally living for it. Gilene and Azarion are my new faves, and I will be rooting for them in the sequels to come. So, now I’d like to mention that due to the war-nature of this book, there are some scenes that may be triggering: rape (which is briefly at the very beginning), gladiator-themed fighting which involves animals (briefly), threats of rape, kidnapping, gore, death, and war violence. Phoenix Unbound follows Gilene and Azarion, two people from different walks of life, who both happen to be imprisoned in the Empire for different reasons. Every year each village sends a woman to the Empire to be sacrificed by fire for entertainment purposes, and every year Gilene is “volunteered” to be the tithe. Unbeknownst to the Empire, she is a fire witch, and she has the ability to cast illusions long enough to withstand the flames and escape. For five years she endured this horrible tradition just so she can spare the other women from her village from dying a terrible death. Yet just because she can escape doesn’t mean she gets to leave without consequences. The fire still burns her skin to the extent where she’s covered in scars. She has become so broken and tired from having to sacrifice herself year after year that her love for her people in Beroe has started to wane. Azarion was sold to the Empire as a slave, and over the course of a decade he became the Gladiator Prime. The things he had to endure were beyond gruesome, such as torture and rape from the Empress. But on the day of the Rites of Spring, he’s able to see through Gilene’s illusions, and he wants her to help him escape the Empire. We soon find out that Azarion wants to find his clan so he can reclaim his title from the person who stole it from him, and he believes Gilene’s connection to the fire goddess is his key. At first I was skeptical about the budding romance in this book because Azarion was very cold and demanding toward Gilene in the beginning. He essentially needed her to be his captive before allowing her to go back home. And I know this dangerously treads a grey area of Stockholm Syndrome, but I personally did not feel it come off that way. I honestly feel like their relationship grew in an organic way where there was consent, respect, and understanding. And if you’re an enemies-to-lovers fan, then I really think you may love this one. It is definitely a slow burn, but it is so well done. The world building, supernatural elements, and secondary characters were so perfect. And I loved how the themes of family obligation and finding your own happiness were the main focus in this book. Everything was wonderfully crafted. Seriously, this book was such a pleasure to read. Oh, and the ending is sooo good. I cannot praise it enough. Thank you, Grace Draven, for not leaving us with a giant cliffhanger. It could stand alone, but there are still so many things that could be expanded. I am truly excited to find out what happens next. Buddy read with Melanie <3 Blog | Instagram | Twitter

  20. 4 out of 5

    Christa

    “Home is among those who love you.” Gilene is a fire witch who uses her power every year to disguise her appearance. The empire requires a sacrifice of young women. She goes every year to keep someone from her village from dying. Their stares shifted briefly past her shoulder to where her family huddled together to watch her leave. Not all shackles were fashioned of iron. Azarion is a gladiator, sold into slavery by his cousin, who has become the best, but is looking for a way to go home to hi “Home is among those who love you.” Gilene is a fire witch who uses her power every year to disguise her appearance. The empire requires a sacrifice of young women. She goes every year to keep someone from her village from dying. Their stares shifted briefly past her shoulder to where her family huddled together to watch her leave. Not all shackles were fashioned of iron. Azarion is a gladiator, sold into slavery by his cousin, who has become the best, but is looking for a way to go home to his people and exact his revenge on the person that sold him. He sees an opportunity with Gilene, blackmailing and capturing her to help him escape slavery. She refused to look at him when he stood in front of her. “You have no right to take me,” she said in a flat voice. “No, I don’t,” he replied. “But I need you.” This is an enemies to lovers fantasy romance. It’s a slow burn, but I really enjoyed it. If you’re a fan of Grace Draven’s other works, you will like this too.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Katiria

