Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven

Phoenix Unbound

Grace Draven

The Empire’s most famous gladiator knows Gilene's secret and is set on blackmailing her into using her abilities to help him escape his life of slavery. Unknown to Gilene, he also wants to reclaim the birthright of his clan.

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In this USA Today bestselling novel, a woman with power over fire and illusion and the enslaved son of a chieftain battle a corrupt empire in this powerful and deeply emotional romantic fantasy.

Every year, each village is required to send a young woman to the Empire's capital--her fate to be burned alive for the entertainment of the masses. For the last five years, one small village's tithe has been the same woman. Gilene's sacrifice protects all the other young women of her village, and her secret to staying alive lies with the magic only she possesses.

But this year is different.

Azarion, the Empire's most famous gladiator, has somehow seen through her illusion--and is set on blackmailing Gilene into using her abilities to help him escape his life of slavery. Unknown to Gilene, he also wants to reclaim the birthright of his clan.

To protect her family and village, she will abandon everything to return to the Empire--and burn once more.

Advance Galley Reviews

Now that the book has been out for almost a month. I can share how i felt about this book without too much guilt. I will give it 2 stars. To make it short an attempt was made. The world building is ok, the editing is good, the writing is normal but it felt flat. Oh so flat. Like a homework kind of thing. No emotion, no dimension, no salt, no pepper as they say in my family. And i enjoy this genre usually. This reads as a second draft to me. It s like Warprize sans the emotional congruence. I believe this is a fluck because Grace is usually a good bet when I want an elaborate, flowery/ poetic read. Thank you to the first to read team for providing me with a copy.

The first novel of the Fallen Empire series is fascinating! Grace Draven's storytelling is intoxicating and compelling. The characters have depth that pulls you in with the need to see what motivates them or pushes them to make grave sacrifices. Phoenix Unbound is one of those stories that slowly builds up to something completely epic and memorable. Gilene turned out to be such a beautiful character. She was a bit standoffish and aggressive in the beginning, but once removed from the oppressive duties of her hometown she flourished. Azarion escaped from the clutches of the Empire with Gilene's help, but it takes all of his own strength to reclaim his leadership role in his clan. I actually like that their relationship isn't rainbows and sunshine from the start. It makes seeing its development from hostile to friendly more substantial and believable. The threat of the empire hangs over their shoulders throughout the novel, but its infamous leaders don't get much page time. It was easy to forget the threat unless you paid attention to the state of the common people Gilene and Azarion came across between their escape and journey to Azarion's birth home. The ruler's greed and injustices keep the characters pushing towards their goals and make readers wonder how they're going to stand up to their oppressors. I'm so eager to see the rest of the world created in Phoenix Unbound unfold in the series. It's been a while since I've read a fantasy novel like this and I want to soak it up! This is the novel to read if you're a fan of Sandy Williams or Ilona Andrews! *ARC provided via First to Read* Rating: 4/5

This was an enjoyable read. It is the first book I have read by Grace Draven and I will definitely look for more of her books in the future. The pacing felt slow in some parts, but that is expected with the first book in a series and all of the world building that goes on. I look forward to reading the next book in the series to see where things go from here.

