Thank you to Harper Voyager for sending me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
This book was a wild ride and I’m still recovering from this book.
Synopsis from Goodreads:
After saving her nation of Nikan from foreign invaders and battling the evil Empress Su Daji in a brutal civil war, Fang Runin was betrayed by allies and left for dead.
Despite her losses, Rin hasn’t given up on those for whom she has sacrificed so much—the people of the southern provinces and especially Tikany, the village that is her home. Returning to her roots, Rin meets difficult challenges—and unexpected opportunities. While her new allies in the Southern Coalition leadership are sly and untrustworthy, Rin quickly realizes that the real power in Nikan lies with the millions of common people who thirst for vengeance and revere her as a goddess of salvation.
Backed by the masses and her Southern Army, Rin will use every weapon to defeat the Dragon Republic, the colonizing Hesperians, and all who threaten the shamanic arts and their practitioners. As her power and influence grows, though, will she be strong enough to resist the Phoenix’s intoxicating voice urging her to burn the world and everything in it?
This book had me terrified the whole time I was reading. I read it in two evenings and I could not put this book down. I wasn’t sure what to expect, all I knew was that I should be afraid for the lives of my favourite characters.
This book starts just after the ending of The Dragon Republic and we see Rin and Kitay having to regroup and figure out what they are going to do after the betrayal they suffered which also resulted in the death of the cike. (I am still not over what happened to my baby Ramsa.) As they are no longer on the side of the powerful they have to learn new ways in which they can defeat their enemies and it was really interesting to see how they had to adapt and how they struggled through that.
Rin goes through a lot in this book and we see her gain more control over the phoenix and channel that into the battles, she also begins to understand that not everything can be done through destruction and Kitay is always there to help and support her. Their friendship and bond is one of my favourite parts of this trilogy. Seeing them both grow together and then becoming linked even more deeply when Kitay becomes her anchor. I just loved them so much, though Kitay is my absolute favourite.
There are some incredibly difficult topics discussed in this book including different forms of trauma and we see Rin struggle with that throughout the book. From having to deal with being treated as lesser because she was a war orphan and has dark skin to dealing with being betrayed and having to watch those she was supposed to lead and protect be killed. She is able to channel all her anger to fighting to save her home but it also comes at a cost.
Another theme that is prevalent in this book is how the Hesperians colonise their land to “improve” it because Rin and her people are clearly inferior. I felt this deep in my soul because we see this so much in our lives and being Pakistani and knowing how the British colonised and destroyed the land made me so angry when reading about it in the book. Especially how when Rin goes to the New City and sees just how much it has been changed by the Hesperians. How they teach the people that they know better and that they are inherently superior, so they have the right to do this. It is scarily accurate to real life. Honestly for me they were the worst villains.
We also finally see the trifecta together and what happened to them and what truly happened to the Speerlys and it is even worse than what we already know. I was shook by everything that went down and then what Rin decided to do once the trifecta were destroyed.
This book has some epic battle scenes especially with Rin and Nezha. There is one scene especially which was written so cinematically with Nezha making it rain and Rin breathing fire and I just love seeing them interact. The dynamics they have where they both love and hate each other. Their banter and the way they fight each other. I just loved it.
And then we have THAT ending. I didn’t know what to expect for a trilogy like this and it utterly broke me. I don’t think I will ever be over that ending.
This trilogy is dark and brutal but I love it so much. With characters that you want to root for despite the awful things they have done and everyone is morally grey. Characters driven by power and revenge and willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals. I haven’t read a trilogy quite like this and I highly recommend it.