ABOUT THE BOOK
Title: Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix (Rise of the Empress #2)
Author: Julie C. Dao
Genre: Fantasy, Retellings, Young Adult
Publisher: Philomel Books
Release Date: November 6th 2018
This is my first ever blog tour and I’m so happy to be a part of it! Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is the sequel to Forest of a Thousand Lanterns which is an amazing fantasy book set in Asia with emperors and empires. I love those kind of books and I hope you guys enjoy it too!
KINGDOM OF THE BLAZING PHOENIX EXCERPTS
Jade noticed Xifeng’s incense at once when she entered the Empress’s apartments that evening. Dozens of tall black sticks burned all around the sumptuous chamber, which was showy and ostentatious, but functional. Neat shelves full of bound volumes of poetry, ink pots, and scrolls lined the walls behind an elegant desk. A smaller map of Feng Lu hung by the window, surrounded by exquisite paintings of birds and flowers inscribed with verses.
For what is the gleam of the sun on bright metal, Jade read on one, without the strength of its sting?
Another painting read, The lion knows not to doubt the mouse, for size does not betray strength. Jade studied the artwork of a timid mouse sitting on a rope severed by tiny teeth marks, feeling both pleased and surprised. She wondered if Amah had known about this poem; if so, her nickname for Jade-a little mouse- was not silly, but rather an affirmation.
“I love beautiful words, as you can see,” Xifeng said. Jade turned to see her stepmother watching her from the doorway. “Arranged in the right way, they have the power to make you laugh, cry, or feel. I hear you met former ambassador Shiro today. Did you like him?”
Jade bowed low to the Empress. “Very much, Your Majesty, and his son, too,” she said, blushing a bit. “They chose to remain here instead of returning to Kamatsu after he resigned?”
“Shiro had a difficult relationship with his family back home, Xifeng told her, gliding into the room. “They treated him unkindly because of his height. I haven’t known many men who deserved more respect than he does, but his own flesh and blood refused to see that.”
Jade tried, and failed, to imagine Amah rejecting her because of her appearance.
“A good man,” Xifeng said. “I think well of him, though he doesn’t always agree with my methods.”
“He dares to disagree with Your Majesty?”
The Empress’s laugh held a touch of bitterness. “Shiro has always had a mind of his own, whether he’s speaking to a peasant or a king. He has had nothing to do with politics – or with me – these ten years or more.” She sank gracefully onto a tea brocade couch, gesturing for Jade to do the same. “I’m sorry we haven’t dined together until now. The Kamatsu matter has troubled me greatly, but I won’t bore you with the details.”
“On the contrary, I’d like to hear more about it,” Jade said. “I am ready and willing to learn, as Your Majesty mentioned I would have to.”
Xifeng raised an eyebrow. “Do you know much about politics?”
“I’ve read about the relations between the kingdoms. I know Kamatsu’s ministers have fought for independence from the empire for a long time, and that their princess is too young to rule, so her uncle serves as regent in her stead.”
The Empress gave a contemptuous stiff. “The regent is weak. He bends like a stalk of grass, and his council is the wind. They’re determined to win their bid this time, and if I refuse, it might spark a war we can’t afford.”
“You’re considering their independence, then?”
“I must. But, free or not, they will still pay allegiance to the most powerful crown on Feng Lu,” Xifeng said, studying her slender hands. “Fortunately, I have a strong supporter in Lord Tanaka, a rising star in the Kamatsu court. If their kingdom leaves the empire, he will ensure our lasting trade partnership and help me…persuade the regent whenever I need him to. You’ll meet Tanaka at the banquet, and I very much hope the two of you will like each other.”
Though the Empress spoke offhandedly, there was no mistaking her meaning. You’re here as a pawn, Amah had said. She just doesn’t know what she wants to use you for yet.
“You’ve been busy, haven’t you? Worrying about your father, commanding my servants.” Xifeng sipped her wine. “By the way, the eunuchs are too busy with the banquet to move Lihua’s map. I hope you’ll understand.”
“I do,” Jade said evenly, “and I hope Your Majesty will understand that it’s my duty as a daughter to be concerned about my father.”