Fans of fantasy romance rejoice! Another great book (and new series) by Grace Draven is here! I was so excited for this book I begged for an ARC! This story has great world-building and a complex romance. I enjoyed the very slow burn romance with a great payoff at the end. Azarion and Gilene are multi-faceted characters who go through a lot and grow in this story. Azarion’s mother, Saruke, and sister, Tamura, are awesome secondary characters along with traders and other clan members. This is a complicated love story. Both Azarion and Gilene are strong people burdened by responsibility. Azarion uses Gilene and her gifts of fire and illusion to escape his 10-year enslavement (content warnings for physical and sexual abuse). Then he kidnaps her to help him return to his clan and win the clan leadership. Gilene hates Azarion for kidnapping her and not allowing her to return to her village. Azarion nevers mis-treats Gilene and he promised her he’d make sure she returned to her village after she helped him challenge his cousin who sold him into slavery so Azarion couldn’t claim clan leadership. However, over their journey to Azarion’s clan and while they’re with his clan waiting for Gilene’s magical gift of fire to return, Gilene begins to trust Azarion and Azarion grows to love Gilene. Gilene and Azarion don’t speak about their feelings for each other until Azarion wins the clan leadership and Gilene is returning to her village. Azarion lets her go after trying to convince her to stay with him. Azarion’s plans to bring down the empire come to pass (with some help) and there’s a heart-wrenching moment where he sees Gilene again (and made me doubt the HEA!). They do end up together—whew! It felt to me like it took a long time for Azarion and Gilene to get together but if they got together any faster, it wouldn’t have landed for me given Azarion’s trauma and Gilene’s hate and distrust. As an avid romance reader, I appreciate when an author can make me question whether there will be an HEA even though I know there has to be one! This book definitely made me doubt for a minute at the end whether there would be an HEA. Which made the resolution that much more sweet and meaningful. Grace Draven is one of those authors I horde her books to save for a “rainy day”. When I’m looking for a really nuanced story to take my time with and savor (and when I’m in the mood to focus and appreciate the writing). Phoenix Unbound definitely falls into this group. I read this book over many sessions. I took my time and wanted to read every word instead of skimming or rushing through it. The language to me is straightforward and effective. It’s incredible I can picture the terrain or whatever is being described with just a few words, not sentences or paragraphs worth of description. (I appreciate extensive descriptions, metaphors, and similes as much as the next person but I also love how this story really seemed to get the same image across but with far fewer words. Grace Draven is a true artist in my mind.) I highly recommend this book for lovers of fantasy and fantasy romance. And read Radiance by Grace Draven if you haven’t already! It’s one of my favorite romances.

I loved this book. Gilene and Azarion are very similar characters but Express themselves so differently. Some parts were slow and you kind of argued with the book to get going mainly because you wanted their relationship to go faster! The Sky Below section was the best, you really got a sense of who those people are and what they are about. Gilene's village is only mentioned for her duty and dye, I would like to see a conclusion with them and her family and why that village is given the power. While we know how the empress works, the emperor want really explored or showed beside how evil everything is. By far the best part is the burn baby burn! I kept hoping the heat would be turned up, so I was not disappointed. Vengeance and justice. The ending was abrupt, so I do hope for another book not only to answer questions but to have some more A and G.

Phoenix Unbound was brutal and disturbing, but it was so hard to look away. I felt compelled to keep reading to make sure Gilene was okay, despite others being less fortunate. It also didn't help that Gilene herself mentions whoring for her town the night before she dies for it, and I just wanted to punch someone in the face. Repeatedly. No one deserves to be treated that way, and the gladiators should have been more understanding, yet they were equally barbaric. I both love and hate Azarion. I hate that he has lived a horrible life the past 10 years. He was beaten in and out of the arena, and degraded and abused in a way no one should ever experience. I like that the author showed both men and women suffering similar fates, and that it wasn't all one-sided based on gender. However, it was still hard to read about. Azarion's life hasn't been easy, but his dream of a better life -- of freedom -- came at the expense of someone else. What he did was unfair and cruel, despite his reasonings. Maybe if he'd asked nicely... After the initial onslaught of horror the author presents us with, we go on a journey with two very unlikely individuals. There is a lot of mistrust at first, but also understanding and respect. They've both led hard lives full of sacrifices, and they just want to survive. I enjoyed watching their relationship develop, and I think the author did it in a way that was believable and also entertaining. If you're looking for a book with magic and adventure, Phoenix Unbound has both. There were things that were hard to stomach, but the brutality only made their triumphs sweeter. I'm still reeling from the experience of reading this book. It was just... wow. I cannot wait to read more books by this author!

I thought that this book was excellent. I had not read any of Grace Draven's work before picking this book up but I had heard a lot of really good things. Since the premise of this book appealed to me, I decided to give it a try which ended up being a very good decision. I made the mistake of starting this book just before I planned to go to sleep. I had planned to read just one chapter but the first chapter of this book blew me away and I didn't want to stop after just one chapter. It has been a long time since I picked up a book with such a strong opening. I had a great time reading this amazing story. Gilene and Azarion have both been through a lot. Gilene has been sent by her village to the capital as a sacrifice to be burned alive. She has a few special powers and has survived this event for the past five years but not without a terrible cost. Azarion is the best gladiator in the capital. He was sold into slavery ten years prior and it is really a miracle that he has been able to survive not only the fighting but the empress's whims. I liked both of these characters. Gilene accepted her role and did her best to continue to protect her village. Azarion has not given up hope of returning to his homeland and he sees that Gilene may be the key to making it happen. I completely understood his desperation and his willingness to force Gilene to aide him with his plan. This was a really exciting story that explored several unique and interesting settings. The horror of the Empire was incredibly vivid and emotional. It pained me to think of the needless sacrifice so many women were forced to make for the amusement of others. The book takes the reader on a journey of the lands surrounding the capital where each was a little different but still touched by the empire's power. Azarion's homeland was such a nice contrast to the capital and I really enjoyed learning about his village. There were plenty of action scenes to keep the pages turning. Azarion and Gilene find themselves in trouble at various points of the story and there were times that I found myself holding my breath because I was worried about how things would turn out. It was fun to watch them learn to start trusting and counting on each other. I thought that the romance that built between them felt very authentic. I really enjoyed the extra abilities of both Azarion and Gilene and thought it added an interesting element to the story. I would recommend this book to others. I thought that this book blended fantasy and romance in a spectacular manner that had me wanting things to work out for the characters more than anything. I can't wait to read more books in this series! I received a digital review copy of this book from Berkley Publishing Group - Ace via Net Galley and First to Read.

