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The Phoenix Empress

(Ascendant #2)

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  797 ratings  ·  124 reviews
The Phoenix Empress, the sequel to K Arsenault Rivera's wildly buzzed about The Tiger's Daughter, an epic historical fantasy in the vein of Patrick Rothfuss and Naomi Novik.

Since she was a child, the divine empress O Shizuka has believed she was an untouchable god. When her uncle, ruler of the Hokkaran Empire, sends her on a suicide mission as a leader of the Imperial Army
Paperback, 544 pages
Published October 9th 2018 by Tor Books
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Average rating 3.91  · 
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 ·  797 ratings  ·  124 reviews

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May 14, 2020 rated it liked it
I honestly don’t know how to feel about this book or continuing with this series. This book provided more context for the world, but felt more scattered than the first book. There are large events and gaps of time missing that we don’t get to see on the page but are told about. This makes the plot hard for me to follow, personally. But, somehow, I’m still intrigued. This story at its root is a love story between two warriors and while I think the world is expansive and interesting, I’m starting ...more
Nov 12, 2018 rated it did not like it
1 star.

"An epic historical fantasy in the vein of Patrick Rothfuss and Naomi Novik."


That would be an insult to Rothfuss and Novik.

By far, the worst book I have read in 2018. This is not an exaggeration. This is my 100% honest thought: I hated The Phoenix Empress. Hated it. I can't even begin to describe how much I disliked my reading experience.

Throughout this novel, I tried, I really, really, really tried to like it. I tried to find the positives. What I found was nothing but flowery prose that
The Phoenix Empress picks up where The Tiger's Daughter left off, with Shizuka and Shefali reunited after eight years apart. Shefali returns to find Shizuka crowned empress and drowning herself in alcohol, while Shefali herself is dealing with demons of her own (quite literally) and the fact that she is dying.

So, despite some issues with The Tiger's Daughter, I did quite like the relationship between the two main characters; while over-dramatic at times, I'd found it romantic and addictive for t
May 22, 2018 added it
Shelves: no-thanks
Not a review. Goodreads won't let me put this on my "no thanks" shelf without putting it as a book I've read or want to read. The first one was eww (I mean culturally, don't at me because you wanted a wlw story and the racism in TD didn't bother you), so I'll politely say no thanks to this one unless I hear it's revolutionarily good and fixes all the shit I had problems with in the previous installment.

The only thing I agree with in the Tiger's Daughter is that 8 times 4 is 32.
2.5-3 stars

I received an e-copy of this book from Pan Macmillan in exchange for an honest review.

The Phoenix Empress is the sequel to The Tiger's Daughter - an expansive fantasy novel in which readers are first introduced to Quorin warrior Barsalyya Shefali, and her best friend, wife, and Empress O Shizuka.

In The Phoenix Empress, we finally learn what happened to O Shizuka in the eight years she and Shefali were separated after Shefali was banished by Shizuka's uncle, the Emperor. I really wante
Beth Rosser
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love these books. I have been lucky enough to read both thanks to Netgalley and the publisher, and I'm so grateful. The way the prose is written, I just find very beautiful. I find that the story truly immerses me in the worlds that Rivera has created with distinctive cultures, traditions, and stories.

I enjoyed being able to learn more about the Traitor in this book, and the role he has played in shaping the land and the blackbloods.

It was also nice to see how both Shizuka and Shefali have bo
Nov 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2018

Ridiculously boring. Also weirdly more confusing than the first book?? Things were bugging me way more in this book than the first, maybe its the difference in format (letters in the first vs this one which is a normal POV) and also the amount of honorifics in this book got to be WAY too much. Names were getting even more muddled than the first one when i actually cared enough to pay attention.

The writing is beautiful and i love the f/f relationship but other than that, this was definite
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“My father used to say that poetry came to him from silence- but not just any silence. The moment between a few drop’s fall and impact [...] the space between two heartbeats. These things are perfect silences. Within them he heard the whispers of truth.

