Written on Mar 9, 2022
Phoenix Extravagant is a beautifully written SF/fantasy standalone by Yoon Ha Lee. First published in 2020, this reformat and re-release 17th Aug 2021 by Rebellion on their Solaris imprint is 464 pages and is available in paperback and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.
There was so much to engage with in this vividly imagined story full of magic and strife. It's an intricate epic fantasy peopled with distinctly rendered characters who are subtle and believable. I was struck by both the magnitude of the overarching setting - an occupied people, living under the rule of their colonizers, alongside the minutiae of day to day life for individuals as they go about their lives working, creating, and assimilating and even building friendships and relationships across enemy lines. In addition, I loved the magic and world building. The automata are creepy and interesting at the same time and the particular magical twist to make the animating inks was amazingly effectively written.
The denouement and end resolution were unexpected and a bit flat for me personally. It almost felt spliced in, but it didn't ruin the story or anything; it was just disjointed. (I could've believed that it had been written as a coda by another author altogether - it was that different stylistically).
I loved the LGBTQ+ characters and that it wasn't *the* thing driving the entire narrative. I also enjoyed the way the author handled the subtle (and not so subtle) themes of racism and assimilation. I liked the wry humor in the way the most humane and honorable characters weren't human at all.
Four and a half stars. Beautifully and powerfully written. My best speculative fiction read this year thus far.
Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.