Phoenix Unbound hooks you immediately. You are drawn in, and invested in the characters before you realize it. Then comes the crassness. The language was jarring and off putting. But this was an excellent strategy for showing the vulgarities of the empire. It makes you root for Gilene and Azarion even more. You want them to escape the depravities, and you want them to recover from their ordeals. Like I said you come to care about these characters rather quickly. Grace Draven takes you on an adventure you won’t forget. This book is an emotional roller coaster. You experience the desperation, the anger, the helplessness, and most importantly the hope. The characters struggle through their journey and come out stronger for their trials. And even though the story is wrapped up nicely you still want more. To me that’s the hallmark of a good story. I look forward to discovering more of this author’s creations.

Phoenix Unbound is book 1 in the Fallen Empire series. I was drawn into this book by the cover, big shocker since I'm a cover lover. I'm so glad that the story was amazing and a must read for Fantasy Romance readers out there. I wasn't quite sure what to expect but I'm so glad I gave this a try since this is a book I won't soon forget. We start off meeting our leading lady, Gilene as she's being picked for the annual tithe, the Rites of Spring. A girl in each town is rounded up and taken to the Krael Empire each spring. People gather in the Empire to watch the gladiator fights and then to see the girls be sacrificed in a fire. Gilene has a secret though, she wields her fire magic and casts an illusion each year to escape only to come back the following year to do it all again. No one has caught onto this until Azarion, the deadliest gladiator, who somehow sees through her illusion. He wants his freedom from the slavers so they make a plan to escape and wind up on the run from the guards. Our duo winds up on a dangerous journey in attempt to get Azarion back in his rightful place as the leader of his clan. I was questioning if Gilene would be able to part from him when the time came though. Phoenix Unbound is a captivating read. I had a hard time putting the novel down and though parts were dark it was balanced out with the romance and the adventure. This world building was done really well, and the characters were attention grabbing. The pace was on point and I just had a really good time reading it, I didn't notice a lag at any point and I just kept wanting more. If you're a fan of Fantasy Romance you NEED to grab this book.

"Gilene clenched her hands in her skirts, trying not to panic. Surely, he couldn’t recognize her. She’d returned to the capital time and again with a different face. Her skills with illusion were as refined as they were with fire. The slavers never knew they brought the same woman from Beroe to Kraelag year after year. No slave fighter from the Stara Dragana should have the talent to see past her veil of enchantment. Fear coated her tongue at a memory from the previous year. Azarion’s green gaze had locked on her and narrowed. Neither lustful nor leering, he’d stared at her for several moments as if seeing not a freckled redhead with wild, frizzy hair, but her true self: a plain, dark-eyed brunette." Despite owning a lot of Grace Draven’s books (ahem, all of them), I had never actually gotten around to reading any of them. And guys, holy heck! I did not know what I was missing. I will admit that initially, I was worried because my brain went: omg, it’s The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty. *slowly backs away* If the writing in the start hadn’t been so excellent, and the plot hadn’t been pushing forward at a breakneck pace, I might have given up. If I had, I would have missed one of the best books I’ve read all year – so good, that it wound up on my favorites shelf. That’s a huge deal for me. If you have read A Song of Fire and Ice (namely the Dothraki storylines) or Throne of Glass, Phoenix Unbound is going to feel familiar. I promise, it’s not a rip off. There is lots of very cool and new ideas waiting for you. I know one thing for sure: I will be obsessively checking for news about the sequel.

I don't know. This was a fine book, but at the same time, I just didn't really care at all, and as soon as I finished reading it, I forgot pretty much everything, including the main character's name.