As a child, I believed every word of this.
As a young woman, I thought it sentimental nonsense.
As a woman grown, as a general- I heard the perfect silence then, and I hear the truth’s whisper.”

My rating for this book is purely based around my sh
Giving up on this a little over the halfway mark because I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of it: an awfully boring non-existent plot with flashbacks of something you already know had happened; boring characters – I wasn’t a huge fan of the first book, I thought it was just okay, so here we have more of the same; vague worldbuilding – all that flowery prose does little more than building castles in the air, spending too much time describing things that have almost no relevance to the plo ...more
Jamie (Books and Ladders)
Jan 27, 2019 rated it did not like it
See this review and more on Books and Ladders!

DNF @ 35%

I just couldn't force myself to read anymore. Where the first one allowed us to learn the entire story at once and really feel like we were involved because of the second person tense, this book scrapped all that in favour of purple prose, horrible characters, and a huge lapse in time while knowing the "end" which takes away all the intrigue and mystery. I may try again but probably not.
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Full of pain and sorrow - and I want more!

Absolutely spell-binding. With the Tigers Daughter i said it's the kind of book you finish and don't know what to read next, as nothing can really compare. It's no different with the Phoenix Empress. Equally as eloquent and well thought out as the first book, but this one cuts deeper. I had honestly wondered how the author would be able to continue the series in the same vein as the Tigers Daughter, since that was largely told in the form of a love lette
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My current favorite fantasy series!

A worthy sequel to The Tiger's Daughter, Rivera continues her wonderfully subversive Silk-Road fantasy series in a not-Asia that is skillfully and intricately constructed, even down to small details like the honorifics added to each character's name in dialogue. The protagonists are icons of feminism, multiculturalism, LGBTQ representation . . . And they're great! I absolutely love everything about this series!
Jan 19, 2021 rated it liked it
I don't have a good history w series' second books, cuz they tend to b full of Nothing but this was sooooo loooongggg bruhh and for what?? lots of weird vague worldbuilding (i could tell the story exists in an immersive world but author didn't do well to make things not confusing) n LOTS of trauma but at least they're wives <3
Apr 27, 2020 rated it it was ok
Check out my review for the first book in this series, The Tiger's Daughter.

This book picks up right after the conclusion of the first one, with Shizuka and Shefali reunited after 8 years apart. Shefali returns to find Shizuka crowned empress and drowning herself in alcohol, while Shefali herself is battling demons inside of her and the fact that she is dying.

Despite my issues with The Tiger's Daughter, I still generally enjoyed it. I really like the relationship between the two main characters
Savannah Holland
Nov 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbtq
Tbh I really could have used a recap before this book. While the writing is gorgeous it really doesn’t lend itself to easy recall so I feel I just accepted a lot of things rather than understanding them
Laura AP
Jan 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
love the sword lesbians. they're the best ...more
Nov 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Phoenix Empress is a book I thoroughly enjoyed. I adored The Tigers Daughter so I was really excited to lean more about the characters and the world K Arsenault Rivera has created.

