Gyen Jebi isn’t a fighter or a subversive. They just want to paint.
One day they’re jobless and desperate; the next, Jebi finds themself recruited by the Ministry of Armor to paint the mystical sigils that animate the occupying government’s automaton soldiers.
But when Jebi discovers the depths of the Razanei government’s horrifying crimes—and the awful source of the magical pigments they use—they find they can no longer stay out of politics.
What they can do is steal Arazi, the ministry’s mighty dragon automaton, and find a way to fight…
Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. Phoenix Extravagant is a story about Jebi, who is nonbinary (there’s a specific term for it that I can’t remember, but they use they/them pronouns), who finds a dragon. That’s basically it. Just kidding.
Jebi is an artist and lives with their sister. But they need to find better work, so they took an exam to try to get a job with the government of the Razanei (who took over their country and killed his sister-in-law). Jebi knows their sister wouldn’t approve, so they do it behind their back. But when their sister finds out Jebi has gotten a Razanei name certificate (to change their name) she is so mad that she kicks them out. This leads Jebi to contemplate applying for a job with the Ministry of Armor. This is where the story gets really interesting.
Jebi’s new job at the Ministry of Armor is not anything like what they expected. Jebi meets Arazi, the dragon that the Ranazei is trying to figure out how to use for war. But Jebi figures out how to speak with Arazi and realizes that Arazi doesn’t want to be used to war. So, the plot for them to escape the Ministry of Armor is born.
I think the world in this story was so interesting. I liked learning about the two different cultures, how they were so very different in the things they value. Jebi was also a very interesting main character in the sense that they were never much of rebel. They accepted the fact that their country had been conquered and went on with their daily life. They never even thought about finding people that wanted to fight back against the Ranazei. Jebi was such a fun choice to get involved in the politics of the world. They didn’t want any part of it, but to save Arazi, they didn’t really have a choice. I also really enjoyed following Jebi as they learned about how the Ranazei’s automatons were powers and what magics made that happen. The magics were mildly horrifying, but still very interesting in how they worked and how they were created.
Overall, I think this is a wonderful story full of different kinds of representation. There is a polyamorous relationship, there are lots of nonbinary people. I can’t speak to the accuracy, but it’s there. I think the world was well built and very interesting. I don’t know if this is a series, but I want to learn more about what Jebi does after something that was revealed in the final pages of the story.
Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.