• Phoenix Unbound

  • The Fallen Empire Series, Book 1
  • By: Grace Draven
  • Narrated by: Katharine Lee McEwan
  • Length: 14 hrs and 2 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (753 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

Critic Reviews

“Grace Draven's exciting romantic fantasy features characters who are fresh and original. Their problems and triumphs will keep you reading into the night.” (Charlaine Harris, number-one New York Times best-selling author)

“Fierce and captivating, Phoenix Unbound is the story of a gladiator and a fire witch fighting for their freedom against an empire that wants them enslaved.  With impossible odds, breathtaking battles, terrifying magic, and an unlikely love, this book is a must read. Grace Draven is a master of romantic heroic fantasy.” (Ilona Andrews, number-one New York Times best-selling author)

“Fabulous. Quite possibly Grace Draven's best book yet. I couldn't put it down, and I didn't want it to end!” (C.L. Wilson, New York Times best-selling author of The Sea King

What listeners say about Phoenix Unbound

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

19 people found this helpful

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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!

15 people found this helpful

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Felt nothing for main characters

I wasn’t able to get through this book. First, I had to increase the narration speed to 1.5 because the narration dragged on and on. The narrator has a lovely voice, but the speed was too slow for a slowish story.
On that, I found the story dragged, but not in a good way. Descriptions of abuse over and over again do not make for excitement only depression. The female main character was just not likable. The character was brave but only when forced to be. She just seemed ambiguous at best. The male lead was a bit better. I jumped to the end and found the end to be as expected but also rushed, leaving a great many things unexplained. Also, there is very little humor in this book. I personally like my romance to at least have a spark of humor. Non to be found here.
I am returning the book, as I will never finish it.

5 people found this helpful

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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.

4 people found this helpful

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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.

17 people found this helpful

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The review I wish I had read before I got this book

If you read any part of my review before purchasing this book, let it be this. If you do not want to read about abuse, murder, kidnapping, or just general mistreatment of women and men for so many chapters just go ahead and pass on this book. I skimmed the reviews and did not get a true sense of this book. I wish I had not gotten it and I don’t know why I powered through it to the end.

I feel like I know as much about the characters at the end of this story as I did in the beginning. No time is taken to establish who these people really are to make you care for them. I’m also honestly concerned about all the reviews I saw saying the first third of the book is the best. The first few chapters are just about the mistreatment, abuse, and death that take place in this world. They were not easy or fun to get through. The rest of the book doesn’t have anything to break up the difficult parts of the story, and there are plenty. You know the whole time what this is, a story of the abused falling in love with the abuser. Just because he was also abused does not make him someone to care about. Just because people have families to go back to doesn’t mean they’re a good person. There’s a lot of heavy, heavy stuff talked about in this book and it makes this a very hard book to get through. There’s nothing about this world that makes me want to be there. There’s nothing about the characters that make you want to know them, be them, or be like them. If I hadn’t read the wraith kings series I’d seriously question this writer. Does the world really need stories that seem like they’re written just to detail horrible things? Is abuse the only way to move a lot forward? I don’t understand the point of this book and I can’t imagine the writing process for this one.

1 person found this helpful

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So much language

I wish this had a warning! So many F words- the story started off awesome- but if you are at all sensitive to language- don’t waste your credits like I did!

1 person found this helpful

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Hit & miss for me (some spoilers)

The reviews I read about this book varied, most of them kind of neutral in a way. I would have to agree with them. I thoroughly enjoyed Radiance and Eidolon, but was iffy on Master of Crows. Grace Draven's books are a hit or miss for me at this point like Tiffany Roberts' books. There was something about this book that seemed lacking and I didn't feel consumed by the events that occurred. The beginning of the book was good with a nice pace. The ending was a bit abrupt. It took Gilene almost a year to "find" Azarion and when they do finally see each other, it's the end. It's a happy ending, but it felt like "that's it."

Katharine Lee McEwan did an all right job, but I personally think she could have done better. She sounded somber and bland when speaking from Gilene's POV, especially when there were some scenes that could have been read as a little humorous. Draven usually has some humor in her books, so I was expecting some sassy tones. I think she voiced the men all right.

I wasn't particularly entertained, but I do like how women were written in this book. There was a hint of a love between Azarion's sister and a now-widowed woman and the individuals who have the highest rank were women. Azarion's people worships a female goddess and majority of the warriors are women. While Gilene was used to being treated as the lesser sex and was raped, she continued to stay strong much like how survivors of abuse are. The book wasn't entirely feminist and did mention some hardships men go through (men DO experience abuse and betrayal, too, you know).

Overall, I think this was an okay book. Not super entertaining, but the underlying themes were nice to see. Not sure if I want to read the next book, though. I do know the beginning of the book starts with part of the ending of this book, just told from a different perspective.

1 person found this helpful

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DNF. Awful hero - Boring story

DNF this. The hero was just a douchebag. I kept hanging on hoping he'd do something redeemable, but he just continued to be a self centered prick and just gets worse and worse. While he wasn't horribly cruel, there was literally nothing to like about him. No redeeming qualities at all. I have absolutely no sympathy for anything he's been through. If anything I just wished more horrible shit would happen to this ass hat. How does this bs have such a misleading rating?!??!

Also, had annoying editing issues. It would randomaly repeats lines multiple times.

1 person found this helpful

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Great start to a series

This was a great story. Full of adventure and blooming love. I just wish the ending was a little longer. I felt as though it ended kind of abruptly.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Aarin
  • 08-17-19

I found it boring and unneccessarily graphic.

The story was like every other gladiator story + magic. Nothing new or special. After trying 2 of her books (both like already existing stories/content but much less interesting versions and much more sexual) i cannot recommend for the time it takes away from emersing yourself in an actually good and satisfying story.

in terms of the excess sexual details, i found even this to be boring as it leaves nothing unsaid or to the imagination. I didnt find it to add any actual romance, intimacy or value for all the effort of detail put into it.

The reader, for me, kept it interesting and gave quite some colour to something otherwise dull.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-24-19

Omg

This was amazing ❤️ the ending was sooo good, it gave me gusboms. One of the best books this year.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • CCQ
  • 04-21-19

Fully immersed in this book

Feeling bereft it’s now finished! Wonderful book. Great world building and characters.

A star taken off for some poor editing early on in the book where the narrator repeats the same line a couple of times. Otherwise, a good production with Katherine McEwan doing a great job at bringing to life the different characters.

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  • Leonie
  • 01-19-19

A timeless story beautifully told

There are no words to adequately describe how much I enjoyed this book. Having it on audio prolonged that joy.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • susan
  • 12-30-18

Really good

I’m not usually a fan of this kind of historical-ish fantasy (I usually find it to be obvious & kind of cliche) but this was actually really fun & epic. The characters were interesting, the names weren’t impossible to remember, the world was original & well put together....all in all a good read.
I’ll be looking forward to the sequel 😊

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  • Sibhy
  • 12-12-18

interesting

it was a very good story I would reccomdendations to all lovers of fantasy and magic.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Nobuhle Gumede
  • 10-01-18

A must have

listened the whole night till morning. could not stop a very good book. loved the hero and heroin

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  • leah_zero
  • 01-11-22

Another great Grace Draven series!

Absolutely loved this book! Cannot tell you how happy I am to have discovered Grace Draven .. her books call me now and I am having trouble leaving her stories to listen to those of other authors.
I cannot rate Katherine McEwan highly enough too.. she is so easy to listen to and depicts the characters perfectly.
Moving onto book 2 in series now!

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  • DebraP
  • 10-25-20

Epic story telling

I love the epic of old, the full telling of a story, from beginning to end in one intense story line.
The author who is new to me has accomplished this in this fabulous book, the narrator also has done a wonderful job, both taking us on the adventure of angst, war, love.
Definitely in my opinion worth the triple 5*

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  • Imee-B
  • 09-16-19

***Wow***

Grace Draven has done it again, this time she weave a magical and a fantastical world, her world building is excellent as always. The narrative is amazing Katherine Lee McEwan had done justice in her narration.

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  • Di Edwards
  • 05-30-19

Loved it!!!

Fantastic storyline and great narrration. So inventive and her grasp of language is phenomenal. Can't wait for her next book.