Thank you to Rebellion, Solaris and Netgalley for the review copy in exchange for an honest review. This does not change my opinion in anyway.
Book: Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee
Release Date: October 20th 2020
Tags: Adult | Sci-Fi | Fantasy | Automatons | Family | Values | Dragons | LGBTQ+ | Non-Binary
Trigger/Content Warnings: Death | Beating | Imprisonment
For generations the empire has spread across the world, nigh-unstoppable in their advance. Its power depends on its automata, magically animated and programmed with sigils and patterns painted in mystical pigments.
A symbol-painter – themselves a colonial subject – is frustrated in their work when their supply of Phoenix Extravagant dries up, and sets out to find the source. What they’ll discover is darker than anything they could have imagined…
Yoon Ha Lee is one of those authors that I have been meaning to read their trilogy of but it just hasn’t happened. So when I got the chance to read this book by them I had to give it a shot. I think what happened here was an ‘Its not you but me‘ thing.
Phoenix Extravagant is an interesting kind of story about a country that has been colonized by one of its neighboring countries many years in the past. But it is still fresh enough that many remember the war. It makes a certain bleakness and grittiness run through the story as so much is affected by the colonizing and the little microaggressions by the colonizers. And lets not forget the grudge the survivors have. Yoon Ha Lee gets that tone just right.
It creates an interesting setting for our main character, Jebi who is non-binary, to navigate through. How to make a living as an artist when the only well paying job is by the colonizing government? Stuck between that and the judgement of their family. Jebi has to constantly navigate others needs and wants in between trying to figure out where their own values lie.
As interesting as that sounds the problem I had is that I never really got hooked into the story. For me the magical aspect was a little underdeveloped. I just didn’t feel like I got a good grasp on it as a whole or what was able to happen and what was not. I also lost interest in the many musings of Jebi. I never felt that I would have missed anything had I not read them.
Having said that, please don’t take my 3 stars as a bad rating. I think this is a book that will strike a chord with many people.
AND there was Arazi who was amazing and should have been a bigger star (says my dragon loving heart).