    *** I received this book by the Penguin First To Read Program in exchange for an honest review, thank you so much to Ace Books for the oppertunity to read and review Phoenix Unbound! *** Oh My, My My what a fantastic and amazing book Phoenix Unbound was for me, I can not describe how excited I was about reading this book. I heard nothing but amazing things about Grace Draven other books. I have read some of the reviews about Mrs. Draven other books and they were all highly praised and recommende *** I received this book by the Penguin First To Read Program in exchange for an honest review, thank you so much to Ace Books for the oppertunity to read and review Phoenix Unbound! *** Oh My, My My what a fantastic and amazing book Phoenix Unbound was for me, I can not describe how excited I was about reading this book. I heard nothing but amazing things about Grace Draven other books. I have read some of the reviews about Mrs. Draven other books and they were all highly praised and recommended. So when I had a chance to check this book out on Penguin First To Read Program I jumped at the chance to read it. I will tell you all the truth I had high expectation on this book and I was not disappointed at all. This book had everything that I love in a book, it had a fantasy, romance, and it had some action as well. I absolutely love the slow burn romance that Azarion and Gilene had, their relationship first started off as sworn enemies to lovers and I just love reading how the two interacted with each other. Brave, Stubborn and Beautiful Gilene had to protect all the other young women of her village and sacrifice herself over and over again at the empire entertainment of the masses who burns young women alive for their Gods, and Gilene has a power of being a Fire witch which fire does not kill her so she is the one who goes every year in illusion to sacrifice herself to the evil empire to protect the woman in her village and burn at the stake. I felt so bad for Gilene to go through this sacrifices every year she's been doing it for five years straight and it has taken a really bad toll on her physically. But Gilene is also very brave and strong woman to do this sacrifices for five years it has shaped her to be a very strong will woman and that the evil empire will not break her. Now the poor village where Gilene lives at does not care an ounce about what Gilene thinks or about her health at all even her own family doesn't care about her own welfare and what she thinks either, they all believe that it is her duty to protect them at whatever the cost may be if it means in Gilene own health or even her own death. Gilene family and village are true cowards that they take the easy way out from these sacrifices and let Gilene take all the burden within herself. Now the empire is pure evil and full of corruption that I just shiver every time that I read about it. And the cruel and evil empress is more vicious than the whole empire itself, the empress Davila is pure evil incarnated to the bones that she takes pleasure from the pain that she commits towards her own people yes she is that psychotic! Now let me tell you about Azarion the strong, brave and very handsome gladiator prime, I just love him so much yes he did some terrible things to Gilene at the beginning but he had a really good reason to do them and he felt just horrible and awful to put Gilene through everything and blackmailing her. Now the reason why Azarion was blackmailing Gilene and how he became gladiator prime I won't say because that is a spoiler, you have to read the book to find out and believe me when you find out you will be truly livid for everything he went through as a gladiator prime. Now there are trigger warnings in Phoenix Unbound there are some dark themes in this book as well so be prepared for that when you go into this book. Also, this book is told by two different pov's which are Gilene and Azarion pov's I really didn't mind reading two different pov's, because I absolutely loved and enjoyed reading about Azarion and Gilene prospective. Now Azarion and Gilene are my two favorite otp ever I can't wait to read more about them in the next book! All and all I absolutely and utterly loved and enjoyed Phoenix Unbound that it is going to be pure torture to wait for the next book to come out but alas wait I shall do until the next book comes out!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dianne

