PH Blog Tour: Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix (Review + Giveaway)

Before Reading:

I have way too many controversial thoughts when it came to the first book of this series. But we are not here to be mean because this time it’s all about the heroine that we have all been rooting for. This time, it’s all about the girl on fire. Wait… no. Figuratively, a phoenix is a bird that rises from the ashes. So Jade is a girl on a fire. Alright, move over Katniss Everdeen. It’s Princess Jade’s time in the spotlight, and I really truly hope that she delivers. I am going into this book as optimistic as I can be, and I hope that I can overcome whatever fear that I may have for this book.

(Spoiler alert: I did. It was glorious.)

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BlazingPhoenix CoverTitle: Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix

Author: Julie C. Dao

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling

ISBN: 1524738336

Date Published: 6th of November 2018

Series: Rise of the Empress #2

Publisher: Philomel Books (Penguin Random House)

Buy it on: National Bookstore Hardcover | National Bookstore PaperbackAmazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks | The Book Depository

Summary:

This fairy tale retelling lives in a mystical world inspired by the Far East, where the Dragon Lord and the Serpent God battle for control of the earthly realm; it is here that the flawed heroine of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns finally meets her match. An epic fantasy finale to the Rise of the Empress novels.

Princess Jade has grown up in exile, hidden away in a monastery while her stepmother, the ruthless Xifeng, rules as empress of Feng Lu. But the empire is in distress and its people are sinking into poverty and despair. Even though Jade doesn’t want the crown, she knows she is the only one who can dethrone the empress and set the world right. Ready to reclaim her place as rightful heir, Jade embarks on a quest to raise the Dragon Lords and defeat Xifeng and the Serpent God once and for all. But will the same darkness that took Xifeng take Jade, too? Or will she find the strength within to save herself, her friends, and her empire?

Set in an East Asian-inspired fantasy world filled with breathtaking pain and beauty, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is filled with dazzling magic, powerful prose, and characters readers won’t soon forget.

Fans of Stealing Snow, Red Queen, and The Wrath and the Dawn will hungrily devour this page-turning read.

After Reading:

I honestly wanted more from this story. Jade don’t leave us yet! Honestly if this book was split in half and we had to wait for another one, I would have gladly waited! It was really great and fleshed out. I want more of Jade’s Feng Lu. *cries in a corner*

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As a part of the tour, I received an advanced reading copy of this book. Huge thanks to Penguin Random House for providing copies for the tour. This does not affect my review and all of the opinions and thoughts reflected here are my own.

To be fully honest, I was left in the state of being in the middle when I finished reading Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. I was furious because I simply did not want to believe that the kingdom of Feng Lu is left in the hands of such a cruel empress. I fell in the other side of the spectrum that loathed the anti-hero because everyone seemed to love her. But when it was confirmed that the second book in the series was going to focus on retelling “Snow White”, I was completely on board. I rooted for Princess Jade the moment she was hinted to exist. Upon reading this novel in its entirety, it fairly exceeded my expectations and I still loved and respected our heroine.

Let’s tackle some technical aspects first: the one thing that I loved the most about this series is its writing. Julie C. Dao’s writing style is simply magnetic, that even someone like me who’s not really into fantasy was able to inhale its story like a madman. A book with fantastical elements is out of my comfort zone. But I was able to ease in the world of Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix because her writing style can immerse a reader into the world of Feng Lu easily.

Meanwhile, the vast world in which the story is set in became richer with the travels of our heroes. While you can read Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix without reading its predecessor, having context on what went down in Forest of a Thousand Lanterns will surely leave you with a richer imagination of what the kingdom of Feng Lu is like. It was enriching to read about how vast their kingdom is through Jade’s adventure: from the deepest parts of the forest, to the depths of mighty rivers and lone islands, and deserts that go beyond what the eye can see. There was so much to explore, and it can easily make a reader giddy with excitement.

