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A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope

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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope

  1. 4 out of 5

    megs_bookrack

    My most anticipated YA Anthology of 2020 did not disappoint. This is definitely one of the most unique collections I have ever read. A Phoenix First Must Burn features 16-short stories full of diverse SFF elements, black girl magic and lyrical storytelling. This is a book everyone should be reading!!! I always find it difficult to review anthologies. As with any anthology, there were definitely some stories I enjoyed more than others. However, with this being said, there is something for every Rea My most anticipated YA Anthology of 2020 did not disappoint. This is definitely one of the most unique collections I have ever read. A Phoenix First Must Burn features 16-short stories full of diverse SFF elements, black girl magic and lyrical storytelling. This is a book everyone should be reading!!! I always find it difficult to review anthologies. As with any anthology, there were definitely some stories I enjoyed more than others. However, with this being said, there is something for every Reader within these pages. Whether you are a fan of science-fiction with futuristic societies, fantasy with earth magic, mermaids or vampires; you will absolutely be able to find a story to sink your teeth into! My personal favorite was, Kiss the Sun by Ibi Zoboi. It was heavy and dark, speaking to the history of colonization, as well as continued oppression of native cultures in areas heavily touristed by privileged whites. You could feel the Afro-Caribbean influence throughout the story. It is actually the first I have ever read by Zoboi and I am really looking forward to picking up more of her work. Kiss the Sun centered around a group of Soucouyants. I had never heard of a Soucouyant and have discovered they are a type of magical entity in Caribbean folklore. They are shapeshifters and sort of like vampires, in that they drain blood, or spirit from the individuals they attack. Now I am fascinated and want more stories where these supernatural beings play a role; if you know of any, comment down below! Other stories I loved include, Elizabeth Acevedo's, that followed a slave uprising on a sugar plantation, which I believe, if I understood the Afterword correctly, was loosely based upon an actual revolt in 1522; Melie by Justina Ireland, which followed a magician's apprentice on her hunt for mermaid tears and dragon's heat; Hearts Turned to Ash by Dhonielle Clayton, which included a bottle tree, a tradition I learned about recently in Kwame Mbalia's Tristan Strong novel; and, The Actress by Danielle Paige, where a witch and a vampire take center stage. While these are the stories that resonated the most with me, as I mentioned before, this has stories for every type of Reader. It's super diverse, extremely fast-paced, empowering, uplifting and a must read for 2020. This group of authors, and Patrice Caldwell, as editor and contributor, nailed it!

  2. 4 out of 5

    celeste

    As a black teen I am so lucky to be growing up in an age where I can be seen in literature. Where my face isn't the side character or the punchline. Where I don't have to hide behind the faces of white teens living lives I know I can. I want everyone to read this. Black, white, asian, native american, and hispanic. Let our voices be heard. Read our stories. A phoenix first must burn, but when we rise we rise together. Everyone should have this on their TBR's. As a black teen I am so lucky to be growing up in an age where I can be seen in literature. Where my face isn't the side character or the punchline. Where I don't have to hide behind the faces of white teens living lives I know I can. I want everyone to read this. Black, white, asian, native american, and hispanic. Let our voices be heard. Read our stories. A phoenix first must burn, but when we rise we rise together. Everyone should have this on their TBR's.

