REVIEW | Phoenix Extravagant | Yoon Ha Lee

…maybe revolutionaries didn’t have a type. Maybe, taken one by one, they all had their own varied reasons.

This book was recommended by a friend and it completely blew me away. I loved the incredible Arazi and my theyby Jebi who won me over in a chapter or two. If you love queer books and revolution, Phoenix Extravagant is a must read.

Rating: 4.5 stars!

Thanks to Solaris for the review copy, it has not affected my honest review.

Trigger Warnings: colonialisation, invasion and occupation, oppression, destruction of art and suppression of indigenous cultures, blackmail, earthquakes, violence, death, war, imprisonment, torture, fatphobia, non-explicit sex, grief.

About the book:

Gyen Jebi isn’t a fighter or a subversive. They just want to paint.

One day they’re jobless and desperate; the next, Jebi finds themself recruited by the Ministry of Armor to paint the mystical sigils that animate the occupying government’s automaton soldiers.

But when Jebi discovers the depths of the Razanei government’s horrifying crimes—and the awful source of the magical pigments they use—they find they can no longer stay out of politics.

What they can do is steal Arazi, the ministry’s mighty dragon automaton, and find a way to fight…

What did I think?

My favourite thing about Phoenix Extravagant was Jebi themself. As a main character they were engaging and loveable. It was refreshing to read about a protagonist who wasn’t interested in fighting and rebellion. Instead they want to paint. They’re an artist, and that’s all they want to do. I’m so used to warrior characters that I immediately fell in love with Jebi and wanted to wrap them in cotton wool and tuck them away somewhere safe. And then there’s Arazi! My baby! The very focal dragon from the cover! Arazi is an absolute delight. It took about 40% of the book for it to show up, but once it did it stole literally every scene it was in. Not to imply that the book was slow in the lead up to Arazi. I was engaged in Phoenix Extravagant from the first page, it was the kind of book that one chapter in I just knew it was going to be an incredible book. And I was right!

The worldbuilding was unbelievably good. I loved the settings and the magical aspects of the story. The way that the pigments were created (being intentionally vague here) was both terrible and incredible. Using art and paint to power automatons is a really interesting intersect of art and science and magic, and made for a unique magic system I hadn’t seen before. I’m a sucker for automaton stories because I think they’re cool as hell, and this did not disappoint on that. Phoenix Extravagant had a fascinating perspective on the invader versus rebellion story because the protagonist is so pacifistic. Most of the characters were morally grey and I really liked that. No matter which ‘side’ the characters were on, they had positive traits and negative traits and both sides had done great and terrible things. The only thing that didn’t work for me personally was the Jebi and Vei thing. They were so cute, yes, but I could not move past the Jia thing.


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Release date: 20th October 2020


4 thoughts on “REVIEW | Phoenix Extravagant | Yoon Ha Lee

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