Princess Jade has grown up in exile, hidden 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. Even though Jade doesn’t want the crown, 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. But will the same darkness that took Xifeng take Jade, too? Or will she find the strength within to save herself, her friends, and her empire?
Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, told from the POV of Jade, who was born at the end of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, takes place when she is 18. Jade has been living her life at a monastery because she was sent away by the Emperor and Xifeng, and doesn’t have any desire to claim her birthright on the throne, and is content in initiating herself as a monk. However, the throne comes calling for her when she is summoned by Xifeng. Meeting her and being targeted by her for being the ‘Fool’ of her prophecy, Jade realizes she will be always be an enemy to Xifeng and goes on a quest to retrieve the five ancient relics of Fung Lu to bring down a Dragon Guard to defeat her.
Joining her on her quest are Kowichi, the son of the ambassador Shiro, and Ren, the grand-daughter of her nanny; the latter starts their relationship on a conflicting note but the two girls soon become friends and close as sisters. The trio are being aided by a magical cloak stitched by the former empress and the nanny, which guides them to where the relics are hidden. Jade still has to face challenges to get the relics, the clues for which are encoded in the folklore of Fung Lu. And Kong, the huntsman is hunting them down to retrieve Jade’s heart for Xifeng. With appearances from some key side characters from the first book, this sequel weaves the plot threads to a satisfying enough conclusion.
While this was an interesting book, I found the pace slower than I would have liked for a quest sort of plotline. The ending was also a bit underwhelming considering how much the story had built up Xifeng’s and the serpent god’s powers. Also, it is never explained how Li Hua had the magic for the cloak. and if it could just be done by any descendant of the Dragon King, it wasn’t done until Jade?
Overall, though, it was a good retelling of Snow White, and complimented the first book well enough.
Is it diverse? East Asian setting, with exclusively POC characters, written by an Asian author; also has a dwarf character as a love interest
Previous book in the Rise of the Empress duology