Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Publishing for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: February 23rd, 2021
Synopsis: Victoria Emerson is a congressional member of the U.S. House of Representatives for the state of West Virginia. Her aspirations have always been to help her community and to avoid the ambitious power plays of her peers in Washington, D.C. Then Major Joseph McCrea appears on her doorstep and uses the code phrase Crimson Phoenix, meaning this is not a drill. The United States is on the verge of nuclear war. Victoria must accompany McCrea to a secure bunker. She cannot bring her family.
A single mother, Victoria refuses to abandon her three teenage sons. Denied access to the bunker, they nonetheless survive the nuclear onslaught that devastates the country. The land is nearly uninhabitable. Electronics have been rendered useless. Food is scarce. Millions of scared and ailing people await aid from a government unable to regroup, much less organize a rescue from the chaos.
Victoria devotes herself to reestablishing order—only to encounter the harsh realities required of a leader dealing with desperate people…
I have to be honest and say, despite me being a fan of John Gilstrap, Crimson Phoenix left me frustrated. The premise was exciting, but the actual story wound up being surprisingly formulaic. For the most part, I found the characters to be rather flat and uninspiring, and the dialogue awkward and a few times, even cringy. The chapters alternate between three povs: the stereotypical politicians in the bunker and the sketchy soldiers who are supposed to be protecting them; Victoria, the major and her two youngest boys; and her older son Adam and his girlfriend who are attempting to meet up with his family at a predetermined rendezvous point. While I appreciate a strong female character, Victoria came off a little too perfect and almost robotic at times, and as for the other characters, well, I just finished this last night and I’m already forgetting their names. For all that, I did keep reading, mainly because I kept believing things would improve, but alas, it didn’t. It wasn’t all bad though. The breakout of the war was well done and given the current political climate completely believable. The apocalyptic landscape was also well written and very descriptive. But in the end, there just wasn’t anything or anyone memorable here, and I think the best word I can come up with to describe my feelings is “meh.” However, my opinion is very much in the minority as I’ve been seeing mostly 4-5 star reviews, so if you are a fan of Gilstrap, or enjoy apocalyptic fiction, I recommend you check this out.