Sunday, February 24, 2019

Kingdom of the blazing phoenix by Julie C. Dao

Kingdom of the blazing phoenix is the sequel to Forest of a thousand lanterns and there are ***SPOILERS*** in this review if you have not read the first book in the series.  This is a series that needs to be read in order so make sure you read Forest of a thousand lanterns before you read the rest of the review or the book.

Jade has lived a simple life in the monastery, working alongside the monks to tend their gardens and care for the villagers in the surrounding country.  Only her Amah and the abbess know that Jade is not a simple peasant - she is the princess and heir to the kingdom.  Summoned to the capital by her stepmother Xifeng, Jade starts on a journey that will take her far from home and everything familiar.  The world of the imperial court could not be more different from the world she has grown up in, the extravagant gowns she wears would help the monastery support hundreds of peasants, and the lavish food is something she had never imagined.  It is a world of secrets, intrigues, and people hiding their true intentions and natures behind carefully crafted masks.

When Jade discovers what her stepmother is really like she is forced to flee from the imperial city, a fugitive accused of crimes she didn't commit.  Along with her companions there is only one home for not only Jade, but also her entire kingdom - she must complete the dangerous quest to find and reunite the hidden treasures of the five kingdoms.  If Jade can succeed in her quest she will call forth ah army taht will be capable of stopping Xifeng and the army of the Serpent God she controls.  The quest will not be easy, she will have to remember the stories that Amah told her, and solve puzzles that can have deadly consequences if she gets the wrong answer.  As she searches across the five kingdoms she must always be aware of Kang and the serpent warriors who dog their steps the entire way.  Jade never wanted to be anything more than a monk, but now the fate of the entire kingdom rests in her hands.

Kingdom of the blazing phoenix is the perfect companion novel to Forest of a thousand lanterns and it brings the duology to a very satisfying end.  In the first book the focus is on Xifeng and how she rises to power, what she sacrifices to become empress and the cunning manipulation of the Serpent God to get what he wants.  By the time we reached the end of Forest of a thousand lanterns she had slipped from young girl to powerful and cunning empress, and her path for conflict with Jade was set.  In Kingdom of the blazing phoenix we see the results and a story that seems to echo the story of Snow White more strongly, but it is an echo only because Julie C. Dao has taken that rather simple fairy tale and created a world that is richly layered with depth of culture, history, and characters.

With this series we see that the 'villain' is not always that villainous, sometimes they are a victim of circumstance and fate too.  I love worlds that make sense with a deep mythology that you can follow and adds depth to the story, and Dao has created a mythology that feels completely real.  Jade and her companions travel on a quest that creates challenges and conflicts, and also makes them grow and change as people which makes it feel more genuine and engaging.  There are some amazing themes in this series, and there is scope for Dao to create more stories in this world (something that would be amazing).  A must read for fans of richly imagined fantasy worlds - including adults!

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, February 3, 2019

You don't own me by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke

You don't own me is the fifth book in the Under suspicion series that began with I've got you under my skin by Mary Higgins Clark.  While you can read this book on it's own, there are some ***SPOILERS*** if you have not already read the rest of the series.  I recommend reading the first book in the series before reading any others.

Life is never dull for Laurie Moran, her successful television show Under Suspicion has been solving cold cases and making a killing in the ratings, and she is planning her wedding to her former host Alex Buckley.  With the success of her show it is no surprise that people reach out to her asking her to help solve their case, and while there is only so much they can do it doesn't stop desperate people taking desperate measures to reach her.  When the parents of Dr. Martin Bell approach her about making the next show about the murder of their beloved son, she is surprised to learn that they think she turned them down - a surprise to Laurie as she had not proceeded with the idea because his widow Kendra refused to cooperate.  With pressure from the family mounting, Laurie tries to persuade Kendra to take part this time and is a little surprised when she reluctantly agrees.

As she starts researching the case, Laurie discovers that there are two very different sides to the story - the ones the Bell's want her to believe, and what Laurie is slowly starting to uncover.  When the victim was seen as a pillar of the community it is always challenging to dig beneath the surface, especially when the wife seems to make the perfect killer, but Laurie is determined to continue with the case.  As the case slowly starts heating up, Laurie is also pushing forward with trying to find a new home for her growing family, and with some very definite things on their 'must haves' list they are slowly driving their real estate agent to distraction.  Being such a public figure makes both Laurie and Alex an attractive target, and when someone is ready to take you down, being a public figure won't save you.

The Under suspicion series has been a great find, and I eagerly keep an eye out for the next book in the series.  Laurie Moran holds her own as an investigative journalist in this series, and as the series develops and grows so does she.  The cast of characters around her are interesting and are increasingly characters in their own rights, evolving into people rather than just a supporting cast.  As with previous books in the series the element of suspense is hugely important in You don't own me, and it is part of the fun to try and figure out where the story is taking you before the end.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla