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.
Praise for Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix:
“There aren’t many authors who could so precisely undo their first book with their second, but it is this clever unweaving that shows Dao’s brilliance and skill. With heart-stopping action and wonderful new characters, this is not a sequel to be missed.” —EK Johnston, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“A lush, enchanting tale of magic, myth, and absolute courage. At once gorgeously woven and deliciously gruesome, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is a thrilling end to a series that feels like a classic in its own right.” —Natalie Mae, author of The Kinder Poison
“Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is the stunning counterpoint to Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. A refreshing take on the classic heroine, and an adventure of stories nestled within stories, this is a book fairytale lovers will tuck among their most beloved treasures.” —Emily X.R. Pan, New York Times bestselling author of The Astonishing Color of After
“Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix broke my heart and filled it, all at once. In the process, Julie C. Dao has turned a well-worn tale into something thrilling and new. Ornate, tender, and magical. I could not put this book down.” —Tochi Onyebuchi, author of Beasts Made of Night and Crown of Thunder
“Beautifully written and masterfully told, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix feels at once timeless and entirely new . . . I loved it with my whole heart.” —Margaret Rogerson, New York Times bestselling author of An Enchantment of Ravens
“Utterly brilliant in every way, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is the perfect follow-up to Julie C. Dao’s debut. This is the dark fantasy I've been waiting for, and I can't get enough!” —Beth Revis, New York Times bestselling author of Give the Dark My Love
"A grand adventure for fans of fairy tales, fables, and legends coupled with the vibrant history of Chinese dynasties."—Kirkus Reviews
* "A top purchase for most fantasy collections." --School Library Journal, starred review
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Read an Excerpt
The messenger came at dawn, riding up to the gates with a scroll in his hand.
Jade tensed as his looming black-robed figure emerged from the wintry forest mists, thinking at once of the bandits who had tried to attack the monastery three nights ago. They had been hungry and desperate enough to attempt to rob the monks of what little they had, and even after Abbess Lin had chased them away, the women lived in fear that they would return. Jade tightened her grip on her bucket of animal feed, wondering if it would be heavy enough to disarm him so she could sound the alarm.
But her fear turned into curiosity as the man approached. Not only was he by himself, but he rode an elegant black horse and his robes were trimmed with gold.
Auntie Ang hurried past with a lantern in her hand, breath emerging in the frigid air, her glance at Jade both reassuring and apprehensive as she approached him. “May I help you, sir?”
“I have two letters to deliver. One is for the abbess,” he told her in a deep, strident voice, passing the scroll through the gate. “She will know for whom the other is meant.”
The middle-aged monk accepted the missive, her eyes widening at something she saw upon it. “My goodness. This is from . . .”
Jade craned her neck. In the dim lantern light, she could see only a large black circle on the thick roll of paper. There could be nothing shocking in a seal. Abbess Lin had an entire shelf of rusty-red wax sticks in her quarters for correspondence.
But the messenger seemed to understand Auntie Ang’s awe. “See that it is delivered immediately.” As the monk bowed and left, the man caught sight of Jade standing in the shadows and went still. Even his horse held its breath; the little columns of smoke puffing from its nostrils disappeared. Something gold gleamed on his chest, an emblem that looked strangely familiar. It was clear he served someone of great importance.
Jade tried to remember her manners, but couldn’t find her voice and bowed instead. In one fluid motion, the messenger swung off his horse and returned the bow, much more deeply than hers. He wore a black hood that hid all but his eyes. “Princess,” he murmured, before climbing back on his horse and disappearing once more into the trees.
Now, there was a word she knew well.
There was often a princess in the children’s tales Amah still insisted on telling her, even though she was almost eighteen. It was a word meant for old stories and faded texts, a word that belonged to the outside world. It lived in the shaded leaves and branches of the Great Forest. It did not fit into her life, into the rough robes she wore or the sound of the morning’s first gong, waking the monks for prayer and meditation.
Jade pressed her face against the gate, watching the treetops shiver in the icy wind. Everything outside the monastery, from prowling bandits to cold-eyed messengers, seemed like a realm apart she was content to know only through Amah’s fables. She let out a slow sigh, wrapping her fingers around the bars that protected her.
Still, the coming of the messenger and the word he had uttered unnerved her.
It was as though the Great Forest had reached through the gates with branches like eager hands . . . as though that other world had, at last, found her.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Totally stunned. This book reminded me how powerful duologies are, how immensely compelling it is to hear a story from two intricately connected characters being the heroes of their own stories. Going from the court intrigue and political climbing of FOREST, it was a pleasant surprise to see beautiful tales, adventure, and a hunt for relics---so many of my favorite things---woven in KINGDOM.
Intelligent and creative retelling! Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao tells the story of Jade. Jade lives with and has been raised by the monks, being prepared to accept her rightful place as Empress. Jade is summoned to the Empire by soldiers and she meets Xifeng, the Empress that holds Jade’s fate in her hands. Xifeng is cruel and self-absorbed to the point that she’s the only person that matters. Jade makes saving the kingdom from Xifeng her mission and she’s sent on an adventure that takes her through the mythical stories she was raised on, learning how helpful the tales truly are. Julie C. Dao has created an interesting series, with the transformation of Xifeng, that I want to binge read so I can get the most out of everything the characters experience in both books. Intelligent writing, a mythical atmosphere and charming characters earn 5 stars!
I liked the first book in this series, so I was pretty eager to see how this one played out. Jade was an easy character to like. She’s loyal and good and nice. So so so sooooooooo nice. And that’s sort of where I lost interest. What I loved from the first book was Xifeng’s ruthlessness. She is in this one, but the focus is all about Jade. There is a small group of characters and I could easily read a companion book about Wren. Plot wise, it was okay. The journey was a mild build up and the ending was sort of anti-climatic. And while the folklore was a fantastic aspect, I just couldn’t get captivated by a quest without urgency. Overall, it was a good story with gorgeous imagery, but it didn’t have the spark I was hoping for. **Huge thanks to Philomel Books for providing the arc free of charge**
I was a little worried going into this one. Could it possibly be as good as Forest of a Thousand Lanterns? Second books are often weaker, what if this wasn't good, what if it spoiled the memory of Forest for me? I shouldn't have worried. This is an amazing close to the series, with fantastic characters and even more of the wonderful worldbuilding I loved so much in Forest. I loved watching characters I knew turn back up in unexpected ways, playing different roles this time around. I can't wait to see what else Julie has lined up for us. I'm sure it'll be amazing.