"A Phoenix First Must Burn" review


Title: A Phoenix First Must Burn

Author: Various, edited by Patrice Caldwell

Subgenre: Miscellaneous

2021 Bingo squares: Short stories, Genre guide

Recommend: No, but if you happen to see this at the library, check out the third story maybe

Stars: 2/5


Technically this is a DNF review; I only read the first five stories, to complete non-hard-mode Bingo, but I wasn’t intending to read the entire anthology unless I really enjoyed the first five stores that I read, and I didn’t. I’m not really a fan of short stories in general, and these weren’t particularly captivating.

I picked a book somewhat at random from the A-to-Z guide on /r/fantasy. In retrospect maybe I shouldn’t have picked something tagged young adult, but I thought it might not matter so much for short stories.

When Life Hands You A Lemon Fruitbomb

This story was okay; I could have maybe enjoyed it as a full-length novel, but as just a short story, the motivation for the characters' actions is pretty confusing, and so it’s just left as a very brief character study. Didn’t really enjoy it as a result, and exactly what I tend to dislike about short stories.


This one I actually thought worked as a short story, in terms of pacing and the amount of detail we needed, but it was still not that original or interesting.

Wherein Abigail Fields Recalls Her First Death and, Subsequently, Her Best Life

I liked this story! The historical setting was a bit jarring because there’s no way a Black lesbian couple in the west in the 1800s would’ve just escaped notice, and I think it would’ve done better in a secondary world. But barring that, I thought this story was great. Would be glad to read it not just for Bingo.

The Rules of the Land

This one just sucked. I have nothing else to say about it.

A Hagiography of Starlight

Somewhat ironically, this story was too long to work for me. I found it really repetitive and boring. But I thought the worldbuilding and story were cool. It either needed to be a legitimate novella with dialogue and multiple characters and such, or at most 2/3 this length, maybe half. As it was, I got really bored waiting for the payout.

Cover of A Phoenix First Must Burn

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River is a MediaWiki developer and admins Leaguepedia. This blog contains her fantasy novel reviews.