A review by heathwitch
Phoenix Extravagant, by Yoon Ha Lee


Phoenix Extravagant is an amazing, breathtaking piece of work which centres a non-binary artist in the middle of a war. All Jebi wants to do is paint, but their life is turned upside down when they are hired by the government to paint mystical symbols on the automaton soldiers — and then discovers the horror that sits beneath all they’ve come to understand as their world. Pretty soon, Jebi cannot stay out the politics that surrounds them…

Drawing on the occupation of Korea by the Japanese as inspiration, Yoon Ha Lee creates a fantasy world unlike any I’ve previously encountered — lavish and extravagant, yet also horrific and brutal. The narrative has a lot to say about colonialism, cultural obliteration, invasions, conquests, love, family, the importance of the arts, and choice. It’s bloodthirsty in places, beautiful in many others, and mysterious throughout. Arazi, the sentient mecca-dragon, steals the show for me despite not being the protagonist.

I particularly loved that the world is so inclusive: LGBTQIA+, polyamory, and other forms of relationships are all considered the norm, and it was a breath of fresh air and freedom. Overall, this was a great standalone with a fun story and the power of one person to stand against tyranny.

Highly recommended.

I received an e-ARC from the publisher, Solaris, through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.