  3. 4 out of 5

    nat

    🍋 read this review and others on my blog, pages left unread WE'RE NOT GONNA TALK ABOUT IT (yes we are . . .). So, A Phoenix First Must Burn is a YA speculative fiction anthology centered around Black girls, and I’ve been anticipating ever since spring of last year. But it was thankfully released late this March and was able to get my hands on a finished copy of it, and since I was so excited to read it the only right choice concerning this would to be review it here and shout about it as much as I 🍋 read this review and others on my blog, pages left unread WE'RE NOT GONNA TALK ABOUT IT (yes we are . . .). So, A Phoenix First Must Burn is a YA speculative fiction anthology centered around Black girls, and I’ve been anticipating ever since spring of last year. But it was thankfully released late this March and was able to get my hands on a finished copy of it, and since I was so excited to read it the only right choice concerning this would to be review it here and shout about it as much as I can! While many stories did disappoint unfortunately, there are stories I liked a lot that I think make this book worth reading. The first thing I wanted so say about this book is that the cover is absolutely beautiful. When I saw the cover of this from its reveal on Twitter, I was so stunned, and in the best way possible, of the gorgeousness of it. To see a Black girl looking so stunning on a cover makes me want to cry, but with neverending joy of course!! And as for the book itself, something I thought about when finishing it was how diverse the stories are. And while they definitely are, I don’t just mean in terms of marginalized identities – from aliens, to vampires, to gods, various myths, and so much more, these stories cover such a wide range of topics. Though they may cover the same concept of Black girls in SFF, there is so much to get from this anthology, from the wildly intriguing fantastical to more serious mirrors of modern society. Just before I start reviewing the stories, I wanted to share this quote from Patrice Caldwell’s foreword for this, because I think it’s so very true, and also so empowering, and I wish it resonates with you as much as it did for me. (And reading it now it resonates even more, considering everything that has been going on - please, if you haven't already, use this Carrd to find various Black-owned organizations you can monetarily support, resources you can use to make yourself a better ally to Black people, and petitions you can sign to secure justice for the various Black lives affected during these times.) Malcolm X said, “The most neglected person in America is the Black Woman.” I believe this is even more true for my fellow queer siblings, and especially for those identifying as trans and as gender nonconforming. We are constantly under attack. And yet still we rise from our own ashes. We never accept no. With each rebirth comes a new strength. WHEN LIFE HANDS YOU A LEMON FRUITBOMB BY AMERIE // ★★ From the first few pages of this book, it was hard to understand and get into the story, but once things started to kick off after the first couple of pages, I’m happy to say I was pretty immersed (especially as this was my first actual impression with this anthology)! It’s set in an alternate planet, where yes, Earth still exists and is a ‘thing,’ but Earth has been ravaged due to a war with foreign creatures called Nokira, more commonly known as orcs, and travel to the alternate planet has caused time to be set back thousands of years. I do wish the wordbuilding was more thorough; we’re never really told the point of the conflict between humans and orcs, or the motive (or much physical qualities, even) of the orcs, but this was a really intriguing story and I loved the voice of the main character Mitchell. I think I could have appreciated this more if it was further developed——while still acknowledging this is a short story—but I loved the concept and I think it does especially well in its short story format. rep: Black main character, Black prominent character, Black side character content warnings: war, genocide GILDED BY ELIZABETH ACEVEDO // ★★ I was nervous going into this one because I recently read, and did not enjoy Acevedo’s recent release. I was pretty disappointed with this; it was rather slow, and terribly info-dumpy at the beginning - it’s a magical realism story set in the early 1500s wherein the inhabitants of the land in this live to work for their [white] masters, and a revolution is planned to overtake them. I was pretty much bored throughout the whole story, but the last pages did it for me and I loved how it was wrapped up! Also, this is written in prose, unlike Acevedo’s full-length books which are in verse. I was surprised to see so when I first looked at it, but her writing is just as beautiful in this style! rep: Afro-Latinx inspired main character & cast content warnings: slavery WHEREIN ABIGAIL FIELDS RECALLS HER FIRST DEATH AND, SUBSEQUENTLY, HER BEST LIFE BY REBECCA ROANHORSE // ★★.5 This is a wonderfully sapphic story set in the early 1800s, in which the main character’s girlfriend is trying to convince her to run away with her to Los Angeles, to escape the oppression they receive for being Black. It’s on the shorter side - 9 pages long, but the [short] length worked so well with what this was about. It’s just really soft and tender and quietly brutal. rep: sapphic Black main character w/ sapphic Black LI (ownvoices for Black rep) content warnings: descriptions of blood from gunshot wound (like it’s literally the story opener) THE RULES OF THE LAND BY ALAYA DAWN JOHNSON // ★ Honestly . . . I do not get the point of this one. It didn’t work for me at all, and the only thing which was memorable about it was that it had a pretty line to end it, but everything else about it? Yeah, just a nope. It follows a girl who is a daughter of a human and a goddess of the sea, who can control the wind and the waves herself, and thinking of this alone I just wonder how good this could have been if it was . . . good. It just takes so long to develop and get the reader accustomed to the world, to the point where when the story actually finishes it doesn’t feel at all satisfying or concluding. rep: Black main character content warnings: parental separation, abuse, and death, alcoholism A HAGIOGRAPHY OF STARLIGHT BY SOMAIYA DAUD // ★ This one was just too high fantasy for me, and <>I was bored to death. I started it at 12am, fell asleep, woke up the next morning and started reading it again, and could not for the life of me remember what had happened. I honestly should have DNFed this one, because it did not work for me at all. rep: Black / Arab cast content warnings: descriptions of blood MELIE BY JUSTINA IRELAND // ★★★ From this point, Melie was my favorite story yet – I loved the writing style, and it was interesting and well-paced. Justina Ireland is one of two of the authors in the anthology I’ve previously read short stories from, and for her story it was Kissing Sarah Smart in the Black Enough anthology, and I enjoyed that one as well. This follows a magician named Melie who is trying avoid her land from being overthrown by a mistrustful leader, and it’s SO GOOD. I genuinely had so much fun reading this, and, doing so was such a breeze. rep: fat Black main character, Black prominent character content warnings: ableist language THE GODDESS PROVIDES BY L.L. MCKINNEY // ★.25 Another one wherein I propose the announcement of ‘right now my brain cannot, for the life of me, process any complex high fantasy story.’ I liked the ending—we stan Black girls reclaiming their agency—but everything else about this story paled in comparison. rep: Black main character content warnings: murder, descriptions of blood, death of a parent, sexism (challenged) HEARTS TURNED TO ASH BY DHONIELLE CLAYTON // ★★★ This follows a girl named Etta, as she’s in need of replacing her heart due to it being previously broken, only the latter figuratively. I honestly don’t have much to say about this one other than ‘I liked reading it,’—and I don’t think of that as a bad thing, by the way—so I’ll leave it at that. rep: queer (?) Black main character (ownvoices for Black rep) w/ Black LI content warnings: descriptions of blood LETTING THE RIGHT ONE IN BY PATRICE CALDWELL // ★★★★ This is a contemporary fantasy story with a sapphic romance between two Black girls, one a human, one a vampire!!!! I mean, I shouldn’t expect any less from Patrice Caldwell. I loved Ayanna and her quiet, shy book-loving, self (because honestly, relatable) and adored the romance between her and Corrie just as much. This story is so fun and amazing in all the best possible ways, and is among one of my favorites. rep: sapphic Black MC w/ depression, w/ sapphic Black LI content warnings: descriptions of blood, mentions of suicide, homophobia (not on-page, challenged) TENDER-HEADED BY DANNY LORE // ★★★ I was stoked to read this one because I knew there would be non-binary representation, and it didn’t disappoint! It follows a queer girl named Akilah as she tries out her rival hair-braiding business to see why her clients are leaving her and coming to them. It’s contemporary with a dash of magic, which seems to be my favorite type of story in this, so there’s no wonder I liked it so much. And the relationship between the main character and her partner, who is non-binary, is so sweet and soft and I adored it. Also, I loved the hair-braiding aspect of it because I don’t really think I’ve ever seen that in a book, but it’s so relatable, being Black. rep: queer Black MC w/ queer Black non-binary LI content warnings: [none] KISS THE SUN BY IBI ZOBOI // ★★★.5 This story was so powerful. It’s about these half-human creatures called soucouyant, black girls who periodically shed their skin and race to ‘kiss the sun’ in order to darken it. I really liked its discussions of colorism, and It’s so creative (with its soucouyant concept, which after reading the author’s note at the end this is an actual myth) and brilliant and I just loved reading it. rep: all-Black main cast content warnings: ableist language, colorism (internalized, and generally), mentions of racial fetishization THE ACTRESS BY DANIELLE PAIGE // ★ I think this story would have been more my cup of tea two years ago, when I was much more interested in fandom-centered stories. I kind of lost interest in them, when after reading so many of them I realized they’re all carbon copies of themselves. And this one isn’t an exception. I liked the discussions of racism in the entertainment industry when a POC is cast as an initially-white character in a remake or adaptation of something—it reminded me of the #notmyariel mess which occurred last year—but the story itself was just bland, and the magical aspect didn’t make it any better. This story, to me, reads very very juvenile to the point it’s hard to take anything that occurs in this seriously. And I think what the author was trying to accomplish with this doesn’t work at all in a short story, all the reveals are so anticlimactic to the point they’re annoying. It doesn’t make sense as to how the possibility of the main character Gamine having magical abilities would have never come up until she was seventeen, and when she does realize it it’s just like ‘oh, I’m a witch now!!!” and it ends at that. And don’t even get me started on Reid. Anyways, this story was, to put it lightly, not good. rep: Black main character content warnings: racism, mention of leukemia (once, very minor) THE CURSE OF LOVE BY ASHLEY WOODFOLK // ★★★★ This was SO beautiful. It’s about a girl in which all the women in her family are cursed to die if they ever fall in love, and otherwise eternally living young and gorgeous, and I loved everything about it. (If only it was sapphic, though.) Also, it switches between first and third person every few paragraphs and it adds such a unique spin to the story, it’s something I really liked! rep: Black main character w/ Black LI content warnings: death ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD BY CHARLOTTE NICOLE DAVIS // ★★★★ This story makes me want to shave all my hair (despite it not even being really that long, for some weird reason but anyway). It’s set in our world, but with hints of dystopia, and with many interesting elements, but one I think is the most notable, and the main part of this story is that water has been polluted with this substance called the Contaminant, usually resulting in sickness and death when consumed but sometimes resulting in special magical abilities. And for the main character Jordan, it’s freezing time. This was really fascinating, and well-written—it’s in the second person by the way—and I of course loved the sapphic relationship. rep: sapphic Black main character w/ sapphic Black LI content warnings: racism (challenged) THE WITCH’S SKIN BY KAREN STRONG // ★★ Interesting concept, but I think it could have been better. It’s about a witch, referred to as the Boo Hag, who every night steals the souls of men and leaves them dead the next morning. I thought it was creative (and after reading the author’s note at the end this story is inspired by an actual myth) but the overall reading experience was meh, so I won’t go into detail. rep: Black main character content warnings: sexism (challenged), murder SEQUENCE BY J. MARCELLE CORRIE // ★★.5 This is set in a futuristic world (though very reminiscent of ours) where technology is significantly advanced. It revolves around the main character, Eden, using this service called the Sequence, wherein if you ask it if you should carry out something it gives an accurate playthrough of how the situation will turn out if you don’t do said thing, or if you do. I liked this enough, but if I see a dystopian which refers to the government as the ‘Society’ one more time I might just never pick up a book again. It does have a sapphic romance, which I thought was cute and heartwarming, but as is the vibe for many stories in this anthology, I just felt really indifferent about it. rep: sapphic Black main character w/ sapphic LI content warnings: [none] ★★.5

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ellie (faerieontheshelf)