This book captured my attention from the very beginning. When it opened up on Gilene being sacrificed—again—I immediately wanted to know more. This whole world was so well built and I loved being thrust into it the way we were. I was also intrigued by Azarion and how he was able to recognize Gilene despite her magical abilities. There was a ton of action from the very start and it did an amazing job amping up the tension. And I really felt for poor Azarion, being imprisoned and having to put up with the insane empress. Getting to know these characters was so amazing and Gilene was my absolute favorite. There was a quiet strength about her that I really admired. I admit that it took me some time to warm up to Azarion again after they both escaped, but their slow burn romance was so fun to read. It made the ending that much more enjoyable. I really loved this and can’t wait for the next book!

So, Gilene and Azarion meet, and he immediately jumps to blackmailing, threatening, and kidnapping her. This is not a good start for a relationship, and I have a difficult time with relationships that begin with such a power imbalance. It seems like Gilene spends most of the book making sacrifices, and Azarion in single-minded pursuit of his goals. Not being sold on the couple does some serious damage to my enjoyment of the romance, but the rest of the book is superb--great world-building, well-developed characters, a gripping plot. A dark fantasy, with plenty of violence--and, be warned, explicit sexual assault. The magic system is explained without info dumps, and it's complicated and intriguing. There's two main cultures involved--separated by geography, but even more by culture. This leads to some misunderstandings, but also opportunities for learning. Conflict galore, too. Between nations, individuals, internal conflict... you name it. Everyone has a plan, and more than a few of them are willing to step over the corpses of their enemies to achieve those goals. It has a satisfactory ending, though not one that makes the next step as obvious as I expected. I can guess the general direction, but it didn't leave me with a sense of urgency that I'm used to from fantasy series. Perhaps that's a good thing.

Thank you to First to Read for my copy of this book. I will have to be honest that I did not finish this book. The beginning for the story was a little crass for me and I just couldn’t get interested in the story.

Look, here's the deal: if you're not a romance fan--or at least passingly accepting of romance as a genre--you're probably not going to like this book. The whole "hate to love" thing is a romance trope through and through, and at the end of the day, romance is about the titillation of the journey, not its reality. You have to embrace what romance does--it thrills, it excites, it gives you a happily ever after. If that's not for you, then neither is this book. Having said that, Grace Draven is a master at the fantasy/romance novel. She does such a good job with this one, and she balances the world-building with romance in a way that gives readers a nice dose of both. The alternating points of view were a nice touch, too. (My reviews often gripe about how poorly done multiple POVs are, but Draven handles it exceptionally well.) I'm not familiar with Draven's other works, but I plan on digging into them after reading this one! Excellent read for what it is, highly recommended for romance readers!

4 STARS I'm a huge fan of Draven's Master of Crows and Wraith Kings and was over the moon about her new fantasy series. A book featuring a gladiator, a fire witch, and one of my most beloved authors, should have been an easy five star read. I enjoyed Phoenix Unbound, but it was not everything I anticipated. The beginning was a little slow and the pacing never really picked up. I thought the slow burn, enemies to something more was interesting, but I wanted to feel more emotion from both Azarion and Gilene. The world building and magic aspects were fabulous and everything I expect from Draven. I assumed this was a series but was completely satisfied with the ending. I am uncertain if the next book will feature secondary characters but will be reading it regardless. If you enjoy romantic fantasy, this is one you should definitely check out. If you're new to Draven, I recommend trying her other series before reading her latest. Thank you to Penguin's First to Read for my advanced review copy!

I really struggle to write my review for this book. I enjoyed it for the most part; the writing was great and the characters were interesting. But I really struggled with the hate to love story. Like, how do you end up falling in head over heels in love with a dude that blackmails you, kidnaps you and wants to use your talents to regain his birthright? But, but, but he does it for the right reasons! No thanks. Without the love story, I think I would of really enjoyed the story. It tackles leadership and corruption and family dynamics. Religion also plays an interesting role throughout it as well. If you are someone who enjoys slightly ridiculous love stories that have a great backbone of a fantasy story, this is a book for you.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. The beginning used really crass language and I was surprised. Then didn't see it for the rest of the book. Which I guess the author's point. That living as a slave or "Flower of Spring" in Kraelag was a horrible, harsh, disgusting place, and the language shows it. I was just surprised it was there at all. I didn't really end up liking the premise, women being raped and killed every year. Super. I liked the magic part of it. The book was slow and I found myself wanting to skip around. Especially towards the end, the fight scenes were good but the pacing was still really slow. I don't think I'll read the sequel.

