Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix

384p. (Rise of the Empress: Bk. 2). Philomel. Nov. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781524738327.
RedReviewStarGr 9 Up—Whereas Forest of a Thousand Lanterns ended in a crescendo of betrayal and horror, with Xifeng having successfully usurped the throne and the Kingdom of the Great Forest by murdering Empress Lihua with the aid of the notorious Serpent God, this satisfying end to the duology begins in a serene monastery, where Jade, daughter of Empress Lihua, has quietly grown up for the last 15 years. When Xifeng summons Jade to court, she quickly sees through Xifeng's manipulations, recognizes the dire impact of this hateful leadership on the people of Feng Lu, and sets out on a quest with new friends (including a love interest) to reclaim the throne as the rightful heir. Dao's world-building is stunning; Jade's dive into the mouth of an enormous carp, in which the entirety of Feng Lu is replicated in miniature, is unforgettably imaginative. The emphasis on the importance of storytelling and of family, biological and chosen, will resonate deeply with readers, as will Dao's excellent examination of the ways in which women can fail other women and the effects of internalized misogyny. Jade's encounter with the elusive Crimson Army, an all-women band of fearsome warriors, is an illuminating and pivotal scene that contains many truths applicable to the real world. The surprising return of a few significant characters from the first installment and a truly epic final battle conclude this stirring work.
VERDICT A top purchase for most fantasy collections, especially where the previous volume is popular.

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