    Taking its title from the Octavia Butler quote, "In order to rise from its own ashes, a phoenix first must burn", this collection of speculative stories brings together a selection of Black authors for sixteen different tales full of bravery, resistance, love, hope and healing. > "When Life Hands You A Lemon Fruitbomb," by Amerie (4 stars) I've heard of Amerie but not read anything written by her, so this short story was my first experience. Her writing style is really lovely. The actual concep Taking its title from the Octavia Butler quote, "In order to rise from its own ashes, a phoenix first must burn", this collection of speculative stories brings together a selection of Black authors for sixteen different tales full of bravery, resistance, love, hope and healing. > "When Life Hands You A Lemon Fruitbomb," by Amerie (4 stars) I've heard of Amerie but not read anything written by her, so this short story was my first experience. Her writing style is really lovely. The actual concept of the short story itself is a looping one, involving timelines and futures and pasts - admittedly, it took a bit of time to wrap my head around it, but I understood by the end. > "Gilded," by Elizabeth Acevedo (4 stars) Acevedo's writing style is stunning, whatever format she's writing in. This is a historical short story with a streak of fantasy (heroine has metal magic), set in La Hispaniola in 1562, centering around the idea of freedom. > "Wherein Abigail Fields Recalls Her First Death and, Subsequently, Her Best Life," by Rebecca Roanhorse (4 stars) I've wanted to read something by Roanhorse for a while, and enjoying this short story makes me want to get to one of her novels soon. Set in territory of New Mexico in the 1880s, a girl makes a pact with the desert to get revenge on the man who (fatally) shot her. Also, features a soft F/F relationship. > "The Rules of the Land," by Alaya Dawn Johnson (4 stars) A fascinating tale about the sea but also about relationship that destroy rather than inspire. I loved the imagery this one evoked. > "A Hagiography of Starlight," by Somaiya Daud (4.5 stars) One of the more high fantasy offerings of this series, I adored the world Daud set up in this short story. I didn't entirely understand it, but I loved the magic system and how it interwove with music and dance. Also, the ending. > "Melie," by Justina Ireland (3.5 stars) I'm pretty sure this is one of the fantasy stories that isn't supposed to be taken entirely seriously, like The Princess Bride. There were mermaids and dragons and unicorns and everything was rather hectic and fast-paced, but it was honestly quite funny and I like the heroine (who is plus sized). > "The Goddess Provides," by L.L. McKinney (3.8 stars) I really enjoyed the vibes of this one, and the resilient heroine. Very political, featuring a 'traitor' princess and the man who had taken power from her family. I really liked the twist at the ending as well. > "Hearts Turned to Ash," by Dhonielle Clayton (TBC) After her soulmate breaks up with her, Etta has finds her heart is turning to ash and has to seek out the aid of Madame Peak to replace it. > "Letting the Right One In," by Patrice Caldwell (4 stars) Assuming this is based off the Swedish vampire novel Let the Right One In. This was short, light and sweet! Also featured mental health (depression) rep. > "Tender-Headed," by Danny Lore (4 stars) A brief story about hair and braiding and memories, which I really enjoyed. Also a reimagining of the Greek myth of Athena and Arachne. > "Kiss the Sun," by Ibi Zoboi (4.5 stars) One of my favourites of the collection, this story weaves around the Caribbean myth of the soucouyant. In this narrative, a group of girls shed their skin at night to become fireballs that suck out souls and then use those souls as energy to race and kiss the sun. > "The Actress," by Danielle Page (4 stars) A witch and a vampire love story that I didn't initially think was a witch and vampire love story? This one has a Hollywood setting and a heroine who is the lead of a major tv series, and I liked the mention of how cruel large fandoms can be to actresses who don't live up to their standards, plus the mention that these fans often don't criticise the male counterparts as harshly. > "The Curse of Love," by Ashley Woodfolk (3.5 stars) The Dunn women are cursed to wither and grow old the moment they fall in love. The heroine has just fallen in love with her friend's brother. This one flipped between first and third person, which was unusual, though I didn't mind it at all. > "All the Time in the World," by Charlotte Nicole Davis (4.5 stars) Unusually, this one was written in second person, which is something I love. Revolves around a heroine who gains special powers from a water supply tainted by a local science factory. Also sapphic. Inspired by the Flint water crisis. > "The Witch's Skin," by Karen Strong (4 stars) This one is influenced by the tale of the Boo Hag: when the man Nalah loves is killed, she sets out to find the Boo Hag who killed him. Also really cool utopian (but dystopian-esque/post-apocalyptic) worldbuilding on an isolated island. > "Sequence," by J. Marcelle Corrie (4.2 stars) A futuristic story set in two parts, both scenarios generated by technology to guess how the heroine's love interest would react to the heroine telling her about her feelings. Black Mirror-esque, but cute. thank you to the ever-lovely Finn @ Evidently Bookish for gifting me a copy! <3

  5. 4 out of 5

    Cece (ProblemsOfaBookNerd)

    Well, I tried. I’ve enjoyed maybe two YA anthologies but I just keep trying new ones despite that. I read 6 stories before I decided this wasn’t the collection for me. I think any other year I might have pushed through, but I genuinely only liked one story I read (Elizabeth Acevedo’s) and one of my goals in 2020 was to be more willing to dnf the stuff that isn’t holding my interest. I think plenty of people will like this, particularly if you’re a fan of anthologies, but this wasn’t for me.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Woc Reader

    "In order to rise from it's own ashes, a Phoenix first must burn"- Octavia Butler I've been hyping this book since February 2019 and I wanted an arc as soon as I saw them circulating. Thank you Penguin Teen for giving me an arc in exchange for an honest review. Anthologies can be so hit and miss and I had yet to read one I really enjoyed so I was a little nervous going into this. But I was excited to read because I follow so many of these authors on social media but had yet to read their work. A s "In order to rise from it's own ashes, a Phoenix first must burn"- Octavia Butler I've been hyping this book since February 2019 and I wanted an arc as soon as I saw them circulating. Thank you Penguin Teen for giving me an arc in exchange for an honest review. Anthologies can be so hit and miss and I had yet to read one I really enjoyed so I was a little nervous going into this. But I was excited to read because I follow so many of these authors on social media but had yet to read their work. A short story is a great way to see if their writing style may be for you. Each of them brings their own style to this book. I recommend this book for teens and even adults who want to get into the fantasy genre but aren't sure quite where to start. And I'm hoping that this anthology opens the door to more fantasy stories by black women not just in the YA genre but also for adults. It's great that black girls can pick this book up and appreciate seeing themselves within the pages instead of just hoping to be included in the stories by white authors. The only magical element missing that I would've liked to see in here is faeries but we had mermaids, goddesses, witches, sorcerers, vampires and some cool futuristic tech. I truly think there's a story in here for everyone. 3.5 rating Full review on blog in link below https://womenofcolorreadtoo.blogspot....