Now let’s get to our main point. In the case of its plot and characters, it was easier to get invested with Jade’s story. As I’ve noticed, the plot of the Empress series is deeply intertwined with the decisions that our leads make. When it came to Jade, she was easy to root for. She had this charming charisma, one characteristic much expected from a princess. She was also fearless and driven by her love for the people around her. Seeing her grow as the story progressed made me intensely root for her, as each page reveals how she dealt with the trickiest of situations in her adventure to save Feng Lu. Not to be biased but I see Jade as the exact opposite of Xifeng, which is probably the reason why I cannot help but cheer this girl on until the very last page. Speaking of the devil incarnate Xifeng, my aversion to her existence is still pretty much evident. She remains to be a character I live to despise. But the silver lining in every situation though: A great hero has an equally great villain. It contributed to what made this novel fantastic. With the tricky balance of good vs. evil, it made the plot similar to a rocky mountain terrain; it has its ups and downs when it came to the challenges that our heroes had to face, yet upon reaching the end of the trail, the view is breathtakingly magnificent.

Equally so, the friends that Jade gained in this novel, Wren and Koichi, were the absolute friends that anyone can ask for. Similar to Jade, they were loyal and fierce and would do anything for the people that they love. What made their group dynamic was simply because of their common goal: they all had the same motives. This is what made their bond and faithfulness to each other stronger. Though at times they clashed, their personalities complimented each other. Their equal love for their kingdom radiated throughout the pages of the novel. Their crew gained more people, but I intend to keep this review spoiler-free. Needless to say that lingering questions and presumptions made after finishing Forest of a Thousand Lanterns were answered thoroughly and directly.

Lastly, what I appreciated reading in this novel is the incorporation of the different stories that Jade and her companions utilized upon embarking on their journey to reclaim her place on the throne. It added more depth, a larger motivation, and a richer environment to the tall tale being unfolded. Somehow it made Feng Lu tangible and as silly as this may sound, may be true in a blink of an eye. There was a focus on how the stories reflected what their kingdom was. Seeing how Jade had so much respect for her history and the stories that shaped her nation was particularly endearing and is a sheer evidence of why she deserved to be in a place of power. It can truly make a reader respect and admire her.

With that said, there still are some noticeable flaws within this novel. While I truly loved it’s entirety, I found it somewhat predictable and has a tendency to lie on convenience. Although, those predictable aspects of the book somehow redeemed Forest of A Thousand Lanterns, but some of those aspects could have been expanded.

Nevertheless, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is the light to the darkness of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. The stark contrast between its two leads have never been more apparent. With that, it truly became a series worth tuning in on. Both retellings were beautiful in their own rights, but it was the ultimate conclusion of this duology that made me root for it till the end. A pristine ending fit for an empress. All the hails and praises for this marvelous novel is more than deserved. Highly recommended if you’re craving for a refreshing take on the tale of Snow White (apples included).

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(Know more about my rating system here.)

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Julie C. Dao

Julie C. Dao is a proud Vietnamese-American who was born in upstate New York. She studied medicine in college, but came to realize blood and needles were her Kryptonite. By day, she worked in science news and research; by night, she wrote books about heroines unafraid to fight for their dreams, which inspired her to follow her passion of becoming a published author. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is her debut novel. Julie lives in New England.

Connect with Julie!

Website || Facebook || Twitter || Instagram || Goodreads

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PH readers! Want to win a proof copy of Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao? Click on the giveaway or here if you are not redirected.

Want more blogger action and reviews to hook you in? Follow the tour schedule here:

November 5th

Erika at The Nocturnal Fey

Rafael at The Royal Polar Bear Reads

Soleil at Queen Soleil

November 6th

Jennilyn at Rurouni Jenni Reads

Erica Mae at Living a Hundred Lives

Jen at Jen D Bibliophile

November 7th

Camille at Camillea Reads

Bianca at The Ultimate Fangirl (hey, you’re here!)

Vivian at Vanilla Angel Pages

November 8th

Myrth at Cliste Bella

Jenny at Levicorpvs Blog

Dani at dmcireads

November 9th

Shaine at Wanderer in Neverland

Leslie at Bibliophilekid

November 10th

Joel at Descendant of Poseidon Reads

Jon at Wander with Jon

Karina at Afire Pages

Huge thanks to Erika at The Nocturnal Fey and Rafael at The Royal Polar Bear Reads for hosting this tour and to Penguin Random House for providing the copies for this tour.

