A Phoenix First Must Burn Review

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

*3.5 Stars
Now, I have not read a book of short stories since childhood. Like literally the last time I read a book of short stories I think I was 10. So just keep that in mind as you read this review.
I liked most of the stories in this novel; I had a hard time understanding a few of them but most were really nice and definitely all were uplifting. I also really liked the concept of the novel and I also feel it comes at a really good time. Right now tons of books with African descended girls as protagonists are coming out and this book really is kind of like an introduction to a bunch of authors who have written books with the same sort of main character.
Spoilers Below
Overall, sadly I do have to say I was a bit disappointed by the novel, but it had nothing to do with the stories at all, only their medium. After reading this, I decided that I am definitely not a short stories person. Although I see the value in being able to pick up the book and read a story in it each night, I just can’t get invested in a story that will only take 20 minutes to read. For me, I need to be reading for a while and feel like I’ve been thru a lot with the characters, or else the reveals and giant ending scenes don’t mean much for me. So all the stories were amazing, but the medium didn’t work for me. Just a personal preference thing.
I did really like all the stories though, so here is a list, from favorite to least favorite of each story and my thoughts.
The Actress: I really liked this one. It was definitely my favorite of the entire novel. I’m kind of on a contemporary kick right now and I loved hearing the mix between fantasy and contemporary. I also like the friends turn romantically involved portion of the storyline. I hate to admit it, but that is definitely my favorite type of romance.
The Witch’s Skin: OMG! This one was so good! I feel like it was the only story where a reveal shocked me a tad, and I have no idea how the author did it, but she is awesome! I love how the main character already knew the Boo hag was her mom, but we didn’t find out until later.
Sequence: I’m also really into Sci-fi right now and this one’s concept was super cool! I love how the entire first half of the story was the first sequence and the second half was the other sequence. That one was a really cool reveal too and the reason I think it worked was because we all assumed that what was going on was reality (as you do) so this story basically ripped reality out from under us.
All the Time in the World: Although I had a tiny bit of a hard time understanding this one, I loved the concept of contaminated water giving someone super powers. Super cool.
Wherein Abigail Fields recalls her First Death and Subsequently her Best Life: Kind of a mouthful of a title right? Well I actually really liked this one. Super cool concept and I loved how the desert was personified and said to have magical power.
Melie: Oh! This one was super awesome. I loved Melie as a character, she was super nice and caring, but also fierce and wasn’t going to let anyone stop her from getting where she wanted to be.
Letting the Right One in: This story was super cool. I loved the detectivey bit with the main character researching on how the girl could be a vampire. I also really liked the nice ending, something I think the main character was really needing.
Hearts Turn to Ash: Now this one was great! I loved how the main character’s heart was literally turning to ash after the guy broke up with her. Such a cool concept and a good warning. I also liked how she choose to keep her heart instead of trading it for another at the end.
The Girls of Love: This one was pretty good. I have read other novels that were very similar to it, but still a cool story.
Kiss the Sun: Now this one was weird and because I am a very combative person, I did not like how it ended. I think it was just a little gruesome that girls shed their skin and then go (basically) eat people at night. I also didn’t like that no one stood up for the girl whose skin was taken and that even she didn’t try to go get it back.
Gilded: This one was pretty good, but the story wasn’t very investing for me and even though I liked the end, it didn’t have a huge impact on my me. I am taking American History this year, so I almost felt like I’d heard this one before.
When Life Hands you a Lemon Fruit Bomb: Ok, this one was pretty weird, but I did like the concept of orcs invading the world. What I didn’t like was the main characters choice to stay on the orc planet when everyone was leaving and allow her friend to stay as well.
The Goddess Provides: This one I didn’t understand very much, but I did like the story.
Rules of the Land: Once again, this one had too many new terms and names for things that I didn’t have enough time to get used too and just left me confused.
Tender Headed: This one made no sense to me at all. That’s it. It just made no sense.
A Hagiography of Starlight: This was the only story I didn’t like. I felt like the main character was being coerced into a marriage she didn’t want and that just made me annoyed.
I hate to end on a down note, so overall, I did think this book was ok. Just the medium made it a bit hard to enjoy for me. I would recommend it to anyone who want’s more character diversity in their lives or wants to find some new authors who write diverse books. I also recommend this to anyone who likes books of short stories.



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