Ebony Gate: The Phoenix Hoard

by Julia Vee, Ken Bebelle

Ebony Gate: The Phoenix Hoard
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Review by Brie Tart:

Ebony Gate is an exciting, action-packed urban fantasy about a former assassin to a world full of dragon magic who just wants to make a new life for herself, but everyone else—a death god, magical gangs, her own family—keeps trying to pull her out of early retirement and endanger her new community. Emiko Soong isn’t ordinary, but her
frustrations are relatable to anyone who’s moved to a new area and has trouble adjusting. That driving inner conflict grounds you as the rest of the story immerses you in a modern world of dragons and intricate cosmology inspired by East Asia.

Vee and Bebelle write the intense fights that act as the central set-pieces for this story in such a cinematic way, it really is like you’re watching a John Wick movie unfold, with a heavy helping of Wuxia-esque magic to go with it. Between these grand displays of elemental powers, shapeshifting, and gritty violence, the fantastic cast of characters are also given plenty of room to breathe. The charming couple trying to get solitary Emiko to
eat pizza with them, the lovingly meddling Grandma-figure Emiko sees to get fixed up, the twin gang leaders who are as opposite as they are talented, the adorable foo lion (giant, deadly kitty) serving as Emiko’s animal companion. Everyone has their shine (and a plethora of memorable one-liners).

All of this is held together by Emiko herself serving as a sassy narrator. At times grouchy and stand-offish, at other times guilt-ridden and insecure, she shows so much heart to as she struggles to choose what’s right between her duty to her family and her world, her responsibility to San Francisco, and her desire to find a fresh start. Her
complex journey pairs well with the twisting mysteries she has to solve if she doesn’t wants to keep the life she’s built since fleeing her old moniker as the “Butcher of Beijing.” You appreciate her victories as she learns to balance between the complex secret society and the refreshingly mundane business she belongs to. All the while, her
biggest challenge is finding the creativity to keep her body count as low as possible, which only adds to the tension and intrigue of wondering what she’ll do next.

Ebony Gate is deep and original, with a ton of enchanting personalities, a fascinating world, and layers of secrets you’ll want to sink your claws into over and over again to make sure you didn’t miss anything!