Oh. My. Gaaaaaaawd. What a frikkin great book and great start to a series! Grace Draven is an author I am definitely going to be looking into more. I was drawn in from the very beginning and completely and totally adored this book. The two main characters are Gilene, a fire witch, and Azarion, the prime gladiator of the Empire. Both Gilene and Azarion are such wonderfully developed characters. It was so great watching their growth throughtout the novel. Both have endured such hardships but still remain such beautiful characters. Gilene was seriously so amazing and everything I love in a heroine. Fierce and brave, she was my favorite part of the whole story (well her, and the enemy-turned-lover aspect of the story. Don’t judge me, I live for these kinds of tropes.) Besides romance, Phoenix Unbound has an abundant amount of action as well as a good amount of ghosts, magic, and revenge. Drawn in instantly from the beginning I didn’t want this story to end. But alas, it did and now I will be not-so-patiently awaiting the next book in the series! 5/5 stars!

*** I received this book by the Penguin First To Read Program in exchange for an honest review, thank you so much to Ace Books for the chance to read and review Phoenix Unbound! *** **** Stars Oh My, My My what a fantastic and amazing book Phoenix Unbound was for me, I can not describe how excited I was about reading this book. I heard nothing but amazing things about Grace Draven other books. I have read some of the reviews about Mrs. Draven other books and they were all highly praised and recommended. So when I had a chance to check this book out on Penguin First To Read Program I jumped at the chance to read it. I will tell you all the truth I had high expectation on this book and I was not disappointed at all. This book had everything that I love in a book, it had a fantasy, romance, and it had some action as well. I absolutely love the slow burn romance that Azarion and Gilene had, their relationship first started off as sworn enemies to lovers and I just love reading how the two interacted with each other. Brave, Stubborn and Beautiful Gilene had to protect all the other young women of her village and sacrifice herself over and over again at the empire entertainment of the masses who burns young women alive for their Gods, and Gilene has a power of being a Fire witch which fire does not kill her so she is the one who goes every year in illusion to sacrifice herself to the evil empire to protect the woman in her village and burn at the stake. I felt so bad for Gilene to go through this sacrifices every year she's been doing it for five years straight and it has taken a really bad toll on her physically. But Gilene is also very brave and strong woman to do this sacrifices for five years it has shaped her to be a very strong will woman and that the evil empire will not break her. Now the poor village where Gilene lives at does not care an ounce about what Gilene thinks or about her health at all even her own family doesn't care about her own welfare and what she thinks either, they all believe that it is her duty to protect them at whatever the cost may be if it means in Gilene own health or even her own death. Gilene family and village are true cowards that they take the easy way out from these sacrifices and let Gilene take all the burden within herself. Now the empire is pure evil and full of corruption that I just shiver every time that I read about it. And the cruel and evil empress is more vicious than the whole empire itself, the empress Davila is pure evil incarnated to the bones that she takes pleasure from the pain that she commits towards her own people yes she is that psychotic! Now let me tell you about Azarion the strong, brave and very handsome gladiator prime, I just love him so much yes he did some terrible things to Gilene at the beginning but he had a really good reason to do them and he felt just horrible and awful to put Gilene through everything and blackmailing her. Now the reason why Azarion was blackmailing Gilene and how he became gladiator prime I won't say because that is a spoiler, you have to read the book to find out and believe me when you find out you will be truly livid for everything he went through as a gladiator prime. Now there are trigger warnings in Phoenix Unbound there are some dark themes in this book as well so be prepared for that when you go into this book. Also, this book is told by two different pov's which are Gilene and Azarion pov's I really didn't mind reading two different pov's, because I absolutely loved and enjoyed reading about Azarion and Gilene prospective. Now Azarion and Gilene are my two favorite otp ever I can't wait to read more about them in the next book! All and all I absolutely and utterly love Phoenix Unbound that it is going to be pure torture to wait for the next book to come out but alas wait I shall do until the next book comes out!

On the whole, this book was slow in pacing. I found that when I read it, I was drawn in by the writing and wanting to see where the story was going. But when I set it down, I wasn't dying to get back to it. Grave Draven's books have been on my TBR for quite some time, so this felt like a good way to get my feet wet. I'm looking forward to more. But as for this book, I'm not sure where it will go from here. It read like a standalone but my curiosity is peaked.

