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YA Fantasy Book Review: A Phoenix First Must Burn

2.5 stars

A Collection of Fantasy and Sci-Fi Short Stories 


Sixteen tales that explore the Black experience through fantasy, science fiction, and magic. Bestselling, award-winning, and talented fresh voices weave together past, present, and future worlds in tales of love, betrayal, strength, and resistance.

My Thoughts 

Some of the stories in this collection were electrifying like lightning, but sadly most sizzled and died for me. Part of this was just confusion about the settings. Each story takes place in a very unique place–some very different than ours–and by the time I was beginning to understand the world and some of the terms, the story was over and it was off to the next adventure. I suppose this is a risk of high fantasy in such a short amount of time, but a few more explanations and details wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Also, I’m not much of a romance fan. The kisses and sighs and longings in books need to be woven subtly into a very interesting/exciting plot for me to swallow them, and I just felt like the romance was the star of too many of these stories. But if you’re a romance fan, then you might enjoy this book.

The characters are well-rounded and change in conceivable ways. I just wish men had played more of a role in at least a few of the stories–especially men worthy of admiration and respect, because not all men (even white men) are evil. The lack of these kind of men in the stories didn’t feel like a true/accurate portrayal of the world and seemed to leave the whole collection less brilliant than it could have been.

I did enjoy how so many of the authors drew off local legends and true historical events. They made these come alive and inspired me to look more into local lore while writing my own works.

Due to the copy on the book jacket, I was expecting there to be more sci-fi stories, but I only recall one or two. This is a small thing, and since I adore fantasy, it didn’t bother me too much. But it would have been fun to read expand my horizons more into the sci-fi realm.

Do you ever read short stories? If so, which ones? If not, why not?

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