  7. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    This anthology is solid gold! My favorite stories are (in no particular order): WHEN LIFE HANDS YOU A LEMON FRUITBOMB by Amerie THE RULES OF THE LAND by Alaya Dawn Johnson LETTING THE RIGHT ONE IN by Patrice Caldwell ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD by Charlotte Nicole Davis THE WITCH'S SKIN by Karen Strong This anthology is solid gold! My favorite stories are (in no particular order): WHEN LIFE HANDS YOU A LEMON FRUITBOMB by Amerie THE RULES OF THE LAND by Alaya Dawn Johnson LETTING THE RIGHT ONE IN by Patrice Caldwell ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD by Charlotte Nicole Davis THE WITCH'S SKIN by Karen Strong

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sahitya

    I’ve only read Kindred by Octavia Butler but I can totally see how much of an influence she must have had on budding readers and writers, especially young Black woman and I thought this collection of stories was a fitting tribute to her. Mostly fantastical tales with a bit of sci-fi and dystopia thrown in, these stories take their inspirations from various different cultures, folklores, historical as well as contemporary events and give us a glimpse of the different ways in which young Black wom I’ve only read Kindred by Octavia Butler but I can totally see how much of an influence she must have had on budding readers and writers, especially young Black woman and I thought this collection of stories was a fitting tribute to her. Mostly fantastical tales with a bit of sci-fi and dystopia thrown in, these stories take their inspirations from various different cultures, folklores, historical as well as contemporary events and give us a glimpse of the different ways in which young Black women take destiny into their own hands and live their lives the way they want. It’s full of beautiful representation and despite elements of slavery and discrimination in some of the stories, I loved that most of these stories are fierce and passionate and full of hope. WHEN LIFE HANDS YOU A LEMON FRUITBOMB by Amerie As a time travel story, it was a bit confusing but that’s because I don’t read a lot of such stuff. But the discussion on war and peace and family, and specifically about what makes someone human was quite emotional to read about. Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 GILDED by Elizabeth Acevedo The story of a young woman born into slavery who even though has the chance to secure freedom for herself, realizes she can do more. This was beautiful as well as painful, but ultimately full of resilience and hope. Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ WHEREIN ABIGAIL FIELDS RECALLS HER FIRST DEATH AND, SUBSEQUENTLY, HER BEST LIFE by Rebecca Roanhorse The story of a young woman having to choose between revenge, justice and love - this was a compelling story with a very sweet ending. Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ THE RULES OF THE LAND by Alaya Dawn Johnson A story of love and sacrifice, this was about what lengths a person will go to protect the ones they love, even sometimes resorting to forcing and caging them. But ultimately it was about a young woman deciding to take her destiny into her own hands and be ready to take on anything that her uncertain future may throw at her. Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A HAGIOGRAPHY OF STARLIGHT by Somaiya Daud I loved that the magic in this story was derived through song and dance and it was described beautifully. The story was about the power of love and how even gods can’t remain unaffected by it and while I enjoyed the writing style, I can’t say I completely understood the story itself. Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ MELIE by Justina Ireland A story about a young girl who despite being discouraged by the high sorcerer, believes in her magical abilities and takes it upon herself to save her people. This was frankly a lot of fun to read. Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 THE GODDESS PROVIDES by L.L. McKinney A story of the perils of fanaticism, this one follows a young woman who had forsaken her goddess to finally realize the truth of her faith and what she has to do to make sure the faith is not misused. Quite a fascinating tale of treachery and retribution. Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 HEARTS TURNED TO ASH by Dhonielle Clayton A world where soulmates exist and heartbreak is literal, this is a cautionary tale of how a young girl should not give away her whole heart to a man when she is love, but also make sure that she loves herself too. Definitely an important message but felt a little too preachy. Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 LETTING THE RIGHT ONE IN by Patrice Caldwell This one features a young girl who has depression and as no one around her seems to understand her, she finds solace in her favorite vampire novels. This was both very sad as well as exciting, while being very relatable to me personally and it ends on a very hopeful note which I liked. Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ TENDER-HEADED by Danny Lore Infused with magic, this is the story of how one young woman has to realize that her self worth doesn’t depend on how much money she can spend or give her friends, and that she needs to know who her true well wishers are. Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 KISS THE SUN by Ibi Zoboi I can’t say I completely understood the magic of this story with fire girls and shedding the skin and kissing the sun, but the self hatred some dark skinned girls have for their own color and the yearning for white skin was all too relatable. But I didn’t expect the story to take such a dark turn. Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 THE ACTRESS by Danielle Paige A story about a young actress who finds out the truth about an important part of herself and how she is able to cope with it, while also handling the harsh realities of Hollywood, this was both sweet and emotional. Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 THE CURSE OF LOVE by Ashley Woodfolk True love and a horrible curse go hand in hand in this story and both a young woman and her elder aunt have to figure out if the men they have fallen for are worth it. It was interesting to read but I just thought that ending was a bit sad more than hopeful. Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD by Charlotte Nicole Davis This was like a sci-fi version of our present timeline, with the story touching on aspects of the Flint water crisis as well as the police shootings of Black people, while also adding some superpowers to the narrative. I thought it was both very realistic as well as intriguing and could work well as a longer story. Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ THE WITCH’S SKIN by Karen Strong I don’t really wanna say a lot about this story but it has another young woman trying to do what’s best for her and her unborn child and showing a lot of resilience in desperate times. Very interesting story and another one which I thought could be a novel because it felt more like a beginning. Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ SEQUENCE by J. Marcelle Corrie In a world where Society decides every action of yours and an app predicts everything you’ll do, this was a fascinating look at a young woman trying to find her own path and maybe even choosing to go against the grain. Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    A Phoenix First Must Burn offers a collection of speculative short stories from a diverse group of Black women and gender non-binary authors. The stories range from high fantasy to urban fantasy, historical fantasy, and science fiction, all centering Black girls. Themes include love, family, oppression, standards of beauty, and structural racism, among others. I think it is well worth picking up. I generally enjoyed my time with the collection and thought all of the stories were good, even if I A Phoenix First Must Burn offers a collection of speculative short stories from a diverse group of Black women and gender non-binary authors. The stories range from high fantasy to urban fantasy, historical fantasy, and science fiction, all centering Black girls. Themes include love, family, oppression, standards of beauty, and structural racism, among others. I think it is well worth picking up. I generally enjoyed my time with the collection and thought all of the stories were good, even if I was not really the audience for some of them. That said, there are a couple of standouts that I want to highlight. - A Hagiography of Starlight by Somaiya Daoud is a brilliantly crafted, poetic, high fantasy story about a foundling girl with untold power. This is a wonderful example of how you can have strong world-building, deep characterization, and great storytelling all in short fiction. I was completely swept away by this one. - All the Time in the World by Charlotte Nicole Davis is a smart, well-written near-future sci-fi story and queer romance. It follows a possibly gender-fluid protagonist living in a city where a government facility has been contaminating the water supply for non-white residents and now this character is experiencing some strange phenomena. And also crushing on a cute girl at her school. I won't spoil things, but I love how this offers a subversive take on structural racism and environmental problems (similar to ongoing issues in Detroit with water pollution). It's smart, fun, and well-written. I look forward to seeing what else we get from this author. Overall, I think this is a solid collection and I think that Black readers will take even more from it than I did. Worth reading in either case! I received an advance copy of this book for review. All opinions are my own.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Six stories in, this is most definitely my favorite f/sf anthology I've read since A Thousand Beginnings and Endings. The focus is on stories full of empowerment and magic, and the title comes from a really powerful Octavia Butler quote (from The Parable of the Talents): "In order to rise from its own ashes, a phoenix first must burn." The first story, "When Life Hands You a Lemon Fruitbomb," by Amerie, is a thought-provoking SF adventure. The second story, "Gilded," by Elizabeth Acevedo, is a s Six stories in, this is most definitely my favorite f/sf anthology I've read since A Thousand Beginnings and Endings. The focus is on stories full of empowerment and magic, and the title comes from a really powerful Octavia Butler quote (from The Parable of the Talents): "In order to rise from its own ashes, a phoenix first must burn." The first story, "When Life Hands You a Lemon Fruitbomb," by Amerie, is a thought-provoking SF adventure. The second story, "Gilded," by Elizabeth Acevedo, is a stunningly powerful historical fantasy. Rebecca Roanhorse's "Wherein Abigail Fields Recalls Her First Death" is a fabulous fantasy Western with an ending that made me cheer. Alaya Dawn Johnson's "The Rules of the Land" is a selkie story that made me gasp and then sigh in admiration at the end of it. "A Hagiography of Starlight," by Somaiya Daud, somehow manages to fit a gorgeously written epic fantasy story into just 20 pages, and the effect is stunning. (It's also perfect for any fans of Jacqueline Carey!) And Justina Ireland's "Melie," my very favorite story so far, is the most gleefully fun high fantasy adventure I've read in ages, with a wizard's apprentice who learns her own worth on an adventure with dragons. I'd love to read a whole book about her! (Note: I'm updating this review regularly, because when it comes to anthologies and short story collections, I've learned to review individual stories as I go. I tend to read anthologies in bite-sized pieces, taking time in-between different stories, and I don't want to forget what I thought of the early stories by the time I reach the end!)

