Title: Phoenix Extravagant
Author: Yoon Ha Lee
* Thank you to Netgalley and Solaris for my digital copy of this novel*
What I first noticed and loved about this, is the LGBTQ+ representation. Especially since our main character Jebi is shown as non-binary through the use of pronouns they and them. Although the pronoun of the character switched from Jebi, to they, and back again throughout the novel this didn’t particularly throw me off except when ‘they’ was also used for others in Jebi’s workshop at the Ministry of Armor without specifics as to who ‘they’ were when not the main character. I also liked the fact that rather being an afterthought, the queerness shown in the novel is actually incorporated into the novel’s world-building, and enjoyed seeing Jebi and Vei’s relationship blossom throughout the novel (which – not to toot my own horn – I did kind of see coming haha).
I also enjoyed experiencing the setting of the novel, in the sense that having studied Colonialism/ Postcolonialism as part of an early uni module I appreciated the position that Hwaguk, a fantasy, was in more than I know I would have done before I learned about the aforementioned topics – and there was a definite sense that Hwaguk and the country whose occupation it was under, were greatly inspired by real-life countries such as Korea,. These and the believable ( for me), lives and experiences of the central and secondary characters show the extent of the author’s research and attention to detail.
Although I loved Arazi, the Ministry’s amazing dragon automaton, (definitely my favourite character) and the fact that it could disassemble itself into little spiderlings, I thought it could perhaps have been introduced a little earlier in the novel than it was, which brings me onto my next and final point. Though I was greatly intrigued by and enjoyed following Jebi’s experience and progress at Armor, I did feel that some of the descriptions of their experiences and actions there and when wondering outside with their watcher were either unnecessary and could have been cut, or maybe reduced so that we were introduced to Arazi sooner than we were.
Overall, despite my personal nitpicking of certain aspects of the novel, I enjoyed immensely and will definitely look to pick up one of Yoon Ha Lee’s other novels.
If you have read this or any of Yoon Ha Lee’s other novels, what were your thoughts on it/them? Let me know in the comments (please remain polite in your comments, any rude and offensive ones will be removed).
Remember, you have wings. Believe in them and yourself, and you will fly.