Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
See that dragon on the cover? Yep. It definitely stole the show.
As for the story, I think I want to classify this as a silkpunk tale feeling quite like the Korean-Japanese occupation, with automatons, a simple magic system, and an overarching theme of rebellion.
The main character wasn't one I really grew into, however, and the romance was only slightly interesting to me. I enjoyed the intrigue more. I especially liked the whole thing more when we got to a certain automata.
I should mention one thing, however. I stumbled and/or grew annoyed with the over-use of the pronouns. I probably would have had the same issue if it was too many he or she, but in this case, it was they/them. I've seen it done well in other works, including Leckie's Imperial Radch series, where the genderless pronoun became a source of mystery and plot-building. But here, with the constant use, probably over-use of the pronoun, I found myself annoyed by one thing more than the rest: clarity. Clarity suffered.
Just trying to keep tabs, I was pulled out of the tale more times than I can count. This isn't a good thing. It's almost like asking a life-long reader of third-person perspectives to read nothing but first-person perspectives from now on. I'm not comfortable with the loss of clarity. It's not even about losing genders to keep all the ducks in a row. It's about losing plural and singular, too. I keep trying to count how many are in the group when our MC is alone.
All this got a lot easier once characters stuck to their names instead of the barrage of unspecific pronouns.
Honestly, I probably would have enjoyed the actual tale more if it had been a smoother read. I'm rating it a 3.5 out of 5.
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