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Book Review: A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope edited by Patrice Caldwell

Publisher’s description

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.

Amanda’s thoughts

The best thing, to me, about anthologies is that they introduce readers to a wide array of authors and then hopefully send them looking for more of their work. This collection includes so many wonderful writers and oooh will people be in for great treats if they’re just discovering some of these voices.

Standout stories include Amerie’s poignant tale of orcs landing in Central Park and a trip into space (and through a wormhole) revealing not only points of connection, but a paradox and a startling revelation. Alaya Dawn Johnson’s story about a fisherman and his sea maid wife is beautifully written. Justina Ireland’s piece features a girl hoping to be apprentice to a sorcerer, dragons, curses, and murderous unicorns. My favorite story is Dhonielle Clayton’s about a girl with a disintegrating heart and her decision to either grow it back or choose a new one. Danny Lore’s thoughtful story is about a witch who braids hair and “fixes your head” both literally and metaphorically. J. Marcelle Corrie’s piece lets characters use a program to predict how life events will play out. Other stories feature mermaids, vampires, fireball witches, vengeance, healing, uprisings, love, freedom, and so much magic.

Full of hope, strength, magic, and beauty, this anthology is an essential addition to all collections. Don’t miss this powerful look at creation, future, and resistance.

Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781984835659
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 03/10/2020