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Friday, October 26, 2018

ARC Review: Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven

Phoenix Unbound is my first Grace Draven book, and all I can say is, "Why did I wait so long?!" It was a tad slow at parts, but after it was finished it made me feel all the things! It makes me want to grab some of her previous books and dive in right now while I impatiently wait for this series' sequel.

Gilene is an extraordinary girl put into a horrible situation. When I say extraordinary I not only mean she has rare magical powers, but I am also referring to her selfishness. Her small town of Beroe is under the control of the Empire. The Empire requires tithes of it's people in the form of a female sacrifice to the capital once a year. These unfortunate young women, who are called the Flowers of Spring, are forced to endure a night of rape, followed by a sacrificial burning to their Gods. Gilene's burden of fire magic makes her Beroe's annual sacrifice since she can save herself and repeat the trial year after year. This in turn saves her town from truly sending their women to die. But her magic comes with a painful price, and it is because of this selfless act for her town (a town that isn't very welcoming to the woman who saves them) that I admire her and believe her to be extraordinary.

Azarion has been dealt heaps of misfortune in his life that have led him to become a gladiator for the Empire. He is forced to entertain the masses by slaughtering other men and beasts. He has excelled in the arena and become the best, the Gladius Prime, but that unfortunately brings him to the attention of the Empress. She is bloodthirsty to her core, and demands more killing from Azarion only to reward him by raping him. He longs for the day to return to his people and seek vengeance on the ones who sold him to this slavery, but he sees no escape. That is until he sees through a Flower of Springs' illusion and her repetitive presence in the group of sacrifices. So he hatches a plan to break away from the empire with her help. Azarion is determined, and he is calculating. He also has a soft spot buried deep inside under his resolution to survive. When Gilene brings out that kindness, I began to fall for him myself.

These two characters are put into a terrible situation, and their actions are not always honorable. Azarion must blackmail Gilene into helping him, and forces her to leave with him. He has his reasons for his actions, but they are not immediately revealed to Gilene. She hates him for what he is doing to her, and potentially what he is then forcing her town to be subjected to. However, Grace Draven paced their understanding of each other and increasing affections perfectly. This indeed means a few slow parts in the book, but those portions were necessary and made everything so much better. I felt like I understood each character's thinking and reasonings, and it pulled me more and more into this story.

This romantic fantasy is a dark tale, but it makes the good moments shine all the brighter. I loved reading this book so much, and I am highly anticipating its sequels. It's exciting to find another gem in the Fantasy Romance genre. I know I say often how small a genre it is, but my hopes seem to be taking hold as I am finding more and more books within this genre every year. It makes me very happy and excited. Grace Draven has just earned herself a new fan!

**ARC provided by Publisher**

Purchase: | Amazon | B&N | Apple |


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