Cover Image: A Phoenix First Must Burn

A Phoenix First Must Burn

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Member Reviews

Didn't capture my attention and engagement. Interested in trying it again though and hopefully it will take.

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The tagline "Stories of Black Girl Magic, resistance and hope" sums up the nature and attitude of the stories within this collection. Each story speaks with an amount of ferocity and being one's own queen, through the lens of magical realism, fantasy and science fiction.

This anthology has an impressive lineup of fantastic and stand-out authors of colour. Thus it is no surprise that there were some great stories within the pages. However, as is the story with almost every anthology, there were some stories that were lacking, felt underdeveloped or really needed a full-length novel to reach the full potential of the story being told.

Individual ratings
When Life Hands You a Lemon Fruitbomb by Amerie 4/5
Gilded by Elizabeth Acevado 3.5/5
Wherein Abigail Fields Recalls Her First Death and, Subsequently, Best Life by Rebecca Roanhorse 3.5/5
The Rules of the Land by Alaya Dawn Johnson 3.5/5
A Hagiography of Starlight by Somaiya Daud 4/5
Melie by Justina Ireland 4/5
The Goddess Provides by L. L. McKinney 3/5
Hearts Turned to Ash by Dhonielle Clayton 5/5
Letting the Right One In by Patrice Caldwell 2.5/5
Tender-Headed by Danny Lore 2.5/5
Kiss the Sun by Ibi Zoboi 4.5/5
The Actress by Danielle Paige 2.5/5
The Curse of Love by Ashey Woodfolk 2.5/5
The Witch's Skin by Karen Strong 4/5
Sequence by J. Marcelle Corrie 3/5

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If you're into sci-fi/fantasy/speculative fiction, there is a story in here for you, no doubt. I love the range of tales told here, and I love this collection as a whole. Some of them definitely stood out more to me, and I've got a request in for the physical copy of this book already so I can reread certain parts in print form instead of listening to them, just to get as much as I can out of it. I am a big fan of anthologies like this, and I love having a fantasy-centered one on hand, as most of the YA anthologies I've read have been contemporary stories. While I do have favorites, none of the stories contained here flopped for me at all, they each brought something unique to the table, and I love how they work together even though, being fantasy/sci-fi stories, they all have different magic systems, and some have entirely different worlds. The thread of Black Girl Magic that weaves them all together shines through each story and binds them all together. Just an overall excellent collection that I could see myself reading from over and over again.

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This was such an incredible collection of stories. I would highly recommend it to any friend. Patrice has brought together an amazing variety!

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Reviewed on Goodreads:

Wow, what a fantastic selection of sci-fi/fantasy short stories! I read the book along with listening to the audiobook. The audiobook is also well done.

Here’s a short blurb about each of the stories, along with my rating of each of them individually. No spoilers:

When Life Hands You A Lemon Fruitbomb
Space travel, invading aliens, and finding the common ground among all living things. Such a fun and thought-provoking story!

Magical powers and a fight for freedom!

Wherein Abigail Fields Recalls Her First Death and Subsequently Her Best Life
A Wild West type setting, a deal with a vengeful god, and LGBTQ representation (WLW relationship).

The Rules of the Land
Forbidden love, mermaids, & life divided.

A Geography of Starlights
Forbidden love.

Sorcery, mermaids, dragons, and tons of action! I loved this story SO MUCH! I saw the little “twist” coming, but it didn’t discredit how much I enjoyed this story. I want more… I want to read a whole novel in this world, with this protagonist… make it happen, please!

The Goddess Provides
Faith, family drama, and vengeance.

Hearts Turned to Ash
Soulmates, self love… a great message!

Letting the Right One In
Vampires, LGBTQ representation (WLW relationship), being true to oneself. This was a great story that I would have liked to spend more time with!

Witchcraft or just masterful at doing hair? You decide! A sweet message about greed and appreciation.

Kiss the Sun
I loved the type of magical creatures that we followed in this story! The writing style was also so engaging. What a powerful story about self-love and self-respect, especially around the topic of colorism.

