Phoenix Extravagant (2020)
Author – Yoon Ha Lee
Genre – Science Fiction
Page Count – 416 pages
Author of Ninefox Gambit, winner of the 2017 Locust Award for the Best First Novel, comes out with another Science Fiction Fantasy worthy of hype and attention.
Yoon Ha Lee creates a world of magical paintings and automatons and takes you on a ride to a fantastical political land where power means different things to either sides.
Razan annexed Hwaguk more than a decade back. The traditions and morals of the two people are different and the author picks up from the occupation of Korea by Japan between 1910 and 1945. Razanei rule over the land with its seemingly unlimited resources and the people of Hwaguk are sidelined and left to fend for themselves.
One of these people is Gyen Jebi. Jebi is an artist who wants to earn their due regardless of the fact that their application to the Ministry of Art will offend their sister, Bongsunga, who was a Hwagugin revolutionary. But fate has different plans for them. Abandoned by their sister and destitute, Jebi is forced to take a job at the Ministry of Armor, where they are responsible for figuring out the muddled mechanics of the automated dragon, Arazi.
SOME THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT THE BOOK
Jebi is one of the few non-binary lead characters in the modern literature and the author perfectly challenges the sexual mores by writing incredible LGBTQ+ characters throughout the novel. Jebi meets Vei, the duelist prime at the Ministry of Armor, where they form a bond but that is just one of the relationships in focus in the book.
There is the relationship between Jebi and Bongsunga which is often shaky since the latter prefers her revolutionary roots and fight for Hwaguk. Arazi, the dragon from the cover, takes a small space in Jebi’s mind as it communicates with them and learns about the world through their eyes.
THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT THE BOOK
The political aspects of the book are not as well developed as I would have liked them to be. The author manages to just touch upon the injustices of being ruled by a different people and the clashes and discontent it creates. But the politics remain in the sideline – probably because the story is told from the perspective of Jebi who begrudgingly accepts their oblivion with regards to everything outside art.
Phoenix Extravagant was one of the SFF book releases of October 2020 which I was really excited about and it definitely lived up to all expectations.