  11. 5 out of 5

    Thistle & Verse

    Short story anthologies are a great way for readers to learn about a variety of authors in a brief period of time. Anthologies like Reading the Bones and Dark Matter have been especially helpful for me in finding Black sffh authors, and I'm glad that this is now available for a younger audience. I loved that so many stories featured sapphic characters. I had read many of the author's novels, and it was interesting to see how my predictions for the stories and how much I would like them held up. Short story anthologies are a great way for readers to learn about a variety of authors in a brief period of time. Anthologies like Reading the Bones and Dark Matter have been especially helpful for me in finding Black sffh authors, and I'm glad that this is now available for a younger audience. I loved that so many stories featured sapphic characters. I had read many of the author's novels, and it was interesting to see how my predictions for the stories and how much I would like them held up. Even the stories I didn't care for touched on important topics about Black girlhood that I think would make them relatable and important to readers. My favorite stories were The Goddess Provides by L. L. McKinney, Letting the Right One In by Patrice Caldwell, Tender-Headed by Danny Lore, Kiss the Sun by Ibi Zoboi, and The Witch's Skin by Karen Strong. This was very close to getting 5 stars.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dawnie

    3.5 stars but deserving of rounding up. as with all anthologies, especially by more than one author, there where great stories and ones i didn’t enjoy at all. i loved the diversity in this book. we really got it all! from myths retellings to folklores to historical fiction to futuristic story. it was all there and beautifully done. no story felt the same or as if a specific tone or topic had to be discussed! they all said their own things and did it wonderfully! again personally i enjoyed some sorties 3.5 stars but deserving of rounding up. as with all anthologies, especially by more than one author, there where great stories and ones i didn’t enjoy at all. i loved the diversity in this book. we really got it all! from myths retellings to folklores to historical fiction to futuristic story. it was all there and beautifully done. no story felt the same or as if a specific tone or topic had to be discussed! they all said their own things and did it wonderfully! again personally i enjoyed some sorties more than others as most readers will! the ones i enjoyed the most are: - gilded by elizabeth acevedo - the rules of the land by always dawn johnson and one that i keep thinking back on for some reason i can’t explain is: - melie by justina ireland highly recommend this anthology! great mixture, great authors and beautiful stories! also because it was mentioned in the book and i have something to say on the topic: but whenever i went to the ... library to discover more tales, the novels feathering characters who looked like me were, more often than not, rooted in pain set amid slavery, sharecropping, or segregation. those narratives are important, yes. but because they were the only ones offered, i started to wonder, where is my fantasy, my future? why don’t back people exist in speculative worlds? too often media focuses on our suffering. too often we are portrayed as victims.... this section right in the introduction really got to me because while i am not black -white girl here actually- i do understand the frustration with that. i always wants to read more book with a diverse cast even as a child! - give me the real life mix! i want different ethnicities, i want able and disabled characters! i want people with invisible illnesses and ones you can see! i want someone from this tiny little town that is more a clustered neighborhood far away from anyone else coming together with a big city raised person that has more people on the apartment building that the small town girl knew her entire life! i want people who are too skinny and those that are big and not have it talked about as something that needs to change but just let the characters have their body types as is! i want single parents, too many siblings and no sibling! i want all skin types, all body shapes and all health levels represented because only than its actually a good representation of real life! or in short? i want something that represents reality! and sure for me as a kid it wasn’t because i struggled to find myself in a book! i am white and had first extremely blond and then slowly brown hair as a kid. that’s basically represented in every book for a kid and young adult! but i didn’t just want to read from people that mirrored myself. i want to learn different cultural aspects and myths and folklores and historical aspects that are mostly forgotten because they where deemed unimportant. we all finally are getting non white characters telling and experiencing stories outside of slavery and villains! outside of forced environments and the caged victims! and i do not understand why it took so long and hope that we will finally get all the books with non white main characters in all stories that are there to tell! from romance to fantasy to futuristic tales as well as historic novels that don’t just share slave stories but what else there is in the history outside of the white influenced (colonized) world that is so worth telling! yes i am saying those things as a white person. but i am saying it as someone that is still waiting to be represented with my health struggles and disabilities outside of the “miracle healed” or “just suck it’s up” books that exist. and sure that’s not the same. and that’s also my point. everyone deserves to see themselves in books! everyone deserves to read a book and finally see themselves in the pages and feel seen! and not just as a victim, the bad guy or the misunderstood “miracle cured” character! which sadly fits in for both actual ilnesses in books and skin types or specific cultural aspects that characters suddenly “shed” as if they are able to leave those parts of them behind without problems. for some books that means love interests finally “seeing” the character and “helping”. in other books it’s “education” that shows how much better a person can become by adapting specific behaviors and ways to speak instead of what they done before. i want to finally read books that just represent differences in life without the need to change those things! this was a rant and possibly mostly unrelated to the book itself in most ways but i hope what i tried this at comes across anyways. that i can’t wait to finally see more representation in book. since this book shows how easy it is to do just that!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kelsea

    Those of us who enjoy short story anthologies know how hit and miss they can be. It's a rare treasure to find one that's brimming with well-written, powerful, moving stories, beautiful descriptions, and a cohesive theme. Imagine my delight to find exactly all of those things in A Phoenix First Must Burn! It's an anthology of sixteen #ownvoices stories "that explore the Black experience through fantasy, science fiction, and magic." EVERY SINGLE STORY in this anthology was worth reading!! A few espe Those of us who enjoy short story anthologies know how hit and miss they can be. It's a rare treasure to find one that's brimming with well-written, powerful, moving stories, beautiful descriptions, and a cohesive theme. Imagine my delight to find exactly all of those things in A Phoenix First Must Burn! It's an anthology of sixteen #ownvoices stories "that explore the Black experience through fantasy, science fiction, and magic." EVERY SINGLE STORY in this anthology was worth reading!! A few especially notable ones include: Gilded by Elizabeth Acevedo: beautifully written story of resistance, promises, and setting the world ablaze. (This was no surprise, given that Acevedo is one of my favorite authors!) Hearts Turned to Ash by Dhonielle Clayton: loved the fantastic world-building -- I'm especially obsessed with the descriptions of the hearts! Letting the Right One In by Patrice Caldwell: there's SO MUCH packed into this delightful vampire story. Funny moments, nerdy kids, a stunning moment that had me near tears, and more! Caldwell edited the anthology (which I gather is not an easy thing, given how many poorly constructed anthologies I've read) and I'm so impressed, I'm ready to read anything she writes. Tender-Headed by Danny Lore: this story about hair-braiding magic is so different from anything I've read, and the way memories, experiences, and braiding were interwoven (heh heh) was incredibly effective! Kiss the Sun by Ibi Zoboi: I can't stop thinking about this story featuring vengeful soucouyant (fireball witches). The twists and implications are ones that will stick with me for a long, long time. (This story also prompted me to add American Street to my TBR.) I truly loved every single story and could easily have written a little blurb about each. I binged this book and loved every moment of it. Honestly considering rereading, even though I read it just last month. This has now joined the ranks of my top three anthologies (alongside My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories & The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic). A Phoenix First Must Burn comes out TOMORROW (March 10) from Penguin Teen and I highly, highly recommend pre-ordering / adding it to your TBR! I have my signed copy pre-ordered already (from Third Place Books)! :) Thank you Penguin Teen for a free advanced copy. This is no way affects my review of the book -- all opinions are mine!