The Actress
She’s an actress, playing a witch on a tv show, but is there more to her real self than even she knows?
The plot of this story is pretty good, but I had a hard time with it because I really didn’t like the main character.

The Curse of Love
For these women, love comes with a hefty price.

All the Time in the World
LGBTQ representation (WLW relationship), class issues, government neglect.

The Witches Skin
Grief with a side of magical family drama!

Black Mirror vibes, but left me wanting more.

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This title contains stories from some of the best authors writing YA today. This book is highly recommended!

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Anthologies have been a saving grace for quick introductions to new authors and easy access to multiple narratives surrounding various themes. With the rise of collections by and for people of colour, reading A Phoenix First Must Burn was a no-brainer. Each of the writers brings their own style and perspective to this book which has created a wide enough introduction to the African diaspora and the ways these women prod and pry their way into spaces meant to keep them out. A Phoenix First Must Burn encapsulates the layers and complexities of a Black Woman – from the women of our past to the women of our future – and all the ways we exist within our societies and rebel our given molds. The stories are refreshingly diverse; featuring gender nonconformity and other LGBT+ representation, exploring love, betrayal, strength, and resistance. Even the choice of genre for this collection is a rebellion in itself. As I mentioned with Black Girl Unlimited by Echo Brown, there’s a space being carved in genres we aren’t always offered leading spaces in.

Sixteen tales by bestselling and award-winning authors that explore the Black experience through fantasy, science fiction, and magic. With stories by: Elizabeth Acevedo, Amerie, Patrice Caldwell, Dhonielle Clayton, J. Marcelle Corrie, Somaiya Daud, Charlotte Nicole Davis, Justina Ireland, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Danny Lore, L. L. McKinney, Danielle Paige, Rebecca Roanhorse, Karen Strong, Ashley Woodfolk, and Ibi Zoboi. Evoking Beyoncé’s Lemonade for a teen audience, these authors who are truly Octavia Butler’s heirs, have woven worlds to create…
Thankfully, with this collection, we aren’t only gifted strictly with broad fantasy and science fiction but also reimaginings of folktales and fairytales, and everyday stories that prove that representing us will never hinder a story nor does it always need to be a cacophony of stereotypes to be “accurate”.

It was amazing to see so many recognizable names were present and also the names that were definitely going to make they way on my radar to keep an eye out for. I hope this book will open more eyes to the opportunities that Black speculative fiction has always had to offer. It’s only right to mention the authors included: Elizabeth Acevedo, Amerie, Dhonielle Clayton, Jalissa Corrie, Somaiya Daud, Charlotte Davis, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Justina Ireland, Danny Lore, L.L. McKinney, Danielle Paige, Rebecca Roanhorse, Karen Strong, Ashley Woodfolk, and Ibi Zoboi.

It would be a disservice to spoil all the stories but I can’t help but rave about my top four favourite stories!

Gilded by Elizabeth Acevedo

Elizabeth Acevedo has an undeniable lyrical prowess and in Gilded, she proves this again. This story follows an enslaved girl in what is now the Dominican Republic and her coming to terms with what is really need of her to save her people.

Wherein Abigail Fields Recalls Her First Death, and, Subsequently, Her Best Life by Rebecca Roanhorse

I never thought I’d see myself like any type of Western but when it involves surviving a gunshot and making deals with the forces of the desert for revenge, you can really change a girl’s mind.

Tender-Headed – Danny Lore

This is my first contact with Danny Lore and they won me over with Tender-Headed. The story weaves (pun-intended) what first seems like a girl trying to win back clients for her hairdressing hustle from a supposed witch into a look at how the Black experience doesn’t truly give space to properly process trauma and address toxic behaviours in our community. Definitely a story that felt cathartic beyond belief.

