The Dragon of Russia finds Leila living with a team of Spetsnaz and facing down a sinister fate. What were some new ideas you wanted to explore in this book that were different from book one?
I wanted to expand further on Leila’s struggles with her personal demon and how she overcomes it by finding balance and learning to open herself for love again (romantic and friendships/found family).
Leila Wells continues to evolve in interesting ways. What were some challenges you felt were critical to her character development in this story?
I thought it crucial to show her hitting rock-bottom and how she begins to recover.
What scene did you have the most fun writing?
Pretty much any chapter with Alek (because he’s so fun), but I really enjoyed writing the scenes that has Leila delve into her psyche/reflects on herself.
What can readers expect in book three of your Phoenix Trilogy?
A return to the Rulers of the Realms Fighting Tag Tournament for confrontation with Bryan Foster, more drama that makes Leila question herself, and a worldwide paranormal threat revealed.
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When the destructive nature of Leila’s dark side becomes uncontrollable she departs on a quest to gain control. She’s compelled to fall in with a group of Spetsnaz. Her heart finally starts to open but will she be able to fend off the ominous destiny ahead of her?
The Dragon of Russia is another riveting entry in Jessica Piro’s action thriller series. Leila is struggling with grief and relearning how to connect with others. Bryan Foster, another main character, was always scheming and plotting while Leila and her comrades (Russian soldiers) were trying to stay one step ahead.
I really enjoyed how the characters, old and new, continue to evolve throughout the entire book. Leila continues to be a complex and compelling character that is struggling to fight her inner demons, which sets her on an inevitable course of self-destruction. This unpredictable character transformation is something that I really enjoyed in the first novel as well, and this second entry in the series shows that the author has a real knack for character development.
Bryan Foster is the designated villain and his ‘crimes’ and schemes are continuously developing and are usually unpredictable. I like this aspect of the story because it kept me on the edge of my seat and always looking forward to seeing how the story would twist because of his actions. I’m not very familiar with Russian culture, but I think this novel does a great job of immersing readers in that culture, and it gives this novel a unique Russian flavor that I wasn’t expecting.
Leila must learn to love again, but not in the typical romance story sort of way. Her story is not one that is excessively written about, this makes her relationships with others very fun to read and captivating overall.
With solid action and a gripping continuation of the storyline from book one, The Dragon of Russia is a must read for fans of the series or of Jessica Piro’s writing. I can see her evolution as a writer and the improvement really shows in this novel.
Pages: 372 | ASIN: B0945RY6ZS
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Ascension of the Phoenix follows a detective seeking release in street fighting, but success leads her down a dark path toward revenge. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
The major inspiration was Leila Wells, herself. I wanted to delve into the notion that everyone has a dark side and what would happen if someone who is an upright figure gives in and falls. Now for the street fighting and fighting tournament, Mortal Kombat and the Tekken video games were heavy influences. Being such a fan of Law and Order: SVU helped me make Leila a detective.
Leila is an intriguing and well-developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character’s development?
She is who I wish I could be. An authoritative figure who is also fair and generous, and who uses her position for good. She doesn’t abuse her power. Doesn’t bow under pressure. Is physically and mentally strong. Someone who is in control of their emotions… well, sometimes.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
Quite a few of them. One theme being the struggles against dark sides because Leila isn’t the only one. The different ways people deal with grief is another. Exploring how someone can lose who they think they are—their identity—and how they fight to come back, and how they sometimes change. And no matter how bleak or hopeless a situation, there is always hope/a light in the darkness—you just may have to wade through more darkness to reach it.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The Dragon of Russia is the next book in this trilogy and will be available August 2021. Like I did with Ascension of the Phoenix, a companion short story will also be released in the Fall. It will be called The Crane’s Dance, following a new character that Leila meets in Russia, like how The Panther’s Pride is in Jamaal Gordon’s POV.
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Ascension of the Phoenix is an adventure filled contemporary action novel by author Jessica Piro. Detective Leila is tasked with finding the serial killer, Bryan Foster, after he murdered eleven people. He didn’t technically murder the 12th person, but he heavily contributed and thus Leila blames him for that too. They were co-workers and that made it personal. Leila and her partner David are out celebrating a birthday when they get a call that Foster has been sighted. They race to the scene where things tragic and Leila is told to take a break and recover. During her recovery she meets Jamaal, a very compelling character, and gets invited to a fighting tournament. Jamaal and Leila enter the tournament as fighting partners. Will they win? Will Leila fully emotionally recover from that fateful night? And is the cost worth it?
I loved seeing the friendship between Leila and Jamaal develop and change over time. The only thing the same about them is where they live at the start of the book. Culturally, fighting style, philosophically, they are completely different. Compared to some other fighting pairs in the book (Shamus and Luke), they go well together, in a buddy-cop sort of way. Through the book they become close, but stay friends, which is was certainly a nice dynamic that makes their relationship much more absorbing. There’s no friend-zoning, no tension of unrequited love, just mutual care and support. Shamus and Luke are really annoying when in the same scene together (but this is probably intentional). My personal dislike for them gets dealt with and addressed in the book in a satisfying way, so the author does get points for that.
Ascension of the Phoenix is a character driven action story that takes readers in unexpected directions. Filled with interesting characters, concise and stimulating dialogue, all designed to accentuate the action and keep the story moving. Author Jessica Piro has created a strong female protagonist, that is self reliant but stronger with friends, and I found her character refreshing. I look forward to the next book because, although the story ends on a satisfying note, Leila is far from recovered. I MUST see the end of her journey. Ascension of the Phoenix is an exciting read with a satisfying ending.
Pages: 371 | ASIN: B08GL84FBQ
Tags: action, action fiction, adventure, Ascension of the Phoenix, author, book, book recommendations, book review, book reviews, book shelf, bookblogger, books, books to read, contemporary fiction, ebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, Jessica Piro, kindle, kobo, literature, nook, novel, read, reader, reading, story, suspense, thriller, womens fiction, writer, writing