Xifeng meets her match in Julie C. Dao’s KINGDOM OF THE BLAZING PHOENIX!

Julie C. Dao‘s 2017 debut Forest of a Thousand Lanterns introduced us to Xifeng, a teen who’s destined to rule… if only she can embrace the darkness within. Reluctant at first, Xifeng will need to spurn the life she once knew, including a young man who loves her, and take part in the darkest of magic to achieve greatness.

Needless to say, Xifeng isn’t a “nice” or a “likable” character, but she is fascinating! Her descent into madness and her ascent on to the throne make for a wild, twisted tale.

Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, the sequel that hit bookshelves on November 6, 2018, takes Xifeng’s story into the future and turns the focus to her stepdaughter, Princess Jade, as she embarks on a quest to end Xifeng’s rule and possibly take the throne. But will Jade be able to defeat Xifeng without giving in to the same dark inclinations?

In honor of Xifeng’s excellent anti-heroine status, we’re talking about some of our other favorite YA anti-heroines!

Lada Dracul (The Conqueror’s Saga)

Clever, vicious, and more than a bit mischievous, Lada Dracul will do anything to outsmart her enemies, make a new for herself, and take back her nation. Given that this is historical fiction, no one wants Lada to train or fight with the boys. She not only finds a way to do it, she conquers them all in the process!

Adelina Amouteru (The Young Elites)

Marie Lu’s anti-heroine starts off meek and naive, but as she gains a hold of her powers, she also discovers the lethal politics and horrible betrayal among the powerful Young Elites. Rising up and doing things “right” will mean mastering her power, defeating those who doubted her, and taking the world into her own hands.

Catwoman aka Selina Kyle (Catwoman: Soulstealer)

Catwoman may often be categorized as comic villain, but she’s really an anti-heroine! Sarah J. Maas captures her spirit with panache in her DC Icons novel, which shows Catwoman’s rise and her initial team-up with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn as they set to right some major wrongs in Gotham City.

Black Widow aka Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow: Forever Red)

Is she a hero? Maybe. Does she actually have her own agenda? Is she willing to bend and break the law to get what she wants? You bet. Natasha Romanoff is young woman with secrets to spare and a cutting wit, making her equal parts lethal and unpredictable.

Hester Shaw (Mortal Engines)

A rebel and an anti-Tractionist, Hester Shaw is out for revenge by whatever means necessary. She’s been (literally) scarred by her past and now she’s prone to bursts of rage, ready to kill. She’s focused on her mission in ways that both inspire and confound the other characters, and we love her for it!

Alright, now you’re ready to dig into some great anti-heroines! Be sure to start with Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, in bookstores now!

You can snag Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix via Amazon or support your local bookstore via Indiebound!

This fairy tale retelling lives in a mystical world inspired by the Far East, where the Dragon Lord and the Serpent God battle for control of the earthly realm; it is here that the flawed heroine of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns finally meets her match. An epic fantasy finale to the Rise of the Empress novels.

Princess Jade has grown up in exile, hidden away in a monastery while her stepmother, the ruthless Xifeng, rules as empress of Feng Lu. But the empire is in distress and its people are sinking into poverty and despair. Even though Jade doesn’t want the crown, she knows she is the only one who can dethrone the empress and set the world right. Ready to reclaim her place as rightful heir, Jade embarks on a quest to raise the Dragon Lords and defeat Xifeng and the Serpent God once and for all. But will the same darkness that took Xifeng take Jade, too? Or will she find the strength within to save herself, her friends, and her empire?

Set in an East Asian-inspired fantasy world filled with breathtaking pain and beauty, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is filled with dazzling magic, powerful prose, and characters readers won’t soon forget.

By Kait

Kait is a New Englander, a YA book and adaptation lover, and a Slythindor, as well as a red velvet and red wine enthusiast. She likes to like things. Catch her on Twitter: @kaitmary