The strongest aspect of The Phoenix Empress is the characterization. The two main characters are exceptionally well drawn and their personalities are complex and interesting. Their romance is believable and often adorable, and the scenes I enjoyed the most were the the two of them just spending time together. This
Nov 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Phoenix Empress is the second novel in Their Bright Ascendancy adult fantasy trilogy. This series is very unique in a lot of wonderful ways. The main characters are female warriors and leaders prosperous despite cultural norms. There is also a prominent female/female relationship even though this was not easily accepted in this world. I also enjoyed the setting of this epic historical fantasy series. There are not many fantasy novels with an Asian like setting. These are the elements that co ...more
Colleen Corgel
Dec 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This series just continues to impress! This second volume pretty much starts off right when the events of the first book end, with Shefali and Shizuka finally reunited. However, as much as Shefali anticipated her "condition" to deteriorate in the years they've been apart, it is Shizuka that seems the most broken. Shizuka is now the Empress with the burdens of a kingdom and her earlier actions weighing her down. The pair must navigate this new aspect of their relationship, along with the news tha ...more
Oct 30, 2018 marked it as dnf  ·  review of another edition
There were many things that I loved about the first book in this series. That's why I immediately requested it when I saw it on Netgalley (and to give you perspective, I RARELY request books any more as I have so many TBR.) Anyway, I was excited about this one. Unfortunately I just couldn't get into the story. I would read a page or two and put it down to do something else. I'm technically putting this in my "On Hold" shelf as I may come back to it at a future date. But, for now, it just isn't t ...more
Feb 24, 2019 rated it liked it
I don’t like this book as much as the first one. This story is much too long for the story it telling. I was flying to get to the end, getting tired of the story. I think the author could have dropped 1/3 of the pages.
Rebecca Wennlund
Feb 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
I would not have given this four stars (I think it is more like 3.5) but it was more than 3. I know everyone has their own rating scale. I loved the first book, and I expect to love the third book, but this one was so very slow to read -and it's really long. And both Shizuka and Shefali have lived through so much heartache in the past 8 years apart that instead of a nice homecoming (palace-coming) that we expect (and so do they), they take most of the book to settle into being together again -an ...more
Tiffany Fritz
Mar 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
I understand that some readers didn't like the attention to Shizuka's POV, but I did. She's deeply flawed and that's what makes her compelling. The only reason this isn't 5 stars for me is that the structure and thematic focus don't all pull together for me. This book, in some ways, seems to set up the third instead of stand on its own — a common issue in the second book of a trilogy. ...more
Kate De Oude
May 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
While a worthy follow-up to the first book, it leaves many questions from the end of The Tiger's Daughter unanswered, which only begs the question if it will be explored during the final instalment in the trilogy ...more
Jun 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: asian-sff, lgbtq, 2020
I swear nothing actually happens in this book? There's very little that occurs in the present day timeline in this book. It's a lot of Shizuka and Shefali reuniting after eight years only to realize they can't just seamlessly pickup from where they left off. And it was totally fine with it? There's just, so much that takes place in between that very little that kept me engaged. ...more
A Reader in Time
* DNF @ pg 65 *

This book is just too boring for me to continue with. I don't particularly care about the characters and just don't feel the need to continue with this series...
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantastical
I am about the worst possible reader in the world, by which I mean I decided to read this book without first having read its predecessor, the first in the Their Bright Ascendancy series, The Tiger's Daughter. So yes, I have committed many crimes against both humanity and fantasy, although it's difficult to parse how much my lack of reading scruples may have affected my reception of this particular book.

On which note, the book! It's massive! It's queer! It's a massive massively queer fantasy nove
Oct 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018-release, arc, 2018
Thanks to NetGalley for providing this e-arc!

Unfortunately I did not really like this sequel..

Full review:
Rating: 4.5 Stars: ★★★★ 1/2
The Phoenix Empress is a book that surprised me in so many ways! As with Tiger, the world-building is expansive, writing is descriptive & immersive, the complex plot is woven in ways that I was not expecting! The empowering + expansive cast of female characters are all unique and inspiring in their own ways!

What I love about this book is how instead of seeing the past through Shefali's eyes, we now see it through Shizuka and I loved how that paralleled book 1!
This se
May 01, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Puerto Rico born and New York raised, K is a lifelong fan of all things nerdy. She drew on her love of tabletop gaming for her debut novel, THE TIGER'S DAUGHTER. An out and proud queer, she lives in Brooklyn with her partner. ...more

Other books in the series

Ascendant (4 books)
  • The Tiger's Daughter (Their Bright Ascendency, #1)
  • The Warrior Moon (Their Bright Ascendency #3)
  • The Ascendant Trilogy: The Tiger's Daughter, The Phoenix Empress, The Warrior Moon

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