Ascension of the Phoenix

By: Sara Cleveland

Today’s post is about Ascension of the Phoenix by Jessica Piro, and it’s going to be a little different than usual. I’m veering away from my established format to do something a little more… casual because technically… I DNFed the book. Now normally, when I DNF a book I don’t review it at all, but this book was specifically requested for me to do a review, so I am going to honor that and explain why I DNFed, and why don’t think that should stop you from reading and enjoying the book.

Let me start by saying that this book has a phenomenal premise, which is one of the reasons I agreed to review it despite it being outside of my literary comfort zone. I still think it is a really interesting premise; there were just too many things that broke immersion for me that may or may not break immersion for you.

From this point forward there are some minor spoilers, so please forge ahead at your own peril.

I usually start my reviews off with design, so we’ll start there. The cover is striking and really well suited to the genre. The layout is nice. It’s nothing fancy, but it is nice. My biggest beef there is that the font is maybe just a hair too small. I compared it to several indie and traditionally published books and it is definitely on the small side. I couldn’t read it without my glasses without almost touching the book to my face. If you have weak vision or struggle to focus on small print, I would recommend the ebook.

Moving on to the meat and potatoes of this thing.

I want to talk about what the book does well first before I get into why I DNFed. The author does a great job at making you feel the main character’s suffering. It starts with a heavy foreboding (maybe almost a little too heavy-handed). You just have this gut feeling that something really, really awful is going to happen. And then it does, and it’s horrifying, and Leila is devastated. I actually cried during the scenes immediately following David’s death. Very well done.

The problem for me was that all this amazing emotional gravitas was being sidelined by some glaring (to me) issues with the plot. I had a lot of trouble suspending my disbelief because lots of things in the early chapters were throwing me out of immersion. Most were nitpick-y things that I could have lived with, but one thing really bothered me: the relationship Leila and David had while working together… I just can’t imagine that being allowed to fly in real life. If their relationship had been some great secret or somehow unrealized that would have made more sense.

Things got more iffy for me from there. How Leila meets Jamaal and gets involved in the street fighting was just… I almost put the book down right then. I still can’t believe he would come running up to a cop to ask for help in an illegal street fight. It just didn’t make sense to me. And the fact that Leila, who was sworn to uphold the law, would just participate while still a cop was mind-boggling. I tried to go forward from there. I even skipped ahead and read the last chapter. Then the second to last chapter. The fact that Leila was STILL a cop at the end just makes me want to beat my head against a wall.

Having said all of that, I did enjoy the author’s style and voice. As I mentioned above, Piro does really well when it comes to eliciting an emotional response from the reader. I think she has a lot of amazing potential and I look forward to trying another one of her books in the future, especially if she branches out from this series.

Please keep in mind this is just my experience and my opinion. Just because a book wasn’t for me does not mean that it isn’t for you. If you love emotional punches and literal punches, Ascension of the Phoenix may very well be the book for you.