    Simply captivating and positively riveting, Grace Draven’s PHOENIX UNBOUND is the tale of two slaves, each trapped under a corrupt empire’s thumb, their daring alliance and a seemingly impossible escape to freedom. But their freedom is only the beginning of their story as Gilene, who possesses a magical power over fire and Azarion, a gladiator forced not only to kill, but to prostitute himself to a brutal queen escape into a world riddled with fear, deceit and mistrust. Azarion has his own secre Simply captivating and positively riveting, Grace Draven’s PHOENIX UNBOUND is the tale of two slaves, each trapped under a corrupt empire’s thumb, their daring alliance and a seemingly impossible escape to freedom. But their freedom is only the beginning of their story as Gilene, who possesses a magical power over fire and Azarion, a gladiator forced not only to kill, but to prostitute himself to a brutal queen escape into a world riddled with fear, deceit and mistrust. Azarion has his own secrets and he needs Gilene by his side, but he never expected to fall for the fierce woman who has given up a chance for happiness for the people she protects. Impossible odds, horrific battles, and a love that grows through it all, these characters are electrifying to watch, each scene is as spellbinding as the magic used and Grace Draven should take a well-deserved bow for this one! I received a complimentary ARC edition from Ace! Series: Fallen Empire - Book 1 Publisher: Ace (September 25, 2018) Publication Date: September 25, 2018 Genre: Fantasy Print Length: 400 pages Available from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble For Reviews, Giveaways, Fabulous Book News, follow: http://tometender.blogspot.com

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sunny

    ARC REVIEW 4.5 stars I’ve been a fan of Grace Draven for a few years and every time she writes a new book, I am certain that this is the best one ever. With hints of both Gladiator and Game of Thrones, this is an epic story about the Gladius Prime from the Krael Empire, Azarion and Gilene of Beroe. Azarion is sold into slavery and forced to fight in the gladiator arena. After 10 years, he finally finds his chance to escape during the annual Rites of Spring in which young women are burned at the s ARC REVIEW 4.5 stars I’ve been a fan of Grace Draven for a few years and every time she writes a new book, I am certain that this is the best one ever. With hints of both Gladiator and Game of Thrones, this is an epic story about the Gladius Prime from the Krael Empire, Azarion and Gilene of Beroe. Azarion is sold into slavery and forced to fight in the gladiator arena. After 10 years, he finally finds his chance to escape during the annual Rites of Spring in which young women are burned at the stake as a sacrifice to the gods. Gilene of Beroe, one of the women to be a sacrifice, has a special brand of magic that allows her to control fire, cast illusions, and escape the horror. Azarion forces Gilene to help him and accompany him during his journey back home. This is an enemy to lovers trope done very, very well. Rather than rushing into an intimate relationship, the author takes her time in developing and deepening the link between Azarion and Gilene. This is perfectly appropriate for a story about a couple whose relationship begins in a dubious manner (he essentially kidnaps her) and are now on the run. This is a hard-fought connection and I relish every minute of it. Make no mistake, this is a big, Homeric story. The romance is perfectly balanced within the context of battles, schemes, lies, and trials. Ms Draven has raised her game with this book. While keeping her signature wit and humor, she gives more of everything. That is why Phoenix Unbound is my Cherry on Top for this month…and maybe this year!

  24. 5 out of 5

    nick

    Trigger warnings: (view spoiler)[Rape, sexual assault, kidnapping, murder, battle scenes (hide spoiler)] 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 bein Trigger warnings: (view spoiler)[Rape, sexual assault, kidnapping, murder, battle scenes (hide spoiler)] 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.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Megan Hitch

