I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
by Grace Draven
Released: September 25th 2018
Series: Fallen Empire #1
Published by Ace Books
“If I could rate the book in sections I would put the first 50% as 2 stars, 51-80% as 3.5 stars and 81-100% as 4.5 stars.”
~ Under the Covers
A corrupt and cruel Empire rules most the continent. Every year the Empire rounds up the ‘Flowers of Spring’. They take women from towns and villages and then burn them alive as an offering to the gods. Gilene has been a Flower of Spring for the last five years. As a fire witch with powers of illusion, she is able to give the other women a merciful death and then come out of the fire unscathed, ready to repeat it next year. But someone has noticed. Slave and gladiator Azarion has watched the same woman walk away from the barbaric spring rites unharmed for 5 years. Unlike everyone else he can see through her illusions…and he starts to plan his escape. The woman will help him whether she wants to or not.
My feelings about this book are so mixed. Initially I was excited about reading Phoenix Unbound, I have read Grace Draven’s books before and loved them, so a new series felt like a treat. However, it didn’t quite meet my, admittedly high, expectations. Or at least not all the book did.
I really struggled with the first 50%-ish of this book. To put this in perspective it took me 2 weeks to read the first 50% and then a day to read the last 50%. The first 50% contained a lot of world building, something I usually don’t mind if the world is interesting and the characters are engaging. However, Gilene and Azarion were both so dour and humourless, which makes complete sense given their circumstances but it became a bit of drudge through misery. They had both lived through s horrific stuff and they were justifiably bitter and distrustful as well as a little cruel. It was understandable, realistic even unfortunately it wasn’t very endearing and it certainly wasn’t very interesting.
Then we hit 51% . Suddenly the story and the relationship was on light speed (in comparison). Azarion and Gilene have suddenly realised that they have bonded over their hard journey back to Azarion’s home. The romance starts slowly simmering between them giving a bit of life to the book. But it isn’t only the romance that starts becoming intriguing, the story also starts to take a far more interesting turn. I couldn’t put it down, especially last 20%…my hand was firmly glued to my kindle. If I could rate the book in sections I would put the first 50% as 2 stars, 51-80% as 3.5 stars and 81-100% as 4.5 stars. It was a very odd experience so I evened out the whole book as 3.5.
I now find myself in the strange circumstance of not being able to work if this book was a success for me or not. It was certainly a rocky start to the series. However, it did succeed in that by the end I was invested into the story and the character enough that I will be reading the next book that comes out.
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Annnnnd I will stop myself there, before I start waxing lyrical about my love of historical romance and fantasy as well; no one needs to know about my elf fantasies. As you can tell, I adore and day dream about most romance genres, and my three big loves are 1) reading about romance 2) writing about romance and 3) talking about romance with my gals. Which, is why I love Under the Covers so much, I get all my bookish needs satisfied and don’t get judged when I talk about my favourite characters like they are real people. Which they are right?