Blogmas Book Review: Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee

fullsizeoutput_3401GoodReads Summary:
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…
Phoenix ExtravagantReview:
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.

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

GoodReads Summary:
Thirteen-year-old Min comes from a long line of fox spirits. But you’d never know it by looking at her. To keep the family safe, Min’s mother insists that none of them use any fox-magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times.
Min feels hemmed in by the household rules and resents the endless chores, the cousins who crowd her, and the aunties who judge her. She would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. She’s counting the days until she can follow her older brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see more of the Thousand Worlds.
When word arrives that Jun is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is wrong. Jun would never desert his battle cruiser, even for a mystical object rumored to have tremendous power. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name.
Min’s quest will have her meeting gamblers, pirates, and vengeful ghosts. It will involve deception, lies, and sabotage. She will be forced to use more fox-magic than ever before, and to rely on all of her cleverness and bravery. The outcome may not be what she had hoped, but it has the potential to exceed her wildest dreams.
Dragon PearlReview:
I have been loving the books that are coming out of Rick Riordan Presents publishing imprint. These stories are unique and diverse and Dragon Pearl was no different. This story was a mix of Korean folklore, science fiction, and a bit of magic. We follow Min, who has fox-magic (which is thought to no longer be around). She sets out to find her brother and ends up way over her head.
I really liked Min. She’s just a young girl, so she didn’t always make the best decisions, but most of the time she was really thoughtful about her choices and I appreciated that. I loved that Min was determined to find her brother. The family dynamics in this story were really interesting. The whole story is because Min sets out to find her brother. But she finds other adventure along the way. I really liked that Min was getting to be a part of the Space Forces, even if it wasn’t how she’s originally hoped it to be.
My favorite part of this book was the ending. When she finally makes it to the world filled with ghosts and everything finally comes out. It was such a satisfying ending.
Overall, there was action and adventure. There were really likable characters. There is a nonbinary character, which was something I really appreciated as this is a middle-grade book and I think that was so important for it to be included. I also really liked that there wasn’t any sort of romantic aspect of the book. Min was just a kid trying to do the right thing for the people she met and for her brother. I definitely think more people should be reading this story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.