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Phoenix Unbound

The Fallen Empire Series, Book 1
Written by: Grace Draven
Narrated by: Katharine Lee McEwan
Length: 14 hrs and 2 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (10 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In this USA Today best-selling novel, a woman with power over fire and illusion and the enslaved son of a chieftain battle a corrupt empire in this powerful and deeply emotional romantic fantasy.

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. Unknown to Gilene, he also wants to reclaim the birthright of his clan.

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

©2018 Grace Draven (P)2018 Penguin Audio

What members say

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Narrator spoke too slow but was otherwise fine.

I changed the playback speed to 1.3x and I could listen to it without getting impatient. The editor should have fixed the authors overuse of adjectives like 'revelled' (4x) and extraordinary, to make her use a more varied set, but otherwise the story was decent and entertaining.

1 person found this helpful

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A great read!

I loved this story! This the 1st book by Grace I’ve read and I’m looking forward to reading more. If you love gladiators and witches, this story is for you.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • DeRae
  • 2018-09-26

Grace Draven is a master at world building!!

I loved it! Of course I love all of her books and have recommended them to all of my friends who are avid readers and they've loved them too. This one will be no exception. I didn't want it to be over. I wanted more.

At the beginning I was so made at the hero. He was kind, gentle, and caring but was selfish. You understand his reasons but you just want the smack him!.

Minor spoiler - don't read if you don't want to know anything about the book - I loved that the author gave the heroine true emotions over being taken by force by the hero. I read so many books where she is kidnapped and just instantly fall for the hero and forgives him immediately. In my mind I'm going...really? She was mad and she let him know it. She tried to escape and made no promises that she wouldn't do it again. She was genuine with her emotions. As was the hero.

So worth the credit. The narrator was excellent! She was easy to listen to and didn't grate on my nerves with accents like others sometimes do.

15 people found this helpful

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  • IreneMBBT
  • 2018-09-27

Taste of epic

If you’ve read Draven, you know this is an automatic Yes! It has the characters with gentle dignity, innate nobility, commitment and determination; who are called upon to live through, or bear witness to, events that are greater than anything they dreamed. I was satisfied at the end with a quietly happy HEA.
The book details on Amazon and Audible is descriptive and accurate enough to determine if you’re interested in the basic story.
From what I’ve read in the last ten years, this reminds me most of Jacqueline Carey’s Naamah series, or Lois McMaster Bujold’s Curse of Chalion/Paladin of Souls/World of the Five Gods -or- Sharing Knife series. I’ve read and enjoyed Draven’s Radiance and Eidolon; after this book, Master of Crows has just moved up on my reading wish list.
McEwan does a very good job with narration.
Happily recommend on all levels!

10 people found this helpful

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  • catkit
  • 2019-02-09

Complete World and Strong Characters

The world created by Grace Draven was complete and amazing. I could hear the horses and smell the ashes. The story was also enveloping, although it took me a while to get into it. By the end I cared about these characters and wished I could stay in touch with them.

The ending felt abrupt. Yes, the story was over, but it needed an epilogue. I can't say more without spoilers, but this was disappointing.

I was also disappointed that there weren't any lighter moments. Yes, the plot overall was dark, but I bought this because one of my favorite books is Radiance. In that book the H/h often good-naturally teased each other, amusing each other and the reader.

The narration was not great. Acceptable, but her tone and cadence was similar throughout. I couldn't clearly distiguish voices of many of the characters, but didn't have an issue following the story.

3 people found this helpful

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  • J. C. Schmidt
  • 2018-10-10

Nothing special. Highly predictable

I didn't hate this book and I didn't love it. It was kind of boring. I didn't find the characters compelling. The first third was the best. Some character development but overall not enough to make me feel connected.

I hate the "man abuses/abducts/rapes the woman, they fall in love" thing. A trope that should die.

13 people found this helpful

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  • Jennifer OBrien
  • 2018-10-03

Between a rock and a hard place

Listening to this story made getting the work done fun. I spent a few days saying things like “I can’t watch that show with you. I need to do yard work... dishes... walk the dog (and listen to my book).” When the last word was spoken I loved the ending but hated that the story was over.
The protagonists are both caught between a rock and a hard place for much of the story. I’ve read this theme play out before but the shifts in pressure and character development made it feel new. The character’s backstories are fraught with terrible times but once they join forces willingly and not, their lives change for the better. Due to the hardships they persevered, I was emotionally invested in the first chapters so their adventures, battles, trials, happy moments and each success felt very satisfying. The love developed at a slow burn that got pretty hot. I also appreciated that if there was no adventure in the journey the reader didn’t have to travel with the characters over every hill and dale.
I enjoyed this story and definitely recommend it.

5 people found this helpful

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  • AMP5
  • 2020-02-03

Excellent story and characters

Grace Draven is truly gifted. Just plain a wonderful book, with amazing characters! I wish there were more, for once . Though I was glad to know the whole story. I’d even give it 6 stars if I could.

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  • JW
  • 2020-01-29

Loved it

Another great book from a great author. Complete story with open threads, no cliffhangers and great characters and story.

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  • KSTYLES
  • 2019-09-24

It was ok compared to other books

For some reason I didnt find this story that interesting. I really liked the Radiance series but this one, not so much.

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  • Miranda Floyd
  • 2019-08-23

Amazing world building

Grace Draven is one of my favorite authors. She has a true talent for world building. Reading this book you'll feel like a trapped gladiator, a vengeful warlord, a fire witch with no options, and a flower of spring.

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  • kimbacaffeinate
  • 2019-08-18

romance, nail-biting suspense, brutality, magic

If you love historical settings, epic romances, rich cultures, good vs evil, mythology, Gods, gladiators, magic, heroes and heroines you need to grab this first audio in the Fallen Empire series.

From the very first chapter, Draven pulled me in as they tied Gilene to other women and led to the arena. There they would serve as a reward to the winning gladiators before being sacrificed to the Gods in the Rites of Spring ceremony. We learn that Gilene has repeated this journey for the past five years. Say what? Gilene possess the gift of fire and using magic incantations can alter her appearance.

The romance begins awkwardly. There is chemistry, but both have a duty to family and Azarion’s unwilling to share why he is forcing her to journey with him made him her captor. This is a romance that unfolds slowly as trust builds along with mutual respect. It was heartbreaking, beautiful and unbelievably swoon-worthy. I laughed, licked my lips in anticipation of that first kiss even as I shock my fist at their miscommunications. It drew out all of my emotions and at times I openly wept.
The magic is fascinating, the superstitions and rituals terrifying and barbaric but everything wove together creating an epic tale that held me spellbound and made me believe.

Katharine McEwan performed an exceptional narration. She captured the essence of each character and drew out the emotions Draven penned.

The story wrapped up wonderfully leaving me with a wickedly good audio hangover.