Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven

Fallen Empire, Book 1

Synopsis: A woman with power over fire and illusion and an enslaved son of a chieftain battle a corrupt empire in this powerful and deeply emotional romantic fantasy from the USA Todaybestselling 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. And unknown to Gilene, he also wants to reclaim the birthright of his clan.

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

Review: I had heard a lot about Grace Draven and when I saw this new novel, I saw the opportunity to finally discover one of her stories. And then, did you see that cover? How to resist it? It is just sublime!

We discover a place ruled by a master hand, a place where every year a young woman is given to the capital to be burned, offering to the gods. This is how we discover Gilene, a young woman who thanks to her gift of illusion and her powers on fire, returns every year to be burned alive. But even if she can get by every time, she must also deal with serious consequences. It is in these conditions that she meets Azarion, a slave gladiator who seems to be the only one to be able to pierce her illusions and to notice that she is always the same person to return year after year. He will then make her a proposal, or more precisely he will blackmail her for her to help him free so she can accompany him home to take back his rightful place.

It was interesting to discover what Gilene was able to do and to see that eventually this trip will allow her to understand a little more what she is. She will be able to see that she can have other opportunities, even if she knows that nothing is really possible and that she has to go home to save hers. We will follow the epic of our two heroes, thus discovering what this kingdom conceals, as well as Azarion’s clan. This man has a clear and precise purpose, and it is true that he will not turn away so easily from his goal.

It was an interesting novel and after such an ending that ends well enough this first volume, I wonder what the author will propose.