    ARC provided by Berkley Publishing Group via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts and review. You know what most writers would commit murder for? Killer first chapters. Y'know, the ones that are just so perfect - in pacing, prose, tension - that by the third paragraph the contract is SEALED, kiss your free time good-bye this book is your life now. You know what Grace Draven's got that most writers would commit murder for? Killer first chapters. Just like with Draven's Radiance, Phoenix Unb ARC provided by Berkley Publishing Group via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts and review. You know what most writers would commit murder for? Killer first chapters. Y'know, the ones that are just so perfect - in pacing, prose, tension - that by the third paragraph the contract is SEALED, kiss your free time good-bye this book is your life now. You know what Grace Draven's got that most writers would commit murder for? Killer first chapters. Just like with Draven's Radiance, Phoenix Unbound had me gripped by the first chapter. I was intrigued by the brutal world. I loved the subtle differences between Gilene and Azarion's voices, despite their POVs being written in third person. Rarely have I ever seen an author give so much thought to differentiating character's voices in the third person. It's something I only see attempted in first person, and even then writers still fail at it. So everything was great - until I got to the journey bit. For about 20% of the novel, Gilene and Azarion are just traveling. Like, that's it. They have a few dangerous run-ins, but otherwise the whole journey is so uneventful and their relationship so cliche and boring that I probably would've dnfed the book had I not been reading an ARC copy. But y'all. Y'ALL. If you can endure through the traveling portion, YOU WILL BE REWARDED. Once Gilene and Azarion reached their destination, all that pacing and world-building and characterization I loved swooped back in even better than the novel's opening. I went from forcing myself to read to forcing myself to shut off my kindle and get my butt to class before I was late. Draven's world-building is really interesting to me. Her world-building is not the grandiose spectacle that makes me adore other fantasy novels, but backed with such sure detail that the realism is unmatched. There's just so much thought behind how the landscape shapes people's diet and occupation and migratory habits, I'm really in awe of it. It feels like reading historical fiction, that's how detailed it is. The plot as it picked up towards the end was kind of meh for me, but you're not reading for the plot so much as you are for Gilene and Azarion. As they grew invested in each other, so too did I become invested in them. The ending was a bit of a cop-out, but y'know what, I liked it anyway. From what I've read of Draven's works, she's not writing the next fantasy tome; she's writing romance, set in a well-fleshed out fantasy world. It's not my usual tastes, but I appreciate it for what it is and still enjoyed it. I think fans of Outlander will really enjoy this novel. I haven't read the books, only watched the first season of the show, but the vibes of this book reminded me of it. TW: rape, abuse

  26. 4 out of 5

    (Tori-Smexybooks) smexys_sidekick

    Grace Draven is a master of fantasy romance. A fantastic story and one I hope she continues telling. Review to come.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

    Review can be found on *Milky Way of Books* Step back Game of Thrones for the amazing world of "Pheonix Unbound"! I have a great love for Grace Draven and her writing and for a long time I have also been re-reading and re-listening to her audiobooks! The immersing world of The Fallen Empire series will sweep you away with its beauty and brutality too. Gilene is a witch-sorry- she is an agachin with the power of fire and illusion. Her duty is to follow the slavers of the Krael Empire where every ye Review can be found on *Milky Way of Books* Step back Game of Thrones for the amazing world of "Pheonix Unbound"! I have a great love for Grace Draven and her writing and for a long time I have also been re-reading and re-listening to her audiobooks! The immersing world of The Fallen Empire series will sweep you away with its beauty and brutality too. Gilene is a witch-sorry- she is an agachin with the power of fire and illusion. Her duty is to follow the slavers of the Krael Empire where every year, they chose women and take them to their capital where they are forced to serve their gladiators and then die in the pyre for ritualistic reasons. And Gilene has been doing this every year. But this time it's different. She becomes noticed by Azarion, the Gladius Prime of the arena who wants to escape his own prison and flee to his motherland of horse riding tribes and endless fields. But the story is more than the trials of an unlikely pair, who begin as enemies and gradually turn into allies and fall for each other. It's a tribute to the human nature both its ugly and beautiful side, how the scars of our past can either consume us or define us. This is no story where only the woman suffers. Azarion too has faced struggles in the hands of the Empire yet both he and Gilene find slowly solace in each other, as they travel through the Empire to the lands of the Sky Below, where there are also obstacles for them to overcome. The tribes also reminded me of descriptions of both the Mongol tribes and the Scythian ones, especially on the descriptions and the how their houses were made. Another point I want to make is not only the detailed world-building but also how the action never stops. At the same time, the characters' development is interlaced in the plot creating the perfect balance for both the story to unfold and not feel left out when reading about the customs, the societies, and the religions. On the final one, I have to say that the scene towards the end of the book was movie worthy! Or at least the perfect ending to a long-standing tv series? ;) Grace Draven has set the foundation for a masterful journey through an epic world, where stakes are high and the characters are unforgettable! I seriously need the second book!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bambi Unbridled