Kiss the Sun – Ibi Zoboi

I don’t think I’ve ever properly heard of the mythology of the soucouyant and it was more than fascinating. Ibi Zoboi does a great job of beautifully unleashing the myth and making the characters really bring to life such vivid imagery and intimacy between the reader and the culture. Kiss the Sun unpacks the very real issue of colourism in the Black community. It not only speaks to how “the white influence” has tainted our self-image but also, for us in the Caribbean, direct taint our way of life. Through tourism and finding business opportunities that include tearing down our land to build their investment. Zoboi doesn’t hide that it warps people’s views on power and influences the lengths people will go to achieve a life that has been ingrained as the ideal. This story certainly had one of the strongest impacts for me.

I honestly believe there are stories for many black experiences presented and its mere existence has created a space to properly see the lives and plights of Black Women. More and more, with the addition of this collection, there’s something for every young Black teen to find themselves in and I hope that this visibility will help them rise.

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I always struggle to rate anthology books like this one because there are always some truly awesome stories but then there's also ones that kind of fall flat. That's the primary reason why A Phoenix First Must Burn ended up being 3 out of 5 stars when I went to rate it. Some of the stories were brilliantly written. I thought some were too short (some seeming too short just because I wanted more and others being too short meaning that there wasn't enough for me to be satisfied at all.)

I did like that this was a neat collection of stories written by some very well-known authors in the YA community which will lend itself to more borrows. And that it was a collection focusing on the stories of women of color which is a wonderful thing to see. I liked how most of the stories made it very obvious that the characters being women of color was a very, very important part of their identity (with their history and family and own traditions being very present) and yet I was able to understand even without being previously familiar with certain topics.

Over all I really enjoyed this book and am so glad it exists.

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The book contained sixteen varying fantasy stories. I felt that some were more in-depth than others and had more complicated world building. However, the stories included a broad range of emotions, plots, and twists. While I did not enjoy all of the stories, I thought it was overall strong collection. I appreciated the afterword at the end of the book that identified some key themes, symbols, and locations for each of the stories. I feel that his helped to provide a better understanding of why they authors chose to write their short stories the way that they did.

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This anthology has been one of my favorites to read this year. I am a teacher, and have used a few of the short stories in here for my students to read. These short stories are full of magic and wonder. There are great examples to use for theme, conflict, and character development. All sixteen tales are worth reading. I highly recommend this anthology for any reader.

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I did not enjoy this book, but not for the usual reasons. This book is made up of several short stories written by BIPOC women authors in the science fiction/fantasy genre. Although I generally enjoy the fantasy genre in books, I am not a fan of short stories. I like books to last and to savor. That’s not really possible with short stories. I am also not a fan of science fiction which many of the short stories are. However, I think that this book is important due to the fact that there are so few women of color who write in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. It is important that more women and especially more BIPOC women write in this genre. Follow in Octavia Butler’s footsteps so to speak. Just because it is not my cup of tea doesn’t mean it won’t appeal to a larger and more diverse audience.

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In general, I tend to give short story anthologies a 3 because some stories are great and some aren't as strong, and I think fantasy/sci-fi short stories are especially hard to do because you have to do all of the world building in a shorter amount of time. An extra star because yes, let's tell more of these stories by more of these authors.

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I received this book in exchange for a honest review from NetGalley.

I absolutely adored this anthology and it got the best response out of me which is that I wish it could go on forever. The use of folklore and history throughout the stories is magnificent and there wasn't a story in the bunch that I didn't like. The story that I think I loved the most was "The Witches Skin" by Karen Strong. I loved the Gullah/Geechee inspiration with the futuristic twist. I also loved "Gilded" by Elizabeth Acevedo it was beautifully written with an interesting and strong main character. I also have to give a huge shout out to "The Hagiography of Starlight" which I also adored and I loved seeing a fat black woman as the main character of something, let alone a high fantasy story. Overall easily one of my favorite books I have read this year. I will be recommending it to everyone.

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Despite not being what seems like the "targeted" demographic, I enjoyed reading these stories and am so glad to see books that involve hope for African American girls although I wish it had been marketed slightly different.

