Thursday, February 22, 2024

Book Review: The Phoenix Crown by Kate Quinn and Janie Chang

Pages: 384
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: February 13, 2024
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: The Alice Network,
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "From bestselling authors Janie Chang and Kate Quinn, a thrilling and unforgettable narrative about the intertwined lives of two wronged women, spanning from the chaos of the San Francisco earthquake to the glittering palaces of Versailles. San Francisco, 1906. In a city bustling with newly minted millionaires and scheming upstarts, two very different women hope to change their fortunes: Gemma, a golden-haired, silver-voiced soprano whose career desperately needs rekindling, and Suling, a petite and resolute Chinatown embroideress who is determined to escape an arranged marriage. Their paths cross when they are drawn into the orbit of Henry Thornton, a charming railroad magnate whose extraordinary collection of Chinese antiques includes the fabled Phoenix Crown, a legendary relic of Beijing’s fallen Summer Palace. His patronage offers Gemma and Suling the chance of a lifetime, but their lives are thrown into turmoil when a devastating earthquake rips San Francisco apart and Thornton disappears, leaving behind a mystery reaching further than anyone could have imagined . . . until the Phoenix Crown reappears five years later at a sumptuous Paris costume ball, drawing Gemma and Suling together in one last desperate quest for justice."


Gemma Garland is an opera singer at the Metropolitan Opera and is traveling with them to San Francisco to sing a special performance with Enrico Caruso. This is just the thing that Gemma hopes will revitalize her stagnant career. While there in this bustling city in 1906, Gemma meets Henry Thornton, a railroad magnate, who mixes and mingles in high society. Gemma finds herself thrust into this world and even singing at their parties. Henry seems like a perfect gentleman until she discovers his darker side. He dabbles in Chinese antiques and even has items from Bejing's fallen palace. Gemma's friend, Suling Feng, a Chinese embroiderer, makes Gemma question Henry's character. Suling has been hired by Henry to fix a few items from the Bejing palace, which leads her to question him. To make matters worse, Suling hints at Henry's even darker side as she blames him for her boyfriend's disappearance. The two women band together to challenge Henry, but before they know it, the infamous San Francisco earthquake is upon them. Kate Quinn and Janie Chang's The Phoenix Crown is a solid historical novel filled with strong female leads and a very atmospheric setting.

I enjoyed Gemma from the start of The Phoenix Crown, but I am not very interested in opera, so this portion of the story dragged a bit for me. What I liked the most was going along for Gemma's ride in old San Francisco. Quinn and Chang developed the setting so well and brought it to life. Their descriptions of Chinatown were also very detailed; I felt like I was there. I didn't know about the darker side of it all, so that was especially enlightening, which the authors really explain in the detailed author's notes. I also enjoyed Suling's story and Chang did a really solid job of highlighting what life was like for Chinese immigrants living in San Francisco during the time. I truly learned a lot. 

Who doesn't enjoy a historical novel where two strong women team up to take down a powerful (but bad!) man? That was also one of my favorite aspects of 
The Phoenix Crown. My only complaint is that since two authors wrote the novel, it felt a little disjointed at times, and didn't flow as well as I was hoping. It may be because I am used to Quinn's writing style, so this felt different to me. However, it was a solid historical novel overall, and many of Quinn and Chang's fans will enjoy it.

Have you read Kate Quinn or Janie Chang? Is 
The Phoenix Crown on your TBR list? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


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