So, now the big question is: Are you excited to read Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix?

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PH Blog Tour: Forest of A Thousand Lanterns (Excerpt + Giveaway)

Truth be told, I picked this book up on a whim to see what all the hype is about. I have not read a lot of retellings. The last one was probably Cinder, and I read that a year ago. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns offers a unique retelling of the Evil Queen. And truth be told, this book is something of it’s own. While I have decided to share an excerpt instead, this book has it’s share of twists and turns that will make you want to stay until it is finished.

Huge thanks to Erika from The Nocturnal Fey for letting me join this blog tour and Penguin Random House for sponsoring the tour.

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Forest of A Thousand Lanterns CoverTitle: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

Author: Julie C. Dao

Genre: Fantasy, Retelling

Date Published: 10th of October 2017

Series: Rise of the Empress #1

Publisher: Philomel Books

Buy it on: Amazon| Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks | Book Depository

Summary:

An East Asian fantasy reimagining of The Evil Queen legend about one peasant girl’s quest to become Empress–and the darkness she must unleash to achieve her destiny.

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?

Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

Excerpt from Chapter 11:

“You do not sleep well.” That ancient voice, like leaves of autumn and snow in winter. The tengaru queen approached, her body so frail it seemed transparent. In the dark, with her horns and tail less defined, anyone might think her simply a small, old horse. But there was no mistaking the human awareness in those eyes.

“I’ve been dreaming, that’s all.”

“That’s all? Isn’t that everything?” The queen’s fathomless gaze took her in. “You interest me. You are divided. I knew it as soon as I saw you.”

“Divided?”

“Look at yourself in the water, and perhaps you will understand better.

”Slowly, Xifeng bent over her reflection in the pond, her hair spilling over one shoulder. In the moonlight, she could only see the right half of her face. The other half lay in shadow, the eye dark and wild as the night.

“You have two faces. Two beings live within you, struggling for control. One has a heart that thrives in darkness and feeds on the pain of weaker souls. The other longs to stretch a hand to the light, to live and love as others do. Have you never sensed this?”

Xifeng stared into the star-scattered water at her own face: one half bright, the other hidden, unknowable. Sweat bloomed on her forehead as she placed a hand below her heart. The creature was still and silent now, but she knew how it could come alive, writhing within the prison of her body.

“Warriors kill every day.” She pictured the bloodshed on the forest path: Shiro stabbing the scythe-wielder and Wei beheading him with one sweep of his arm. “Why are they not divided, as I am? Why is it my fate to have this creature? The cards tell me I have a destiny beyond all others, but . . .”

“It is not an honor,” the queen said sharply, and Xifeng turned to her, startled and chastened. “Your . . . aunt has done more harm than good in filling your head with this destiny. No, it is not a lie. You are indeed bound for the glory she foresees, if you choose that path. But isn’t it better not to know? Isn’t it better to wake up each day, living for the present rather than waiting for the future?”

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Julie C. Dao

Julie C. Dao is a proud Vietnamese-American who was born in upstate New York. She studied medicine in college, but came to realize blood and needles were her Kryptonite. By day, she worked in science news and research; by night, she wrote books about heroines unafraid to fight for their dreams, which inspired her to follow her passion of becoming a published author. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is her debut novel. Julie lives in New England.

Connect with Julie:

Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

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Win a copy of Forest of A Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao (PH only)

Here are the bloggers participating in the tour (I will be updating this post once their respective posts are up.)

Erika from The Nocturnal Fey

Rafael from The Royal Polar Bear Reads

Nicay from The Nerdy Side of a Queen

Danielle from dmcireads

Cam from Camillea Reads

Carmel from Bookablereads Book Review

Abigail from Reading Flamingo

Imo from Amidst the Pages

Danica from The Hogsmeade Reader

Ella from The Purple Nightingale

Joel from Descendant of Poseidon Reads

Karina from Afire Pages

Elena from The Queen Reads

Hana from The Broke Bibliophile

Have you read Forest of a Thousand Lanterns yet? Tell me all about your thoughts in the comments below.

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