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I'm not usually one for reading short stories but when Dhonielle Clayton (author of The Belles) started talking about this collection I knew I had to read it. 16 authors who identify as black, come together to share their experiences and magic and y'all it's literal magic. Taking inspiration from Beyonce's Lemonade the reader is taken on a roller coaster ride of heart breaking experiences and triumph. I was familiar with a few of the authors already but after reading this I've got literally all their works in my TBR pile because it was that good. Really all you need to know is that the name came from an Octavia Butler quote and we all know she's queen. Seriously do yourself a favor and read this collection. (Read with the physical text and audio--audio was incredibly well done)

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Thanks Netgalley for this AMAZING ARC! Whoa, I love shorts because they pack a punch in such a short time. This book is so much more than a simple punch, every stories had so much intensity that it left me wondering about the rest of the characters lives, I wanted more from each story. Anthologies are meant to introduce you to new authors, new writing styles, etc. well now my holds list is 20 books longer and I couldn’t be more pleased. An absolutely amazing read.

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Phoenix Must Burn

I received an ARC of this collection in return for an unbiased review.
This was a fantastic collection of stories by a creative collection of authors. The stories drew on many African, Afro-Carribean, and Afro-American cultures and mythology. The characters are all young women experiencing and overcoming obstacles, all with a science fiction, fantasy bent.
Obviously, I enjoyed some more than others, but overall it was a great collection. I would highly recommend for most young adults.

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Interesting selection of YA folklore/magical world stories written by respected African-American women. Some of the stories were better than others. There was a diversity of character and settings, but seemed rushed and might have been better as a full novel. Overall though it is a good selection.
Thanks for netgalley and publisher for and ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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A PHOENIX FIRST MUST BURN is YA fantasy, sci-fi, and magic meets Lemonade. This collection might be the best anthology I’ve ever read. What's great about PHOENIX is that there are stories for everyone! Fan of sci-fi will enjoy Amerie and J. Marcelle Corrie's contributions. Love historically-inspired fantasy? Elizabeth Acevedo, Rebecca Roanhorse, and Somaiya Daud (I will absolutely add the latter's piece to my syllabi on the Middle East) have you covered! Danny Lore and Ibi Zoboi have outstanding retellings of myths. L.L. McKinney's piece is the HIGHEST of high fantasy and I hope it becomes a full length novel. There isn't a single weak contribution and I could rave all day about PHOENIX. I hope editor Patrice Caldwell puts together more anthologies as she did such an amazing job.

If I had to pick my five favorite stories, they are:
-Melie by Justina Ireland: A young sorcerer in training is the only one in the kingdom with any damn sense. Give Melie a 7 book series!!
-Hearts Turned to Ash by Dhonielle Clayton: Etta's heart gets broken and she has to make the choice to replace it or put it back together. Excellent message of not losing yourself in a relationship!
-The Actress by Danielle Paige: would make an excellent romcom!
-All the Time in the World by Charlotte Nicole Davis: Inspired by the ongoing crisis in Flint, Black citizens gain superpowers. A sharp commentary of how our society continues to fail communities of color.
-The Witch’s Skin by Karen Strong: A superrrrrr dark tale of how the patriarchy oppresses women and how those in power only care about maintaining power. A story of resistance and survival.

I loved the diversity of settings, characters, and themes. Honestly, I would read full novels of each and every story! Overall, an incredible gift of a book and I would encourage high school libraries and classrooms to get as many copies as possible in the hands of their students.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I love the concept of this story collection. Black girl magic. The kind that should have been filling the shelves for years. I am so thankful that this now exists in the world, That being said, the ideas for all of these stories were incredible but the execution didn’t always work for me. Fantasy in short form is not easy, and that was unfortunately very apparent in this collection. I adored Gilded by Elizabeth Acevedo, and Kiss the Sun by Ibi Zoboi. Hearts Turmed to Ash by Dhonielle Clayton had me for about 75% and then the ending felt rushed and incomplete. Many of these stories were so conceptually compelling but just felt off in pacing. I wanted to love this but it wasn’t quite there for me personally.

This will not stop me from making sure it is on my shelves for my students.

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