Book Review: The Phoenix King by Aparna Verma

About the Book:

Title: The Phoenix King

Author: Aparna Verma

Series: The Ravence Trilogy #1

Page Length: 601

Publication Date: Aug. 31, 2023

Publisher: Orbit

Synopsis: In a kingdom where flames hold magic and the desert hides secrets, an ancient prophecy comes for an assassin, a princess, and a king. But none are ready to face destiny—and the choices they make could burn the world.
“If we carry the burdens of our fathers, we’ll never know what it means to be free.”
For Elena Aadya Ravence, fire is yearning. She longs to feel worthy of her Phoenix god, of her ancestors who transformed the barren dunes of Sayon into a thriving kingdom. But though she knows the ways and wiles of the desert better than she knows her own skin, the secrets of the Eternal Flame elude her. And without them, she’ll never be accepted as queen.
For Leo Malhari Ravence, fire is control. He is not ready to give up his crown—there’s still too much work to be done to ensure his legacy remains untarnished, his family protected. But power comes with a price, and he’ll wage war with the heavens themselves to keep from paying it.
For Yassen Knight, fire is redemption. He dreams of shedding his past as one of Sayon’s most deadly assassins, of laying to rest the ghosts of those he has lost. If joining the court of flame and serving the royal Ravence family—the very people he once swore to eliminate—will earn him that, he’ll do it no matter what they ask of him.
But the Phoenix watches over all and the fire has a will of its own. It will come for all three, will come for Sayon itself….and they must either find a way to withstand the blaze or burn to ash.

LINKS:   Goodreads   |    Amazon

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My Review:

“The path of fire burns everyone in the end.”

The Phoenix King is a debut fantasy by the talented Aparna Verma and is described as The Poppy War meets Dune. I buddy-read this with Leah from Leah’s Books, and I’m glad I did. I think I might have given up on the story if I hadn’t read it with another person because the beginning was slow for me. However, once the story picks up after the first 100 pages – whew! It just grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. It kind of reminded me of the book House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas in that way. It was slow to start and had a ton of world-building and character development, but it didn’t feel like a lot happened. Then, so much happens that it’s hard to put the book down. Like HoEaB, I became deeply invested in the main characters’ stories, the lore and political intrigue, and, of course, the love story.

The world is a masterful blend of a kingdom with ancient customs, mythologies, and religious beliefs mixed with futuristic technology like pulse guns, holopods, and other advanced elements. I did find it a bit heavy-handed, and it definitely affected the pacing, especially in the first 25% of the book, but the uniqueness of the world and the rest of the story made up for it.

“I wanted my POC characters to be ruthless and angry and vindictive. I wanted them to be selfish and loving and kind. I wanted them, simply, to be human and let the reader judge their actions.”

That quote by the author sums up everything I feel about her characters. They are so dynamically layered, and there’s a moral greyness in each of them. I went from loving some characters to hating them, and felt every feeling in between. The story is told from three different perspectives, and each is unique and compelling.

Yassen is my favorite. He has such a compelling ARC, and his journey went in directions I never expected. His story was what pulled me in, as his opening scene is so tense and dangerous. Elena, a princess preparing to ascend to the throne, feels bound by duty but refuses to be a pawn in other people’s games. She’s fierce, and I’m excited to see where her journey takes her. And Leo! I was so fascinated by his chapters. Leo is Elena’s father and the king. Determined to protect his daughter and wanting the nest for her, Leo does some terrible, unforgivable things, and yet you can understand his thought process as he reveals the lengths he goes to for love. Even the secondary characters are layered and multi-dimensional, as are their relationships and obstacles.

“If there was one thing Yassen could claim, it was this: that even in the darkness of death, he would know her.”

There is a romance, though it’s not the main focus of the story. The love stories are always my favorite parts, and I enjoyed this one. Many of the quotes I highlighted revolve around the couple’s feelings for each other. Though riddled with obstacles that broke my heart on more than one occasion, it was a pairing I wholly rooted for, and I’m hoping beyond hope that there will be more to this part of the story in the next book.

Overall, I thought this was a great debut novel full of dark and dangerous situations, a complex plot, political and religious intrigue, nuanced characters with some majorly defining moments, and many surprise twists and revelations.

Special thanks to Orbit Books for providing me with a copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.



Favorite Parts:

  • The plot twists.
  • The characters.
  • The world-building.

Favorite Lines:

“If there was one thing Yassen could claim, it was this: that even in the darkness of death, he would know her.”

“His home was not a place. It was her. And she was worth fighting for.”

“If we carry the burdens of our fathers, we’ll never know what it means to be free.”


  • enemies-to-lovers
  • slow burn
  • political intrigue
  • love triangle
  • morally grey characters
  • reluctant assassin

8 thoughts on “Book Review: The Phoenix King by Aparna Verma

  1. You did such an amazing job with this review – you managed to touch on a lot of the things I forgot to include. I love (and am totally not surprised by) how you included quotes of the romance aspect of the story, even if it wasn’t the main focus of the story. I’m so glad that we buddy read this, because I might have given up on this and missed out on how great it was if it wasn’t for you, so thank you!

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