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Mini-reviews: Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix + Archenemies

pub 11/6/18 by Philomel Books
Young Adult - Fantasy/Retelling
Received ARC from pub for review
Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is the second book in the Rise of the Empress duology, which retells two halves of the Snow White fairytale that we all know but I certainly never loved (sorry!). The first book, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, was a reimagining of the Evil Queen’s origin story set in Imperial China while this book is focused on retelling Snow White's side of the story. Even though I was so impressed by the world introduced in Forest and how Dao interpreted the Evil Queen, it was admittedly a bit hard to connect to the anti-heroine, Xifeng. But with Kingdom, I fell in love with everything - the world, the heroine, characters, you name it. Again, I was impressed by the world-building and how Dao made this fairytale her own while throwing in clever references to its source material. The heroine Jade was so easy to connect to and root for. I mean, who isn’t going to root for the resourceful princess coming back to reclaim her throne and honor her mother’s memory? Jade's tenacity comes from her quiet strength, intelligence and quick wits ‐ qualities that can be overlooked in fantasy in favor of being able to physically kick ass (which I'm not opposed to either!). Jade goes on a quest to raise the Dragon Lords to defeat the Evil Empress Xifeng and I can’t say enough how much I love when characters go on an epic journey. This one was beautifully written with nods to Asian culture plus, what’s a quest without friends to help you along the way. Jade and the people she connects with also played a huge role in why I enjoyed this story so much.

Do I recommend? Yes! This is a Snow White story I can definitely get behind.

pub 11/6/18 by Feiwel & Friends
Young Adult - Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Received ARC from pub for review
I have to admit while I was entertained by Renegades, it wasn’t my favorite superheroes vs. villains story. But the ending raised enough questions that I was intrigued continue with the series to see them answered. Archenemies picks up where Renegades left off and both Nova and Adrian have even bigger fish to fry. Despite their victory against The Detonator, it’s short-lived and both sides of this ongoing war each have new tricks up their sleeves. The Anarchists have a secret weapon, and likewise the Renegades have developed a new method for dealing with Anarchists and the like. What’s so interesting about these books is how they show that despite these labels of the "good guys" and the "bad guys", the sides aren’t so black and white. I can see why the Renegades are the bad guys in Nova’s story but at the same time, they are trying to help others and do good (despite a couple bad eggs). On the flip side, the Anarchists whole MO reminds me of Magneto from X-Men. They want people with abilities to live without fear or judgement but what’s their price? Nova is in a precarious position and as she becomes closer to Adrian, it gets even more confusing for her. But as interesting as it was, I still couldn’t connect to Nova and I think that’s my issue with the series overall. She and the plot interest me but I don’t feel invested enough to feel immersed in her story.

Do I recommend? Like I said, I like it but don’t love it. I know quite a few people who do though so if you’re interested, I think it’s worth checking out.



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