  14. 4 out of 5

    ✦BookishlyRichie✦

    3.5 STARS! I haven't read an anthology in a long time and though I enjoyed 6 out of the 16 stories in this book, some of the stories seemed like the same ones being told over and over. But I would still recommend it, especially for my two favorite stories "Gilded" and "Melie", I need full on novels for those stories ASAP. :) 3.5 STARS! I haven't read an anthology in a long time and though I enjoyed 6 out of the 16 stories in this book, some of the stories seemed like the same ones being told over and over. But I would still recommend it, especially for my two favorite stories "Gilded" and "Melie", I need full on novels for those stories ASAP. :)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Julia971

    As a big fan of Butler's work, I am beyond happy I found this book (it was recommended to me). The stories are brief but intense, significant, pleasant. As a big fan of Butler's work, I am beyond happy I found this book (it was recommended to me). The stories are brief but intense, significant, pleasant.

  16. 5 out of 5

    'nushka

    A Phoenix First Must Burn is a YA anthology featuring speculative fiction centred around young, Black girls with myriads of stories - from folktale retellings to space operas and everything that falls in between, written by women and non-binary authors whose voice needs to be heard; who interlace words to conjure beautiful worlds; and whose characters are subtle and nuanced. Like I said, there are stories for every kind of reader. It was such a delight to read the first anthology of my life and A Phoenix First Must Burn is a YA anthology featuring speculative fiction centred around young, Black girls with myriads of stories - from folktale retellings to space operas and everything that falls in between, written by women and non-binary authors whose voice needs to be heard; who interlace words to conjure beautiful worlds; and whose characters are subtle and nuanced. Like I said, there are stories for every kind of reader. It was such a delight to read the first anthology of my life and I'm so glad I was able to come across these diverse worlds. The outstanding cover with a beautiful Black girl is also a plus point. I had been anticipating this anthology for such a long time and finally, for everyone's sake, I got this and now, able to review! But, as you know, there were both stories that I cannot stop recalling, and stories that I wish I would've just DNF'd. But overall, the experience was quite amazing. 1) WHEN LIFE HANDS YOU A LEMON FRUITBOMB by Amerie Mi Marie Nicholson || ★★★★★ I loved this one very much. It was narrated by Mae Mitchell who was on a mission to interrogate alien beings called Nokira, also known as orcs, who had invaded Earth and had nearly killed all human beings. Plus, it features a loophole. I'm a die hard fan of sci-fi (even though I haven't read much books of that genre but my love comes from all the Hollywood movies) and no doubt, I had to like this story. 2) GILDED by Elizabeth Acevedo || ★★★ A girl with the power to bend metal to her will helps a boy and the other men in an uprising in a sugar plantation for their freedom. Some kind of romance could've blossomed. Good, but was expecting some more. The story's been set around the time of the slave revolts in America in 1522. 3) WHEREIN ABIGAIL FIELDS RECALLS HER FIRST DEATH AND, SUBSEQUENTLY, HER BEST LIFE by Rebecca Roanhorse || ★★ A short narration of a sapphic couple where one of them was on the verge of dying and the girlfriend begs the MC to go with her to Los Angeles, to free themselves from the oppression they face as Blacks. I didn't like this one, to be honest and cannot put my finger on exactly where something was missing. 4) THE RULES OF THE LAND by Alaya Dawn Johnson || ★★ It was okay. It follows the story of a girl who's half human and half goddess, kind of a demigod. The world building took a long time to set in, and by the time I caught up to it, the story had already ended. There was a pretty line at the end of the story, but other than that, it was somewhat not worth the effort I put into understanding the story. 5) A HAGIOGRAPHY OF STARLIGHT by Somaiya Daud || ★★★★ A story like this deserves to be read. A high fantasy centred around a girl who has a holy voice and at the age of thirteen, calls a sliver of the kazerach, the divine soul. The ending was nice, and I liked it pretty much. 6) MELIE by Justina Ireland || ★★★★.5 It follows the story of an apprentice who wanted to learn advanced magic, but was not permitted by the High Sorcerer, subsequently being found that he was actually helping outsiders invade their country with the help of a bit of magic. Loved this one. Deserves to be read. 7) THE GODDESS PROVIDES by L.L. McKinney || ★★★.5 A "blasphemeress" princess plans on reclaiming her kingdom from the hands of someone who murdered her family and took her everything. Did not expect the twist in the end. Overall, good. 8) HEARTS TURNED TO ASH by Dhonielle Clayton || ★★★ Steeped in Southern folk magic, a girl seeks the help of a conjure woman when her heart starts turning into ash, because of her break up with her soulmate. I assume it gives the message of giving affection to our loved ones, but not our hearts as they can be broken, and the importance of self love. It was good, definitely could've been better. 9) LETTING THE RIGHT ONE IN by Patrice Caldwell || ★★★ A contemporary fantasy, featuring a sapphic romance between a 17 year old and a vampire, and I quite liked it. I liked Ayanna pretty much. She was a book loving, anti-social Ravenclaw (like me!), and she was grappling with her parents' divorce, giving me an insight into her ongoing depression. Nice story. 10) TENDER-HEADED by Danny Lore || ★★★ I was really happy with the non-binary and queer representation in this story. It was full of hair braiding, magic, business rivals, and memories. Also, it reminded me of the Greek myth of Athena and Arachne! 11) KISS THE SUN by Ibi Zoboi || ★★★★.5 I really loved this one. It narrates the story of the soucouyants in Carribbean folklore, who are night witches who suck people's blood, shed their skin, and can turn themselves into a ball of fire and fly. The story emitted an imagery of shadeism, the message clearly resonating with me. 12) THE ACTRESS by Danielle Paige || ★★★.5 I'm happy with the way the author tried to show that fandoms can be cruel, and how female stars are treated differently from their male counterparts in the entertainment industry, while also showing blatant racism when a POC is cast in place of a white character in a retelling or an adaptation. But.....there was info dumping, when the MC comes to know that she's a witch, and the story ends like that. I clearly would've liked it more, had it been handled better. 13) THE CURSE OF LOVE by Ashley Woodfolk || ★★★★ Here, the Dunn women are cursed to grow old if they ever fall in love. Aubrey, the youngest of the family, falls for her friend's brother. The story switched between first and third person narrative, which added an unusual style to the story, and I like it pretty much. 14) ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD by Charlotte Nicole Davis || ★★★★ Narratives in second person are really unusual, but this story pulled it off very nicely. It revolves around a girl who gains the power to stop time with just a thought, from the tainted water supply, also called the Contaminant, accompanied by a queer romance blossoming between the MC and the friend; inspired by the Flint water crisis. 15) THE WITCH'S SKIN by Karen Strong || ★★★.5 Based on the Gullah/Geechee myth of a Boo Hag - a resilient teenager with an unborn baby vows to take revenge when a witch kills her love. Set in a dystopian kind of world on an isolated island - which has taken the inspiration for its settings from the Georgia Sea Islands - the premise would've paved a way for an interesting story, had it been completed into a novel. 16) SEQUENCE by J. Marcelle Corrie || ★★★★ In a futuristic society (a reminiscent of the present world but with certain technological advancements), where every decision is taken with the help of an app called Sequence which predicts everything that the person will do, like an Oracle, a young girl tries to follow her own heart - and maybe, steer off from the societal norms. Also features a sapphic romance between the MC and a beautiful girl, divided into two parts. Overall rating: 3.4 stars **All of the opinions stated above are explicitly my own and my review has not, in any way, been influenced by anyone.**

