ARC Review – A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope by Patrice Caldwell (Editor)

Posted March 8, 2020 by Lisa Mandina in Review / 4 Comments

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

ARC Review – A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope by Patrice Caldwell (Editor)A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope by Patrice Caldwell
Published by Viking BYR on March 10, 2020
Genres: YA Fantasy, YA Science Fiction, YA Magical Realism
Pages: 368
Source: the publisher
Format: ARC
My Rating: four-stars

Sixteen tales by bestselling and award-winning authors that explore the Black experience through fantasy, science fiction, and magic.
Evoking Beyoncé’s Lemonade for a teen audience, these authors who are truly Octavia Butler’s heirs, have woven worlds to create a stunning narrative that centers Black women and gender nonconforming individuals. A Phoenix First Must Burn will take you on a journey from folktales retold to futuristic societies and everything in between. Filled with stories of love and betrayal, strength and resistance, this collection contains an array of complex and true-to-life characters in which you cannot help but see yourself reflected. Witches and scientists, sisters and lovers, priestesses and rebels: the heroines of A Phoenix First Must Burn shine brightly. You will never forget them.
Authors include 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.

My Review:

I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of this from the publisher at the AASL conference last November. I was very excited to read it because of all the hype around it, as well as how I believe it is something perfect for the students at my school.

Overall it was a really good book. As to be expected, there were some stories that worked more for me than others. Here are my thoughts over the stories:

The first story was When Life Hands you a Lemon Fruitbomb by Amerie. I did really like the story, although it had a bit of a jump at the beginning of the story that was a bit confusing based on how it was formatted in the ARC. Hopefully they’ll maybe put something in the finished copy to help with that, or maybe it was just me.

Next was Gilded by Elizabeth Acevedo. This was a bit of a historical fantasy story, and I did really enjoy it as well! It was set in 1521 on the island of Hispanolia, which was fascinating to me as we’ve had students in to do research on the slaves of that time this past year.

Third was Wherein Abigail Fields Recalls Her First Death and Subsequently, Her Best Life by Rebecca Roanhorse. It was another historical fantasy/magical realism type of story. This one set in the old west. It had a great theme, and I really liked the ending.

Fourth was The Rules of the Land by Alaya Dawn Johnson. It was kind of a mermaid/goddess of the sea fantasy story. I enjoyed that one as well.

Unfortunately the fifth story, A Hagiography of Starlight by Somaiya Daud did not work for me. So I skipped it and went on.

Melie by Justina Ireland was next. It was a mermaid/magic/unicorn/dragons/total fantasy story that I really enjoyed! Now I know I need to get her other books and read them!

The next story was one by a graduate from the school where I am a librarian, The Goddess Provides by L.L. McKinney. It was a really good fantasy story with lots of twists and turns that I didn’t see coming, and the end was really good!

Dhonielle Clayton’s story Hearts Turned to Ash was probably one of my favorites from the book. I loved the magical aspect in this one.

The editor of the book, Patrice Caldwell, wrote another great story, Letting the Right One In. It is a vampire story, like you might gather from the title. But I loved how the author pulled in so many different famous vampires.

Tender-Headed by Danny Lore was another great story. It is magical realism, and I really think how it taps into the hair styling and braiding that is so real for girls made it very original.

I skipped the next one, Kiss the Sun by Ibi Zoboi, it was a little too fantasy for my tastes.

Another one I loved was The Actress by Danielle Paige. Makes sense, I really did like her Dorothy Must Die series, and this story has its own bit of tongue in cheek humor being poked at the types of tv shows there are out there today, as well as how Hollywood is about hiring women of color.

The Curse of Love by Ashley Woodfolk was another good story about love and a family curse. More of a magical realism, and I enjoyed it!

The next story, All the time in the World by Charlotte Nicole Davis was a futuristic sci-fi story that was neat in the twists it had too, and also unique because it was told in second person! It had some great comments on racism and how we don’t worry about things that don’t affect us personally most of the time.

The Witch’s Skin by Karen Strong was a fantasy, although had possibly a little sci-fi/dystopian/post-apocalyptic type of theme to it. It had a twist for sure, and I kind of was left needing some more!

The final story, Sequence by J. Marcelle Corrie was a sci-fi also, with a really neat look at if you would want to know what would happen next, and if or how that could change what you did and why you did it.

A lot of good stories in this anthology, most kept my attention and are worth being shared!

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4 responses to “ARC Review – A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope by Patrice Caldwell (Editor)

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