2.5/5 stars

A huge thank you to Raincoast Books for sending me an ARC of Phoenix Flame in exchange for an honest review. While a broken laptop forced me to post my review later than I liked, I really appreciate the opportunity to read this early!

After reading Havenfall, I was so excited to finally get to read the second book in the duology, Phoenix Flame by Sara Holland, since the plot for Havenfall felt very much like it was setting up for an exciting second book. Unfortunately, it just left me feeling pretty meh despite the amount that happens plot-wise.

Phoenix Flame continues on a few weeks after the events of Havenfall. Maddie’s uncle, Marcus, is starting to recover from the mysterious spell that left him unconscious for the majority of the first book. While working to end the soul trade, Maddie stumbles upon an object that lets its user travel through worlds, but its discovery leads to more trouble than she can handle.

While the world building was lush and descriptive (I almost felt like I was at Havenfall itself), a lot of the plot for Phoenix Flame felt rushed and overall wasn’t that strong. The main antagonist is hardly present and it frustrated me how things just seemed to miraculously work out for the main characters. Anything that the gang needed always just appeared or worked itself out. Without going in to spoilers, three teenagers manage to construct something that requires quite a bit of knowledge and craftsmanship with only some hope and no prior experience.

There are a lot of things that don’t get wrapped up at all. For example, the biological changes that happen to Marcus weren’t really dealt with and is just mentioned once before being forgotten. Nor is it ever revealed what kind of magic was used to put Marcus into that long sleep. What frustrated me the most however, is that the ‘love triangle’ set up in the first book is never resolved. Maddie just continues to flip-flop between the two (reminding me of the “Two For Tina” episode of Bob’s Burgers), despite there being no real spark between her and Taya and clear attraction between Maddie and Brekken.

Overall, I really felt like Phoenix Flame needed a lot more to strengthen the plot to make the story feel complete. It definitely doesn’t feel like a closed duology and I hope that if there are future books, that they provide better closure. Phoenix Flame was released on March 2nd and can be purchased from your local bookstore.

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