    Phoenix Unbound is an exciting start to the new Fallen Empire series by Grace Draven, an epic fantasy romance sure to appeal to those who like to see a little romance with their Game of Thrones type stories. In true fantasy style, this story is not for the faint of heart. There are vile villians, abhorrent behavior and treatment of people, slavery, and a manner of forced activities that may be triggers to some. Our hero of this epic tale is Gilene of Beroe, a fire witch who serves as savior of he Phoenix Unbound is an exciting start to the new Fallen Empire series by Grace Draven, an epic fantasy romance sure to appeal to those who like to see a little romance with their Game of Thrones type stories. In true fantasy style, this story is not for the faint of heart. There are vile villians, abhorrent behavior and treatment of people, slavery, and a manner of forced activities that may be triggers to some. Our hero of this epic tale is Gilene of Beroe, a fire witch who serves as savior of her city while being reviled by the residents. Gilene must sacrifice herself bodily every year to the enslaved warriors and the pyre of the ruling city, and she gets no thanks for such a horrid task. But Gilene perseveres. She is a survivor through and through, and seemingly selfless at every turn. I had no qualms with her as a heroine. While I didn't form a warm and fuzzy connection with her character, I did like her and I was hoping that she would come out on top. Our fierce and fantastic hero was Azarion of the Sky Below. Enslaved gladiator who has risen to the ranks of Gladius Prime by his fighting skills, die hard determination, and probably some of his unfortunate favor by the evil empress. Azarion was a great hero... fierce, determined and ruthless. But he also had a softer side when it came to Gilene, and we saw his protectiveness come through with hints of vulnerability. Azarion concocted a crazy plan to escape his chains, and forcing Gilene to be his accomplice was both mad and genius. I enjoyed watching the two of them grow closer as they tried to stay alive during their flight. But I enjoyed their growing bond as they transformed from enemies to something more during their time together. Parts of the story were heartwrenching, but the action was great and I was captivated from the beginning to the end. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book that I received from the publisher.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Yodamom

    4.5 stars This book hit all my book loving boxes. Life struggle, check. Hard earned, slowly developed romance, check. Difficultly with abilities (not a star right off page one), check. A fight for the greater good, check. Well developed characters with realistic backgrounds, check. I didn't want it to end, check. Even the pacing was spot on. I stayed up way too late several nights, I just couldn't put it down. Seriously, why haven't I ever read this author's work before ? The story is about a man 4.5 stars This book hit all my book loving boxes. Life struggle, check. Hard earned, slowly developed romance, check. Difficultly with abilities (not a star right off page one), check. A fight for the greater good, check. Well developed characters with realistic backgrounds, check. I didn't want it to end, check. Even the pacing was spot on. I stayed up way too late several nights, I just couldn't put it down. Seriously, why haven't I ever read this author's work before ? The story is about a man who was sold into slavery by a despicable, greedy toad of a man. He was a slave/gladiator for 10 years. There he was tortured in all the hideous ways possible. His life changes when he uncovers a woman who has magical abilities and blackmails her into helping him escape. She too is suffering, she sacrifices herself every year to save her people. Blackmail is not the best way to start a relationship and it gets worse. There is a great deal of mistrust, anger and hate, yeh realistic. Respect was hard earned and slow developing, so well done, when a closeness started it felt amazing. They are both on missions, both have much to learn, much to lose and so much more to give. What an adventure. I can't wait to see where book 2 goes.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mara

    I don't really understand why she's not a big name. I can't fault anything *grin* It's a stupid inside joke for all who know me and my never-ending nits, but really I am not kidding, this author weaves luscious stories rapped in silk and pelt and surrounded by gore and adventure.

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