Crimson Phoenix
February 14, 2021

Book Review

Crimson Phoenix

John Gilstrap

reviewed by Pam Guynn

Crimson Phoenix by John Gilstrap is shocking, disturbing at times, suspenseful, and definitely heart-pounding. I’ve seen it classified as dystopian and post-apocalyptic and it has aspects of both.

Victoria (Vicky) Emerson is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for the state of West Virginia. When Major Joseph McCrea and First Sergeant Paul Copley Show up at her doorstep and uses the code phrase ‘Crimson Phoenix’, Vicky knows that the United States is on the verge of a nuclear war. She yells at her sons Caleb and Luke to get dressed and get their go-bags. They’ve prepped for this all of their lives. McCrea and Copley are to take her to a secure bunker in West Virginia. When they get there and she finds out her sons can’t come in, she resigns. They head west towards the military academy where her third son is attending school.

Vicky’s goal of protecting her family is clear. She certainly isn’t perfect and that adds realism to the story. The secondary characters have varying degrees of depth, but Caleb seems to have grown the most during the course of the book. We also get insights into other characters as the points of view occasionally shift to Vicky’s third son, Adam, to the Congressional bunker, and to Caleb.

This book is exactly what one would expect from a well-written post-apocalyptic thriller with lots of concern over how to survive and protect one’s family, but it is so much more than that. It raises a lot of questions about justice, cooperation, leadership, desperation, political infighting, having to deal with the loss of all of the electronics we rely upon, and much more.

The author brought a strong sense of time and place to the events in the book. I felt as though I had been transplanted to West Virginia and was living through the events. Additionally, the triggers for this book felt all too real.  Two phrases have stuck with me: concentric circles and actions have consequences. Are you intrigued? Then, I recommend that you read the novel.

Overall, this book was riveting, fast-paced, action-oriented, and scary to think about. This is the first book that I have read by this author and the first in this series. I can’t wait to find out what is next for Vicky and her sons as well as Joe and Paul. I also want to read his Jonathan Grave series.

Kensington Books and John Gilstrap provided a complimentary digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley. This is my honest review. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way. Publication date is currently set for February 23, 2021.

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