By Cynthia Bujnicki
An East Asian retelling of Snow White that follows Princess Jade on a harrowing adventure following myths, legends, and folklore to find the tools necessary to defeat her wicked stepmother, Xifeng, the heroine who fell into darkness when she became Empress.
What an amazing retelling. Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix has shifted characters now, expanding the Snow White retelling by focusing on the princess part of the aspect. The previous novel followed the downfall of Xifeng, the girl who would become the wicked step-mother, but now that that story has been told it is time to move on and continue retelling the Snow White fairy tale. That is what makes the story so riveting, and why this retelling is so beautiful. It is a flushed-out series that brings dimension and multiple perspectives to the tale. It has already shown the Wicked Step-Mother, who she was, who she is, and now it is time for the story to move forward, and boy does it.
The narrative puts more stock in the storytelling, into the myths, legends, and folklore that surrounds the culture. It makes the story rich and thoughtful, teaching moral and ethical principles. It is a journey for Jade, a journey that puts her so close to the darkness, but the lessons she learns; they teach her something, they teach her to be stronger and allow her to grow and develop through the story. In the beginning, she starts as a meek girl who listens to stories and takes them as nothing more than stories. However, as her life is put in danger, she soon learns that everything she had ever been told had a grain of truth. There is power in storytelling, and that is what the story is trying to convey through Jade, that stories teach and empower, and for her they do.
It is just a beautiful rich retelling that has such incredible vibrancy to it. To retell this fairy tale in such a way gives the story such a pleasant freshness. It gives new life to an old take and the way Dao allows her culture to influence the story allows it to breathe. It is beautiful, how the story differs from the original, taking a more active role in the storytelling and allowing this one to be more adventurous. Once again, it allows the characters to grow and flourish, as well as the story.
Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix brings the Rise of the Empress saga to a masterful and beautiful ending. (★★★★☆ | A)