Julie C. Dao is one of my auto-buy authors -- I totally fell in love with Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and adored The Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix. I thought that with the completion of the Rise of the Empress duology, we would leave the world of Feng Lu forever. So imagine my surprise and delight to discover that Song of the Crimson Flower, her latest book, was set in the same world! This book completely stands alone from the Rise of the Empress duology, but will still delight fans of the original books with some familiar faces and themes.
I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to have gotten my hands on an early copy of Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix! I read Forest of a Thousand Lanterns earlier this year and absolutely adored it. Xifeng is easily one of my favourite fantasy villains because of her callousness, her calculated choices, and her cutthroat attitude. She rises to the throne and becomes Empress of Feng Lu at the end of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, but what happens next? Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix takes place 15 years later just before Jade, the daughter of the former Empress Lihua and sole heir to the throne, comes of age.
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns was a book I had extremely high hopes for. Billed as an east-Asian retelling of the ‘evil queen’ myth so prevalent in fairy tales. I love a good villain/anti-heroine and I feel like we just don’t get enough of them in fantasy, particularly YA fantasy. So with high hopes for Xifeng, I eagerly dove in.