Another great book by Draven. Loved the relationship between Azarion and Gilene. Looking forward to the next book!

Draven writes great fantasy though this ending feels a little abrupt. Liked the world building and slower build romance.

I enjoyed Phoenix Unbound, but I don’t really have much to say about it. It’s a quick fantasy romance read. It’s a little cheesy, and I don’t think it will end up being a particularly memorable read for me, but I don’t regret reading it.

5 stars! This story definitely has some Spartacus/Game of Thrones vibes! The imagery and world building was spot on! It certainly grabbed my attention from the first few chapters. Gilene and Azarion are a couple you want to root for despite their circumstances of how they are thrown together. I loved seeing their relationship blossom over the course of the book. Loved all of the characters we met along the way. The ending seemed to be abrupt for me, because there was no true epilogue. It had a more of a HFN ending. I believe this series is to be a trilogy, but I'm not sure if its a different main couple per book. I hope we see more of Gilene and Azarion though. I really hope these next books will be uploaded onto goodreads soon so I don't forget about them!

For me, this read like a traditional fantasy novel. It is the first of a trilogy, but reads well as a standalone (no cliffhanger ending). The main characters, Gilene and Azarion, have both suffered at the hands of the Empire. Azarion needs Gilene, and does not hesitate to use her. During their journey, they are able to see each other's perspectives and their relationship is impacted. Without giving any spoilers away, it's a nice fantasy novel that explores different cultures and people. There's some magic and a quest for vengeance. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to those that like this type of story.

I believe this ranks among Grace Draven's best work. I wanted an epic fantasy romance, and I got one. Great Roman-based worldbuilding, well-crafted characters, supernatural magic, a slow burn romance, and a Hero and Heroine who not only fall in love, but also grow from the journey as well. And while all of that was fantastic, one thing I found superb was the lingering effects an oppressive empire can have on the psyche of its lowest classes. How it turns people against each other just so they can survive. One qualm I have is the supernatural elements not connecting together. It might be a thing resolved in later books, but as much as this story felt like a standalone novel, I wanted those resolved as well. All in all, great read.

Grace Draven's name is one that is frequently mentioned in threads looking for fantasy romance recommendations. I'd never had the chance to read her before, so when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped on it! And since I had been craving a great fantasy romance, I hoped Phoenix Unbound would hit the spot, and it did! The story captivated me from the very first page and held me enthralled until long after it ended. I'm writing this review over 24 hours later and I'm still thinking about this book. I haven't been able to pick up anything else. Phoenix Unbound has everything a great fantasy novel needs. The world building is fantastic. The characters are well developed. The most important thing to me is not just are they easy to relate to, but can I understand them? And I could. Azarion and Gilene, may at first seem to be different, but I slowly learned they shared many of the same qualities. Both are mentally strong, resilient, honorable, and defiant. They carry burdens that should not be wholly theirs to bear and much has been taken from them. The scars they carry from their lives are deep, but such an integral part of who they are. While admirable and honorable, Azarion and Gilene are both people, so they're not perfect, but also have shades of grey. There were times when I felt Azarion was insensitive to Gilene and her frustration at being forced to help free him and then travel with him. It seemed like he was unaware, but watching him come to care for Gilene and understand her, I could see when he realized how selfish he'd been. For someone who loves romance they way I do, Phoenix Unbound had the best kind. The gradual, unhurried, and deep love that develops between two people who would initially be described as adversaries. Watching the Azarion and Gilene getting to know each other, realizing what the other meant to them, and then watching them sacrifice their love for the greater good was as wonderful as it was heart wrenching. I won't lie and say I didn't cry while reading this book. There are some really well written emotional moments and they really got to me. Phoenix Unbound was exactly what I was looking to read. Not only was the story great, but I realized everything I'd heard about Grace Draven was true. I'm really excited to read the other books she's written and also excited to see how this new series will unfold. I would love to see more of Azarion and Gilene, but also don't want to have them suffer through more to find peace and happiness together. If you're looking for a well written and well developed fantasy romance, Phoenix Unbound is a great choice!

Phoenix Unbound is the first book, of which I hope there are many, in the Fallen Empire series. I truly enjoyed reading this book and really look forward to reading more of Grace Draven's work. Superb storytelling that can be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys fantasy, romance, or both.

I LOVED this book! The characters, the world build, the fantasy of it all. I read it in one sitting. Amazing! I know it's the first in a series, but it does sort of wrap up, not leaving us in a cliffhanger feeling, which I really liked.

