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NetGalley Review: Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven

Hey all, Sam here.

Well, the weather has been pretty nice here. We’ve done some walking around town, and sitting out on the front porch. And the windows have been open…which means the cats have been hanging out at the open windows and checking out the outdoors. It’s pretty nice. We didn’t get to open the windows last year because we were gone so much.

It’s honestly been really nice to not be on the road so much. While it was nice to see more of the United States, traveling from one side of the country to the other, being in a cargo van for so many hours most days was pretty exhausting. It gave me a whole new respect for truck drivers, who are on the road pretty much all day every day.

Anyway, today’s review is one of my biggest throwbacks, and I say that because I read this book in 2018. So I probably should have done a re-read of this book before writing up this review. This book is the start to a series, so at some point I probably will re-read it so that I can continue on with the series. Let’s get started.

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.

My Thoughts

Rating: 4 stars

My first experience with Grace Draven was with the book Master of Crows back in 2015, because it was a book mentioned during one of the Vaginal Fantasy Book Club hangouts. I enjoyed the book a lot, finding the characters and the writing to be interesting. And so I added Grace Draven to my list of authors to watch out for and to follow.

When I saw this book on NetGalley, I was intrigued and of course requested it. The book sounded interesting and I already knew I liked the author, but it still took me until a few months after the release date back in 2018 to finally sit down and read Phoenix Unbound.

I liked that Gilene was the repeated sacrificial tithe in her village, because of her magic. And I thought it was interesting to put her in a position where she is stuck with an enslaved gladiator.

The two do not get along initially. I do remember that much. Gilene continuously wanted to escape from being with Azarion, so she could return to her family and her village. They both have this sense of duty and responsibility. It really is an enemies-to-lovers type of romantic fantasy story.

I remember that there was some really good worldbuilding going on in this story, although since I read it over four years ago, I couldn’t even begin to give specifics. And I do remember that though the relationship and romance between Gilene and Azarion is a main aspect of the book, it isn’t the only main aspect, and there’s other plot and story happening.

And sure, the characters aren’t perfect, but they are real, and they do feel like young adults (and by that I mean adults who are still on the younger side, not young adult as in teenager–this is an adult fantasy romance story). They have a maturity and self-awareness to them that speaks of what they’ve been through.

I will say, that this book does deal with rape, especially in the beginning, so if this is something you are sensitive to or something that might trigger you, please exercise caution when jumping into this book.

Overall, I remember liking this book…and writing this review has reminded me that it has been a little while since I last read a Grace Draven book, and I should probably correct that sometime soon.

Well, that is all from me for today. Thank you so much for stopping by, and I’ll be back soon with more geeky content.


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