  17. 5 out of 5

    Moonbook

    I enjoy but also I wish they would have a litte diffent styles (most stoires are wirtem in first person or third Preston, only one was in the seacond person), and also some diasbed or queer stoires (they are some but zero about tran women) . But here my favorite stoires in here: - Wherein Abigail Fields Recalls Her First Death And, Subsequently, Her Best Life by RebeccaRoanhorse - Letting the Right One In by Patrice Caldwell - All The Time In The World by Charlotte Nicole Davis. I might unhual soon I enjoy but also I wish they would have a litte diffent styles (most stoires are wirtem in first person or third Preston, only one was in the seacond person), and also some diasbed or queer stoires (they are some but zero about tran women) . But here my favorite stoires in here: - Wherein Abigail Fields Recalls Her First Death And, Subsequently, Her Best Life by RebeccaRoanhorse - Letting the Right One In by Patrice Caldwell - All The Time In The World by Charlotte Nicole Davis. I might unhual soon, I think that in school library or my public library need to have it so some kids can see thierself in books

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sierra Elmore

    Loved this! Favorite stories: 🖤 GILDED by Elizabeth Acevedo 🖤 WHEN ABIGAIL FIELDS RECALLS HER FIRST DEATH.... by Rebecca Roanhorse 🖤 LETTING THE RIGHT ONE IN by Patrice Caldwell 🖤 TENDER-HEADED by Danny Lore 🖤 KISS THE SUN by Ibi Zoboi

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kate (GirlReading)

    3.5* As it usually goes with anthologies, there was a mix of hits and misses within this collection but overall this was a very solid collection of fantasy short stories. However, The necessity and importance of this being collection of stories exploring the Black experience (with many stories also starring LGBTQIAP+ characters) is paramount and Patrice's indroduction only solidified this. My favourite story from the collection has to be Justina Irelands, which filled me with so much joy. But I a 3.5* As it usually goes with anthologies, there was a mix of hits and misses within this collection but overall this was a very solid collection of fantasy short stories. However, The necessity and importance of this being collection of stories exploring the Black experience (with many stories also starring LGBTQIAP+ characters) is paramount and Patrice's indroduction only solidified this. My favourite story from the collection has to be Justina Irelands, which filled me with so much joy. But I also adored Patrice Caldwell, Charlotte Nicole Davis and J. Marcelle Corrie's stories. Here are a few of my thoughts and star ratings for each story: When Life Gives You a Lemon Fruitbomb by Amerie: 2 Stars. Overall the writing felt a little clunky and the plot was a bit all over the place. It felt as though it was trying to cram far too much into a short story. Gilded by Elizabeth Acevedo: 4 Stars. I dare Elizabeth Acevedo to try and write something bad, just once, because I swear it’s the only thing she can’t do. Wherein Abigail Fields Recalls Her First Death by Rebecca Roanhorse: 3.5 Stars. A short but powerful story of revenge, justice, police brutality featuring a subtle but adorable f/f romance. The Rules of the Land by Alaya Dawn Johnson: 1.5 Stars. There was just... a lot going on in this, (possibly too much?) for such a short story. A Hagiography of Starlight by Somaiya Daud: 2 Stars. This was unfortunately too high fantasy for me but I have no doubt highly fantasy fans will love it! Melie by Justina Ireland: 5 Stars. This was EVERYTHING. It had dragons, fat mermaids, a fat witch MC and murderous unicorns, aka everything you could possibly want in a fantasy. It was perfectly paced for a short story and honestly? I just want a full length novel now please and thank you. The Goddess Provides by L.L. McKinney: 1.5 Stars. I want to love high fantasy and I wanted to love this but I just didn’t and I don’t know why but I’m mad at myself for it. Hearts Turned to Ash by Dhonielle Clayton: 3.5 Stars. Despite its melancholy story, this was such a joy to read. It was descriptive, mystical and heart wrenching with a lovely message. Letting the Right One In by Patrice Caldwell: 4.5 Stars. This was SO GREAT. Tender-Headed by Danny Lore: 4 Stars. This was such a lovely, subtly magical and moving story. Kiss The Sun by Ibi Zoboi: 3 Stars. A unique, creative and powerful exploration of colourism. The Actress by Danielle Paige: 3 Stars. This felt very 2008 YA in it’s writing and plot but honestly? It was so much fun, super cute and very nostalgic. The Curse of Love by Ashley Woodfolk: 3 Stars. I’m not 100% sure I loved this but also, it was so interestingly written and unique that I definitely enjoyed it. All the Time in the World by Charlotte Nicole Davis: 4.5 Stars. This was FANTASTIC. There was so much depth and discussion in such a short story but it worked brilliantly? The superpower aspect was such a great way to explore very real issues (clean water crises and racism) and romance was really lovely. The Witch’s Skin by Karen Strong: 3 Stars. This was such an interesting concept and I have a feeling it would have made an amazing full length novel but I didn’t totally love it as a short story. Sequence by J. Marcelle Corrie: 5 Stars. THIS WAS SO GOOD AND I WOULD LIKE FULL LENGTH NOVEL NOW PLEASE AND THANK YOU. TW: homophobia, ableist language, racism

  20. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    This was a wonderful anthology! The only thing that bothered me was that in the summary this claims to center gender non-conforming individuals, but there was only one non-binary character (and they weren't even the narrator) so I'm confused to as why it's marketed that way. Almost all of the characters do their best to smash the patriarchy though, which I wholeheartedly approve of. Each of these stories had some kind of magic to offer. I enjoyed every single one of them. But a couple faves dese This was a wonderful anthology! The only thing that bothered me was that in the summary this claims to center gender non-conforming individuals, but there was only one non-binary character (and they weren't even the narrator) so I'm confused to as why it's marketed that way. Almost all of the characters do their best to smash the patriarchy though, which I wholeheartedly approve of. Each of these stories had some kind of magic to offer. I enjoyed every single one of them. But a couple faves deserve more than general praise: Wherein Abigail fields recalls her first death and, subsquently, her best life by Rebecca Roanhorse; Melie by Justina Ireland; Tender-headed by Danny Lore; and All the Time in the World by Charlotte Nicole Davis. Wherein Abigail Fields recalls her first death and, subsquently, her best life by Rebecca Roanhorse: Abigail Fields was a badass and freaking awesome. Set in an all Black town of New Mexico, the story starts out with Abigail almost dying from a gut shot. Her whole village has just been murdered by a White cowboy, and she promises the desert deities that if they save her, she will bring them vengeance. Abigail begins this quest against the wishes of her lover, Mo, who wants them to move to LA and start over again. This was such a fun and atmospheric story. There was just something about the desert setting that drew me in! Melie by Justina Ireland: FAT MC!!! Body-positive, fat MC. I freaking loved this!! We need more body positivity in YA and books in general. Melie is a High Sorcerer's apprentice and she had been working for him in the hopes of finally being trained to use magic. She's good at her job and knows her magical ability is more than what the High Sorcerer asks from her. Melie was intelligent and wasn't afraid of studying or doing hard work to get ahead, I really loved her for that. She was also empathetic and logical. Full of spells, prophecies, and dragons, Melie was a winner for me. Tender-headed by Danny Lore: This story is all about braiding and Black hairstyles! I was really fascinated by this. Mainly because my hair refuses to hold any kind of style so I love hearing/seeing what other people can do. Akilah started braiding hair in order to take business away from Auntie, but Akilah's clients have slowly began going back to Auntie. This kind of gave me The Henna Wars vibes, but no cultural appropriation this time. I really enjoyed the dynamic between Akilah and her significant other, Jayleen, who is non-binary. Casual queer rep like this is so heartwarming. Akilah goes to get her hair done by Auntie and we see that Auntie may have a few tricks up her sleeves. Oh my god, almost forgot to mention this is an Athena and Ariachne retelling!! All the Time in the World by Charlotte Nicole Davis: Davis is a new favorite of mine after reading their debut novel The Good Luck Girls, which was amazing and different from everything else I've been reading this month. The inspiration from this story is taken directly from the Flint Water crisis. Told in second person, we follow our main character Jordan as she discovers she can stop time for brief intervals. I really loved the atmosphere of this story. It made me happy and it's queer so like A+.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Becca