4* Hate to Love story count me in! My favorite trope when done correctly. This is my first book by this author and I was totally blown away! I could not put this book down. I was totally entranced from beginning to end. The world building, the plot, the characters I absolutely loved it all. I was happy that the relationships built at a slow burn. The world gave me some game of thrones vibes with the different clans, cities, and the empire. Oh and let's not forget the PLOT TWISTS! Oh my goodness, the plot twists I didn't see coming at all. They kept me reeling and my emotions on a roller coaster ride throughout the whole story. I NEED more ASAP! What a great first book and what will be an amazing series. Thank you Penguin First to Read for the e-arc! A definite must read for all fantasy readers.

It seems rare these days to find a fantasy standalone. This isn't one either. Amazon declares it part of the "The Fallen Empire" series, and a quick search at the author's website shows that it's the first in a trilogy and provides this detail: "The Kraelian Empire has ruled with an iron fist for centuries, its grip unyielding until the power of three women, and the men devoted to them, break it." Despite being a start to a new series, Phoenix Unbound can be read as a standalone. There are no cliffhanger endings, and the book moves at a surprising pace. What some fantasy authors would take 3-5 books to do, Draven covers in one, a refreshing change. The heart of the story is, of course, the building of the relationship between the two main characters, but it's set against the backdrop of a cruel Empire reminiscent of Rome before the fall. Alternating points of view give insight into both characters and add depth to the novel. Overall, the book was a solid read. I hadn't tried this author previously, but I'm now interested in seeking out her earlier works in a different world to give those a try. While checking out the acknowledgements at the end, the author mentions that her editor was Anne Sowards. That wasn't much of a surprise to me: Anne's authors always seem to end up on my must read list. Editors aren't given enough credit or recognition officially in the books, but I noticed Anne's name pop up constantly in the author's notes in my favorite reads. Whenever she's editing a book, you can trust that it's not going to be unreadable. A final word of warning: this is a violent world with graphic descriptions, along with mentions of rape. I didn't find it gratuitous, but it is something that some readers won't enjoy.

WOW. this is my first book by this author and WOW. OMG. I NEED MORE. i own 2 of her other books - the wraith king ones, i think the series is called? i just noticed there is a 3rd coming out so i might try and wait till it's finished before reading because ugh i cannot handle waiting!! i ADORED this. so hard. i need to put my words together but i'm struggling. enemies to lovers = SOLD. i love a good enemies to lovers but hate when it's not developed properly - i don't want them to fall in love overnight or suddenly be besties and then lovers. no. i want it to be gradual, i want to feel the change, watch their relationship develop and mature. i want to understand both sides and want to smoosh them together. this book hit all the nails on all the heads and there was much smooshing wanted. and granted. GAH. so much love. the world building was fantastic - sufficiently confusing at first but made sense quickly without treating the reader like an idjit. everything seems so realistic and you can tell the author did her research on little things. the cultures, the different groups of people - i felt like i was there. i understood why gilene wanted to do what she wanted to do, even though i didn't necessarily agree. in the end, i loved how it all played out and who came to visit/help her. i totally got teary. it was beautiful in all the ways. i was SO into this book, these characters, i was so cranky that i had to go to stupid sleep instead of continuing. but as soon as i woke up, i dove right back in and it was everything. i am so so in love with this characters, this world, this story. so yeah, five - ten! - stars, need the next one, absolutely amazing and wonderful, i hope her other books are this fantastic because even though i'm telling myself i will hold off, i know i won't be able to resist. i can also see myself rereading this one before the next one comes out.

This was my first book of reading Grace Draven. It was definitely worth it. It kept you coming back for more and not knowing what is going to happen. It had a lot of twists and turns that you didn't know where it was going to go through out the book. I would recommend it for friends

