The new blockbuster original fantasy work from Nebula, Hugo and Clarke award nominated author Yoon Ha Lee!
“An arresting tale of loyalty, identity, and the power of art... Lee’s masterful storytelling is sure to wow.” - Publishers Weekly, starred review
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…
Lee (Hexarchate Stories) sets an arresting tale of loyalty, identity, and the power of art in a skillfully rendered fantasy world inspired by the Japanese occupation of Korea. The Empire of Razan conquered Hwaguk six years earlier, transforming it into Administrative Territory Fourteen. When Gyen Jebi, a nonbinary struggling artist, registers for a Razanei name to enhance their job prospects, their sister, Bongsunga, calls Jebi a traitor to their Hwagugin heritage and cuts off the financial support she had been providing. Jebi is left in no position to turn down a job offer from the Razan government's defense sector, especially not when the recruiter threatens to arrest Bongsunga for her revolutionary ties should Jebi refuse. Jebi's task is to destroy classic Hwagugin artworks, reducing them to a powder with magical properties that can be used as a pigment to paint codes onto automatons of war and program their behaviors. When Jebi secretly teaches the mechanical dragon they're working on to speak, Jebi learns the devastating truth behind a recent massacre. But will Jebi be able to save their people and regain their sister's trust? Readers need not be history buffs to appreciate Lee's rich worldbuilding, but those with knowledge of Korean history will find the nuance and detail especially rewarding. Lee's masterful storytelling is sure to wow.
Refreshing Fantasy Novel in an Asian-Inspired Alternate World
“Phoenix Extravagant” is a fantasy novel by Yoon Ha Lee. This novel takes place in a Asian-inspired setting in an alternate world. Magic exists in this world, as does technology, some of which appears to be powered by magic. There are also Western powers that do not appear much, but they seem to use more technology than the nations that are the primary focus of the novel.
The protagonist is Jebi, who is a most unusual character. This individual is a non-binary artist, who is frankly clumsy and naive. They live in an occupied country, in a city now known as Administrative City Fourteen. They are seeking employment, and they choose to do so at one of the Ministries of the occupiers. This does not sit well with their sister, who is a nationalist and hates these foreigners. They have a falling out, and Jebi gets kicked out of their shared apartment.
This begins a chain of events that lands Jebi a job as an artist at the Ministry of Armor. They learn the horrible secrets behind the manufacture of magical pigments that can create automatons. These usually take the form of soldiers, but beneath the Summer Palace there is a secret weapon that they have been recruited to work on…
This fantasy novel is pretty refreshing in that it does not occur in a medieval European-like setting. Likewise, the Asian-inspired cultural details are different and interesting. The protagonist is clearly not a classic hero, but they perform heroic actions as best they are able. There’s an ending that is surprising, and may leave the story open for future sequels. However, this particular part of the tale has its own conclusion.