    Anthologies are always difficult to review because I find the stories in them so hit and miss! For me this book had stories that I didn't want to end and stories that were difficult to get into. It's a mixture of modern and historical, fantasy and science fiction. It opens strongly with a story about aliens and time, which definitely blew me away. The second story I loved was about a sorcerer's apprentice who realises her master isn't what he seems (very sexisit). My favourite was a cute romance Anthologies are always difficult to review because I find the stories in them so hit and miss! For me this book had stories that I didn't want to end and stories that were difficult to get into. It's a mixture of modern and historical, fantasy and science fiction. It opens strongly with a story about aliens and time, which definitely blew me away. The second story I loved was about a sorcerer's apprentice who realises her master isn't what he seems (very sexisit). My favourite was a cute romance between a human and a vampire, that I wish was a full book because it was great. Another one I liked was about a girl who braids hair who learns some lessons. Some of the stories were not meant to be short stories, and some felt a little bit info-dumpy thanks to the lack of space to built worlds. But I loved how varied they were, from witches to aliens to vampires this book has it covered. Overall, a great book of stories - it's unlike any other anthology I've ever read. The stories read like fairytales and I loved the insights into legends from other cultures.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Vee

    [6.81/10] This was a wonderful collection of short stories to start off the new year right. I don't read a lot of short story collections or anthologies and I have no idea how to rate them when there were some that I liked more than others, I tried to average it out for all individual stories and 3/6.81 seemed fair *shrug*. I loved the overall themes of this book and how those themes continued into each story. I had no idea this was going to have so much queer/sapphic representation going into it [6.81/10] This was a wonderful collection of short stories to start off the new year right. I don't read a lot of short story collections or anthologies and I have no idea how to rate them when there were some that I liked more than others, I tried to average it out for all individual stories and 3/6.81 seemed fair *shrug*. I loved the overall themes of this book and how those themes continued into each story. I had no idea this was going to have so much queer/sapphic representation going into it, which was such a pleasant surprise - especially experiencing that representation in stories that either predominantly or exclusively featured Black characters. Of the sixteen stories, my favourites were: Gilded by Elizabeth Acevedo, When Abigail Fields Recalls Her First Death And, Subsequently, Her Best Life by Rebecca Roanhorse, Hearts Turn To Ash by Dhonielle Clayton and The Actress by Danielle Page. There were quite a few authors included in this anthology that I had never read before, but I have them on my 4 month long set TBR for 2021 and now I'm even more excited to get to their books.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly

    I love this collection of short stories - sci-fi and fantasy written by Black women with Black women and gender expansive individuals at the center of them! This book is perfect for fans of speculative fiction, and for those checking out the genre for the first time. There is something for everyone is this collection - vampires, witches, goddesses, time and space travel, revolution, broken hearts, queer love, magic, and super-human abilities. Several of the stories left me wanting more (especial I love this collection of short stories - sci-fi and fantasy written by Black women with Black women and gender expansive individuals at the center of them! This book is perfect for fans of speculative fiction, and for those checking out the genre for the first time. There is something for everyone is this collection - vampires, witches, goddesses, time and space travel, revolution, broken hearts, queer love, magic, and super-human abilities. Several of the stories left me wanting more (especially you Dhonielle Clayton!!) Every story ended on a hopeful note. I'll be reading more of every contributor in this collection. I highly recommend!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cora Tea Party Princess

    Excellent! Review to come.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Arie

    This book was such a lovely concept, but I didn't feel that these stories were the strongest I had read by the authors I was familiar with, and hoped that was the same for the authors I haven't yet read anything else by - so may great ideas, but overall an unfinished feeling about the whole. This book was such a lovely concept, but I didn't feel that these stories were the strongest I had read by the authors I was familiar with, and hoped that was the same for the authors I haven't yet read anything else by - so may great ideas, but overall an unfinished feeling about the whole.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ekene

    Well I’ll be damned. I actually found an analogy that I actually like 😂 Then again, based on the premise, based on summary, based on the writers part of this project, it was bound to stand out from others and deliver. It was really good. There were stories I loved more than stories. Stories I seriously want to be made into full-length books, including a cool vampire one.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Drewthereader20

    This was really good and it took me 3 days for me to read this one! Review to come once I write all of my raitings down inside my book on a sticky note!(:

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    It's been a while since I've last read a short stories anthology. Anthologies can be a pretty mixed bag, but A Phoenix First Must Burn is quite an impressive collection of short stories written by a diverse group of Black female authors. This eclectic and magical collection are stories of pain, resistance, self-discovery, and hope - from the narratives of Black women. What stood out to me the most with this collection is the speculative elements as well as the cultural diversity. And through ins It's been a while since I've last read a short stories anthology. Anthologies can be a pretty mixed bag, but A Phoenix First Must Burn is quite an impressive collection of short stories written by a diverse group of Black female authors. This eclectic and magical collection are stories of pain, resistance, self-discovery, and hope - from the narratives of Black women. What stood out to me the most with this collection is the speculative elements as well as the cultural diversity. And through inspirations from the folklores and historical events, the narratives felt authentic and breathtaking all the same. Out of the 16 short stories, my favourites are: - The Rules of the Land - A Hagiography of Starlight - Melie - Kiss The Sun I found the writing styles in the 4 short stories mentioned above compelling. For example, A Hagiography of Starlight is a beautiful & cosmic tale about hope (and I found the metaphor on darkness and light very memorable). Both The Rules of the Land and Melie are packed with seaside magic. In the case of Melie, I really love how the fairytale elements are spun together portraying the difficulties of being a Black girl in a white men dominated society. Kiss The Sun is a summery and magical tale about celebrating who you are and being comfortable in your own skin. Short stories with strong messaging are potent that they instill emotional impacts in short punches that left me reeling long after reading them. The impressive short stories in A Phoenix First Must Burn accomplished this feat. This is a highly enjoyable, diverse, and authentic collection full of #BlackGirlMagic and I am glad to discover so many new authors through this reading experience!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Completely Melanie

    I give this a 3.75. I enjoyed it. There were some stories that I could have read an entire book of and there were other stories that I could have done without.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Shijia

    It's 4:32 am and i am so shooketh right now... RTC! It's 4:32 am and i am so shooketh right now... RTC!

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