“Of course. But when I tell you I’ve done everything I can for him, it would be gracious of you to believe me. Not interrogate Gao or disturb your father by trying to send half a dozen messages.” Xifeng blinked at her. “You’re not eating, darling. Aren’t you hungry?”
Jade reluctantly picked up a piece of duck egg, but it tasted like sand in her mouth.
“You’re a bit difficult to please, aren’t you, Princess?” Xifeng’s eyes ran over her from head to toe. “You even refused my handmaiden, Lady Ong, and insisted on finding your own.”
“I did not mean to offend Your Majesty.” Jade had done no wrong and had made every effort to be courteous and respectful, and she was determined not to apologize.
But Xifeng softened as though she had. “I only want you to be happy,” she said, draining her cup. The moment it was empty, a eunuch stepped abruptly from the shadows to refill it and she gave a violent start at the sight of him, crying out and dropping the cup. The man prostated himself on the floor, groveling. “I told you,” Xifeng told him in a low, dangerous voice when she had recovered, “never to approach unless I call for something. Get out of my sight.”
“Touch my things again and you’ll find insects in your bedding,” he told Wren crossly, having lately discovered her weakness in turn: anything that was small and crawled, which had terrified her ever since a bug crept into her ear when she was a child.
“But why must your shoes always point toward the sunset?” Wren pleaded, unable to bear the mystery of it any longer.
“It’s not the sunset,” Koichi snapped. “They point toward Kamatsu. My father and I do it to honor our homeland.” After that, Wren never touched his things again.
They passed numerous trading posts and caravans full of foreign goods as they traveled. Koichi longed to stop, but Jade urged them on, unwilling to talk to more strangers than necessary. Soon, however, she began to realize that avoiding other people would be impossible.
The snow disappeared and the path became flattened grass as they continued south, passing many others: mothers and children wearing rags with rough cloth tied to their feet for shoes, farmers leading thin, hollow-eyed oxen, and exhausted men carrying crude tools for digging wells. Jade noticed one woman carrying a basket of rice as carefully as she would a baby, perhaps for her hungry family; every single grain counted. No one bothered Jade’s party, but many of the children stared curiously at Koichi.
The day they emerged at last from the Great Forest, the sun shone bright and the air felt mild enough to shuck their cloaks. A vast sea of yellow=green fields stretched out before them, and the smell of sun-warmed grass made Jade long to roll like a child in the fragrant meadows.
“I have relatives here, but we haven’t spoken in years,” Wren said when they stopped to eat one day. “My grandparents left on bad terms. They were betraying our kingdom, some relatives said, even though working for Emperor Jun would pay better than anything here. And they wanted a better life for their grandchildren, so we could be scholars and diplomats’ wives. They wanted much more for us.”
“Why did you choose to remain servants, then?” Koichi asked. Jade saw that though it was a naïve question from a sheltered upbringing, it was also genuine.
Wren scowled. “Nobody chooses to be a servant. We are servants because we have no choice. Opportunity goes to people of greater social status, like you or your father. Do you think it’s easy to become an ambassador? They want people with family connections.”
National Bookstore Hardcover – https://www.nationalbookstore.com/rise-of-the-empress2-kingdom-of-the-blazing-phoenix-hc
National Bookstore Trade paperback – https://www.nationalbookstore.com/kingdom-of-the-blazing-phoenix-tp
Barnes & Noble – https://bit.ly/2QXvhCG
Synopsis: An East Asian fantasy reimagining of The Evil Queen legend about one peasant girl’s quest to become Empress–and the darkness she must unleash to achieve her destiny. Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high? Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julie C. Dao (www.juliedao.com) is a proud Vietnamese-American who was born in upstate New York. She studied medicine in college, but came to realize blood and needles were her Kryptonite. By day, she worked in science news and research; by night, she wrote books about heroines unafraid to fight for their dreams, which inspired her to follow her passion of becoming a published author. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is her debut novel. Julie lives in New England. Follow her on Twitter @jules_writes.
Website – http://www.juliedao.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/julesdaowrites/
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/juliecdao/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/jules_writes
Goodreads author page – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15215228.Julie_C_Dao