Book Reviews

Review: A Phoenix First Must Burn edited by Patrice Caldwell

I’ve been looking forward to A Phoenix First Must Burn since it was announced. As a fan so many of these authors, this anthology promises Black speculative fiction at its best. It’s impossible for me to not love this one. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.


Sixteen tales by bestselling and award-winning authors that explore the Black experience through fantasy, science fiction, and magic.

Evoking Beyoncé’s Lemonade for a teen audience, these authors who are truly Octavia Butler’s heirs, have woven worlds to create a stunning narrative that centers Black women and gender nonconforming individuals. A Phoenix First Must Burn will take you on a journey from folktales retold to futuristic societies and everything in between. Filled with stories of love and betrayal, strength and resistance, this collection contains an array of complex and true-to-life characters in which you cannot help but see yourself reflected. Witches and scientists, sisters and lovers, priestesses and rebels: the heroines of A Phoenix First Must Burn shine brightly. You will never forget them.

Authors include Elizabeth Acevedo, Amerie, Dhonielle Clayton, Jalissa Corrie, Somaiya Daud, Charlotte Davis, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Justina Ireland, Danny Lore, L.L. McKinney, Danielle Paige, Rebecca Roanhorse, Karen Strong, Ashley Woodfolk, and Ibi Zoboi.


What I come back to always when thinking of A Phoenix First Must Burn is the importance of seeing yourself in the future. Of seeing characters who can mirror a slice of yourself with swords, in battleships, and with magic. Growing up, it was so hard to find representation of myself in fantasy. That’s part of the reason I never really found myself in SF until I discovered Octavia Butler and thought, “wait, women of color can write SF?” A Phoenix First Must Burn is intriguing, affirming, and magical.

Not to mention that this cast of authors is star studded. I’m familiar with almost all of them and the ones I’m not, I enjoyed being introduced to their voices. That’s one of my favorite parts of anthologies – discovering new talent and authors. In A Phoenix First Must Burn are worlds which take us away from ours, all while reminding us of the things we hate, hold as universal, and love. It features stories of revenge, hope, and love all wrapped up in one.

(Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links. For more information you can look at the Policy page. If you’re uncomfortable with that, know you can look up the book on any of the sites below to avoid the link)

This anthology is a must read if you love SFF worlds and possibilities. I am so happy that I have it on my shelf and can continue to scream about it. Find A Phoenix First Must Burn on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.


What is your favorite diverse anthology?

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