Review: Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven

Posted September 17, 2018 by Sophia Rose in Reviews / 18 Comments

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I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven
Phoenix Unbound

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Series: Fallen Empire #1
Genres: Fantasy Romance
Published by Ace
Released on September 25, 2018
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
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The Delight

A lavishly painted fantasy world, a gritty plot, and compelling characters are only the the beginning of why this book pulled me in at page one, had my heart and guts clenching, and played on all my emotions.  I’ve been meaning to pick up one of this author’s books so a new series release was the perfect opportunity.


Phoenix Unbound introduces a world that centers around an old vast empire.  It resembles the decadence and decay of the waning years of the Roman Empire enslaving and suppressing all before it.  Lavish pageantry beside brutal entertainments in the coliseum-style pit.  In the center is a gladiator slave who sees his opportunity to get free, return to his home, and get his revenge against the one who betrayed him.  To gain his freedom, he threatens a fire witch from a small village to help him gaining her reluctant assistance.  Gilene has used her magical abilities to be able to present herself each year as the village’s tribute for the human sacrifice to the gods.  She is bitter and has no hope, but faces her fate with courage.  This hostile, wary pair have an adventure that rocks an empire.

The world is a dark place for anyone not in the elite aristocratic class and I ached with hurt for those caught up as slaves or the poor class in the system.  Rape, pillage, human sacrifice, brutality was all the norm (no, rape is not detailed out, but this is not a light and easy story).  Even though, Azarion’s early actions might seem brutish, the author wrote it all in such a way that I was cheering for both him and Gilene even while they were opposed to each other.  Both their situations were desperate.

The road trip style adventure of the first half lent to a nice slow build to the character and relationship development.  There were some intense action moments and I loved how the magical element played a role.  The second half of the book took on a whole different style adventure when a new people group were introduced that had a Mongolian nomadic culture that was a brilliant contrast to the Empire.

There was a great build to the final big climax and an emotional and slowly ebbing denouement that was perfect.  I sobbed twice in the last quarter of this book and sat clutching it with a teary-eyed smile in the end.

In summary, I was left sated, but also hungry for me.  I want more of this series and will be hitting Draven’s backlist hard.  Those who love gritty adventurous fantasy romance should definitely snag this one.

I rec’d this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.


Romance Roundabout #277 FR
New Release #138
Books N Tunes #40 Home Free’s Ring of Fire Tune:




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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.

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Angela @ Simply Angela

I’ve heard so many great things about this author and your review just confirms them. I’m adding this to my ‘must read’ list.

Sophia Rose
4 years ago

Oh yeah, you really must, Angela. Totally worth it for the fantasy mood.

Kimberly Caffeinated Reviewer

I am going to have to grab this eventually, it sounds like it has many elements I enjoy.

Sophia Rose
4 years ago

Yes, this one will tickle your fantasy romance needs nicely. 🙂

Carole Rae
4 years ago

Sooo beautiful! I love that cover. The books sounds pretty good too.

Sophia Rose
4 years ago
Reply to  Carole Rae

Double yes! I hope you get the chance to read it, Carole!

Carole's Random Life
4 years ago

I really enjoyed this one too, Sophia Rose! I made the mistake of reading just one chapter in bed before planning to go to sleep…but wow that first chapter made it impossible to put the book down right away.

Sophia Rose
4 years ago

Oh man, I have made that mistake, too. This was unputdownable in places. 🙂

Crystal @ Lost in Storyland

I love fantasy books. This sounds like one that I’d enjoy! Adding it to my TBR 🙂

Sophia Rose
4 years ago

Good move, Crystal. It’s well worth it for fantasy romance fans. 🙂

Crystal @ Lost in Storyland
Reply to  Sophia Rose

Looking forward to it 🙂

Sophia Rose
4 years ago

The rumors of the great things is all true. 🙂
Don’t get concerned about my tears. I’m a crier so others might not be that worked up about what made me cry. 🙂

Enjoy your day, Alyssa!

Bookworm Brandee
Bookworm Brandee
4 years ago

I recognized Draven’s name so had to pop onto my kindle to see if I’d read her. I haven’t BUT I do own Radiance so I’m going to have to put that one in the queue. Phoenix Unbound went on my tbr. I love the sound of the world building, the character development, and the action. Great review, Sophia!

Sophia Rose
4 years ago

Yes, I have her backlist on my wish list now and I can’t wait to see her other series. She has a gift for description and drawing in the reader’s emotions. I don’t find too many fantasy romances that I like so this was a fab find. Hope you like it, too, Brandee!

4 years ago

It sounds like a dark and gritty world for sure. The characters sound like an unusual pair, but those can be a great to read about. And that sounds great how the author wrote both characters that you were cheering for them even when they where still on opposite sides. I like the sound of the magical element. Great review and that’s nice she has a backlist of books you can check out next.

Sophia Rose
4 years ago
Reply to  Lola

Yes, the unusual pairing and their situation in it all was what hooked me in most. I loved how she set up the story and blended the magic in. A new author to follow, for sure!

herding cats
4 years ago

You’re the second person I’ve heard good things about this one from. I love the sounds of the first half of the book.

Sophia Rose
4 years ago
Reply to  herding cats

I think there will be a lot of love for this one. A gritty plot and a strong enemies to lovers let alone the two ’empire’ styles that add some exotic to it. 🙂