The Phoenix King (The Ravence Trilogy #1), by Aparna Verma

The Book

The Phoenix King
Series: The Ravence Trilogy
Pages: 513
Age Group: Adult
Published on 8/29/2023
Publisher: Orbit Books
Science-fantasyEpic Fantasy
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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.  

My Review

The Phoenix King is the first book on the science fantasy series The Ravence Trilogy, written by Aparna Verma and published by Orbit Books. In a setting that blends Indian inspirations, science fiction and fantasy, we will have a big character-driven story, in which the destiny of the Ravani kingdom will be at the stakes.

Elena is the heir to Ravence's throne, and the only one in her family that cannot wield the Eternal Fire; she worries about not being a worthy successor of his father, Leo, especially as the day of her coronation fastly approaches.
Yassen Knight is a famous assassin that is seeking for redemption. Once a traitor, now is claiming loyalty to the throne; and while the king Leo trust in him, Elena suspects he's hiding something, showing animosity towards him. A difficult situation now that he has become part of the Royal Guard that should take care of Elena.

As you can imagine, the situation in the Ravani kingdom is more complicated than it seems, war winds are on the horizon, and political intrigues are everywhere; Elena is going to marry with Samsom, leader of the Black Scales, an undefeated army, who at the same time is plotting in secret to force Ravani enter the war.
Leo, king of Ravence, has steered the kingdom through wars, assassinations and intrigues; but now he's worried about a prophecy that threatens with decimating his family before Elena's coronation. He will be ready to sacrifice all in order to keep her family safe, being cruel and ruthless just for it.

With this premise, Verma slowly weaves a complex plot, where secrets are lying everywhere; Elena and Yassin's relationship plays an important role in it, starting from distrust and animosity to progressively gaining trust, especially when Samsom reveals his true nature. Yassin becomes one of the biggest supporters of Elena, even saving her life and even helping her to wield the Fire; a relationship which is developed in a natural way.

Despite being this a story about characters and their decisions, we cannot overlook the excellent worldbuilding of Aparna Verma. While most of the fantastical elements are inspired by Indian culture, we can guess some elements of advanced technology, such as the hooverscoters or the pulse gun of Yassir that belongs to science fiction, a blend that has become one of my favourite ones in the speculative fiction field.
It is delightful to see how the Ravani kingdom has a big history behind it, that leads to the decissive moments we are living; religion and power (and magic by extension) are intertwined, and certainly, not all it is what it seems.

The Phoenix King is a really strong debut, a science fantasy novel that features a thrilling story whose sequel I need as soon as possible. If you are looking for Indian inspired world and a heavy character driven story, this is a perfect book for you.

The Author/s

Aparna Verma

Aparna Verma

Aparna Verma was born in India and immigrated to the United States when she was two-years-old. She graduated from Stanford University with Honors in the Arts and a B.A. in English. The Phoenix King is her first novel.

When she is not writing, Aparna likes to ride horses, dance to Bollywood music, and find old cafes to read myths about forgotten worlds.