Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven

Phoenix Unbound (Fallen Empire, #1)

Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book kept me apprehensive for a good half of it. Chiefly because there’s hardly anything I really really hate to read about more than people who get off on torturing and humiliating others. And in the beginning of this book, there is enough of that for a few. There’s torture, slavery, rape, humiliation, murder, people being burned alive and generally treated like worthless dirt left and right. It was pretty difficult to get through, to be honest. Since I was going into this blind (I got this book through a subscription box and have never read anything by this author before), and with a beginning like that, I sat ready to throw this book as far as I can at any signs of more gruesome rape and gore following.
And while the gore is still there, I was pleasantly surprised by many choices the author made going forward. This book reminded me that I must be still a girl deep inside, because it is, let us be honest, chiefly a romance before all else, and it got into my head like I never expected it to. It gave me a lot of anxiety, and got into my dreams. I honestly couldn’t stop thinking about it.
The main characters are very easy to like. I can hardly remember the last I found main characters as easy to like and understand as these two. They are not stupid, they are not annoying, they are not arrogant, or closed-minded, and, while they do make questionable decisions, they don’t act like self-centered idiots who constantly need to establish dominance over each other, and I really can’t stress enough how much I appreciate this.
I do think the writing has a few issues. The switching between POVs was sometimes hard to follow, and time was swallowed in strange ways. And I also wish there was a bit more to this book. The second half especially, felt a little rushed. I think this book could do with some more substance around its middle, definitely, because the world is there and it is interesting enough to be spread out a bit more around the romance and the main struggles of the main characters.
I was planning to give this book 4 stars, even if mostly because first chapters were really unpleasant and I can’t in any honesty say I loved it while those chapters are still in this book, but I’m actually going to be sappy and add an extra star just for the ending. Because thank you for not crashing us.

P.S. I also not sure I actually want to read a sequel to this… Because, wile I definitely would want more of this book, I definitely don’t want any more shit to happen to these two. And I also really didn’t want that thing who we all know shouldn’t have survived this book to survive… and since it did, it’s easy to predict that if there will be a sequel, it most likely will feature its revenge and… I really don’t want to read about any more things that thing might do to make the lives of these characters (and all beings in general) miserable. Let’s just leave them with the ending we’ve got… (If we could have a book that was about these characters without any more disturbing terrible things happening to them and around them, now I would read the shit out of that.)

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The largest reason behind me constantly wishing I could re-live most of the past years of my life is that I was inadequate through most of it. 
Not that I’ve gotten much better, or even can get much better, when there are people around… 
But I just can’t get rid myself of illogical regret of things I can do nothing about – the realisation that I have wasted some pretty great years and opportunities because I was either out of my mind or too deep in my mind I couldn’t react and interact with the reality. That’s why every time I remember something, or, more likely, realise I don’t remember something, I realise I wasn’t actually there and kind of wish I had a chance to be.

That’s why I can never understand drug use. No matter how bad a place my mind at times is, there’s hardly anything worse then the state of altered consciousness when it feels like it’s not my mind at all, in the end of things.

I’m having a hard time learning how to describe a specific face.
I’m having a hard time in general, but also with the point of not making it sound like a dictation for a suspect sketch. (Yet, the biggest problem is still that the sketch artist would not be able to draw what I mean, because I can’t describe it correctly)

And every time I say this, people are like “But you don’t need do describe it.”
And I’m like “But there are times when I want to!”

I mean, there are times when you can be all vague and artistic and let people use their imaginations, and there times when you need a character to face this. specific. face. nomatterwhat.

I’m not a person with much attachment to the word of living myself.
And I know the sight and the smell of the abyss that can make you end your own life very suddenly,
without actually waiting for you to make such a decision. 
So I know, when it comes to it, the truth is there is no reasoning or rationale involved in the matter.
Sometimes it’s just a matter of a second that went wrong.

And yet it’s also like a hard slap to the face.
And stings like a bitch.
Seeing someone who you somehow thought to be so much stronger than you in this,
lose to the same thing they were helping (by their existence) you fight for more than half of your life.

A piece of soul was torn out. The world is shifting to find new balance. The view is changing.

I’ve been thinking about many things, even if I did not mean to be thinking.
About words that are so familiar, too familiar, they stir the terror of ‘do we really have no chance to fight this, if it took even him’ somewhere deep inside, which I try to promptly block off.
About families. Because the thought of those left behind paralyses me. And the understanding that even that might be not enough, makes me ask ‘is there anything that really is?’
About loneliness. Because we laugh when we ask for help, and those who listen laugh back, nod, and turn away. Because, the way we live now, even the closest people are distant, we all leave in our personal bubbles. And people recognise the cries for help only in retrospect, and fairy godmothers/fathers who’ll see what’s really going on in time hardly ever exist anywhere outside fiction. 
I’ve experienced it myself, even closest people promptly dismissing my signals for help to my face, and I saw that it was not because they did not care, but because they were too afraid to believe it’s true. Perhaps I acted in a similar way to someone else? We all want to believe the person next to us is okay, especially since then we wouldn’t need to stop something we are doing and invest ourselves in someone else.