There is so much to love in every Julie C. Dao novel: the gorgeous worldbuilding, the atmospheric fantasy, the high-stakes plot — but my favorite element will always be her unapologetically complex characters. While Dao uses fairytale as her launchpad in the Feng Lu novels, her characters are consciously crafted as anything but archetypal. The immersive, lovely Song of the Crimson Flower revisits favorite characters from Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix while centering on a new, compelling cast.
Song of the Crimson Flower is set eight years after Phoenix leaves off. It continues the narrative of the world of Feng Lu, now prospering under the rule of Empress Jade, though the dark, entwining threats of black spice and bloodpox cast a rising shadow on her kingdom. Crimson Flower can be read and loved as a standalone, or prior to reading the Rise of the Empress books. However, as a reader who adores Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and its sequel, it was deeply fulfilling to return to Feng Lu and revisit the characters I love, exploring their roles in the next phase of their world.