So, right off the bat I have to clarify that this isn't quite as good as Wraith Kings or Master of Crows or, my all-time fave, ENTREAT ME. The writing for this particular new series feels different, not bad different, just.. had you handed me this book and had me guess the author, I would never have suspected Draven. I don't know if it's just me or what but I look forward to discussing that with others as more and more people get their hands on this title. "I may curse your name for dragging me here. But I shall never forget this place. I shall never forget you." That said! I definitely enjoyed this. The worldbuilding, the various cultures of the people within, the magic, it was all interesting. We have a reluctant partnership between our two leads, though said partnership is more in a reluctant captive to their captor situation, but the slowburn subtle change in their relationship is delightful. It isn't as intense or swoony as Draven's previous OTPs but she's a spunky fire witch who is driven to annual sacrifice and pain for her people because she feels it is her duty and he's an unwilling gladiator who has survived a decade of violence and abuse with the hope that one day he will return to his home. "What if I had fallen or couldn't keep up?" "I would have carried you." The pacing does feel a mite off, some weird transitions, and because this is listed as first in the series I definitely expected a cliffhanger with the way things start going near the end. And there wasn't one. Which made certain events feel kind of.. off. I don't know. The very end was great but there was a weird lull after a whole lot of action and I don't really know if there is to be more or what. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this. Though it maybe lacked some of the usual Draven magic and intensity that I've come to expect, all the elements are still there and so I'm going to round up on this baby. 3.75 "not all shackles were fashioned of iron" stars

All I can say is WOW! What a fantastically written book! My only complaint is that it ended.I have never read anything written by Grace Draven and if this is an example of her writing style in her other books (well developed characters and a story line that draws you in and you don't want to put the book down, leaves you loving the main characters, the world they are in and wanting more) then I can't wait to read all her books! I am completely hooked on this new series Fallen Empire!

This books is a brilliant example of how a character driven story can also be full of action, romance, and straight-up storytelling magic. Gilene is a fire witch who goes thru yearly torture in order to protect her village. Azarion is a man betrayed and sold into slavery and the fighting pits. They're both survivors who have learned to live with their pasts not despite of them. The plot moves fast and keeps things rolling thru a series of fantastic events that lead to a fiery finale that fits the story to a T. A true enemies-to-lovers story with perfect writing and an ending that both closes the story and leaves space for further exploring of the great world Draven created.

A woman undertaking the role of sacrifice every year because of her unique power to control fire and a gladiator determined to escape servitude and reclaim his rightful position make an unlikely pairing in Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven.  Every year the Empire demands women from the villages be tithed as sacrifices to be burned as entertainment for the masses. Gilene has been the sacrifice for the village of Beroe for the past five years due to her ability to not be burned by fire and cast illusions in order to escape. The Empire's renowned gladiator, Azarion, has been a slave to the Empire for ten years and has been planning his escape since first glimpsing through Gilene's illusions three years previously. Having bided his time, he secures her assistance in his escape, but Gilene isn't aware of how integral she is to his plan to reclaim his position of power in his clan. In a weakened state after having used her powers, Azarion forcibly takes Gilene as he travels to his home and the pair form a strange bond as they strive to survive the numerous perils they face.  A captivating narrative driven by the main characters and their fiercely strong wills to accomplish their respective goals. The story is well-paced as it moves swiftly forward through the various situations Gilene and Azarion face as they traverse throughout the well-developed and skillfully crafted world. Though I'm not a big fan of the predictable contrivance that perpetuates the concept of captor and captive become emotionally invested and involved, the progression of Gilene and Azarion's interactions were well handled and presented a good amount of moderated resistance.  Overall, I'd give it a 4 out of 5 stars.

O.M.G! Straight away the tale draws you in. I love the flow of the story, you got time to get to know all the relevant characters without drawing on too long and losing the momentum of the story. Absolutely loved the main characters. Really worth a read. I have to say that I haven’t had a bad read yet with this author. I am really hoping (with fingers crossed) that there are more stories from this world coming in the future!

I'm extremely disappointed.... I tried to download this book a dozen different times on 3 different devices (PC, iPhone, and iPad) and it would NOT download... I emailed Member Services through this website asking for help and if they could reset the download feature for me and I received absolutely NO reply.... As much as I would love to read and review this novel, I am unable to gain access to it and customer service seems to be nonexistent... SO.... unfortunately, I cannot read and review this novel. I certainly hope that no one else is having issues. I'm really disappointed.

Ok, wow. I utterly LOVE Grace Draven's books. Phoenix Unbound is simply epically AWESOME. Gilene and Azarion don't trust each other in the beginning when they meet in the dungeons where Gilene is waiting to be imolated in a sacrifice to the gods, and Azarion is serving as an enslaved gladiator. I think Gilene would knife Azarion to get away from him in the beginning, if she thought she could get away with it. It's blissful how they slowly learn to trust each other and then fall in love. This beautiful love story is set against the backdrop of the escape from a corrupt and barbaric empire, nd leads to the lovers sacrificing themselves to rebel and save their peoples. Yowza. This book rocked, and I can't wait to see what Draven does in book 2. Auto-buy!


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