Book Talk 10/5/18: Grace Draven’s Phoenix Unbound
Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven Sept. 25, 2018 Ace Books. Netgalley.
Amazon’s blurb: 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 from the USA Today bestselling author of Radiance.
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.
My review: The Flowers of Spring are women or girls who are sent to the Empire for the sole purposes of lust and burning to appease the gods. Gilene has been to many a Spring Rite as the fire witch of Beroe. This year, she sees a man who has recognized her despite her disguise the last three years. Instead of betraying her, he demands her help for his silence. Gladius Prime, he is the ultimate warrior he fights others to the death to live only to be raped and tortured by the Empress. He was sold into slavery by his cousin ten years ago. With the fire witch’s help, he escapes and keeps her prisoner so that he can oust his cousin as ataman of his tribe. Along the way, the two grow to care for each other but Gilene is bound to Beroe. Azarian tries to teach her that Agna, the fire goddess, would not want her to endure what she does each spring. Both go their separate ways, but will it be to an end or a new beginning?
I LOVED it! Gilene and Azarian are intriguing characters and the whole story is decent. That said, I had trouble believing that the village would send their women each year to be burned without a fight. And how do they replenish the females each year?