Princess Jade has grown up exiled away in a monastery while her stepmother, the ruthless Xifeng, rules as empress of Feng Lu. But the empire is in distress and its people are sinking into poverty and despair.
So when Jade is called back to the Great Forest to potentially learn to be heir of the throne, she is both suspicious of her stepmother’s intentions, especially since both of them know Jade doesn’t want the crown. But as Jade learns more about her stepmother’s evil deeds, she knows she is the only one who can dethrone the empress and set the world right.
Ready to reclaim her place as rightful heir, Jade embarks on a quest to raise the Dragon Lords and defeat Xifeng and the Serpent God once and for all.
🌸 It’s a little dark atmospherically (eating hearts…yum), so I’d say 13/14+ for this series, although there’s nothing explicitly mature or gory. I feel like Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is better for younger readers than FOTL, but a mature reader could definitely be able to handle them.
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns was great, but Kingdom of the Blazing Phoneix was even better. Because wow.
I think Dao really stepped up with the world building in this one, and it wasn’t in an info dump nature. There was a lot of just exploration of different areas of the world (I didn’t have the gorgeous map with me) instead of just the Great Forest, and I think that made it a lot easier for me to get a sense of the world Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is set in.
Jade goes on this almost quest across the lands to search for magical god-related artifacts, and that’s really why I feel like the worldbuilding was developed a lot better.
In general, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is just a different book than Forest of a Thousand Lanters, and you really can read Kingdom without reading FOTL.
It’s a whole different type of narrative structure–not a descent to evil, but a rising to goodness through a quest of sorts with a ragtag found family, and I just really loved how Jade found these amazing people as part of her life.
Plus, I think Dao really takes the concept of Snow White and reinvents it well through her story–it’s not rigidly to the tale, but it takes a lot of elements and puts them into her own storyline, which I really enjoyed.
I think part of the reason why I liked Kingdom more was because I connected more with Jade than Xifeng was just because she wasn’t . . . evil. She’s kind and humble, and Dao didn’t just say “Jade was a good person,” she showed it to us and not through the bad trope of “giving your servant stuff.”
I always find it irritating when authors try to make royalty “nice people” by having them give stuff to their servants, but still not really treat them as people, and I think Dao did a good job of not doing this, and having Jade treat everyone on the same level, without being a total martyr.
Honestly, my only critique would be that some of the quest portions felt a little too convenient. Like, everything fit together easily, and it was all set up so that the protagonists could succeed. I kind of wanted more struggle in finding what way the protagonists could go, finding how they should proceed.
The quest almost felt too laid out for them–like two artifacts were conveniently in one place, so they didn’t have to travel to X place. It all fit together, and although it was satisfying, I kind of yearned for that extra level of struggle and desperation of the characters.
But overall, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix was a great read I absolutely blazed through, and I definitely recommend you pick this one up, even if you didn’t like Forest of a Thousand Lanterns! It’s a very different type of story, and great for someone who likes fairytale retellings with a twist.
(I do still recommend you pick up FOTL though, as it adds a certain level to the book and Xifeng’s nature.)
Thank you so much to Julie C. Dao and Penguin Teen for sending me an advance reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review!
Have you read Forest of a Thousand Lanterns or Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix? What did you think?