Brennan certainly has a talent for writing interesting characters. The book may center around Isabella, but there is a full cast in this book that add even more flavor to the book. From a potentially mentally unstable ship captain to a transgender woman with a dragon's spirit, the characters give this book so much life.
So if you're looking for a book to take you to another world and think about the science of dragon anatomy, taxonomy and preservation while also putting you into the middle of a war, I highly recommend this book. Brennan is getting better with each one.
The Book of Phoenix is a moving story. There is so much loss in Phoenix’s life. But also so much rebirth. This book feels like it is designed to awaken the fires of your soul and move you to action. I’m not sure what that action is, but I definitely feel determined to do it. Okorafor has a talent for writing strong, female characters and it is impossible for me to not be affected, even inspired, by their strength.
Don't get me wrong, Beckett creates a beautiful world with extraordinary flora and fauna. I like the idea of a world where plants and animals generate their own sources of light and heat. It was an interesting mental exercise to picture every scene without sunlight. I also appreciated the fact that after so many generations of everyone being descended from the same two people, you get genetic defects (hair lips and club foot being most predominant). But it's just not enough for me.
Probably one of the biggest problems I had was with the language. I get that these people aren't from Earth but, to use their language style, I hated hated it because it was so annoying annoying. It really kept me at an intellectual and emotional distance.
Then there was the fact that the main character, John Redlantern was as annoying to me as Holden from Catcher in the Rye. So many times he was so focused on him being right, him being the center of the story that, had he been the only narrator, I would have thrown the book out. It is to Beckett's credit that the other characters in the book recognize these personality flaws in John. Unfortunately the other characters keep following him, regardless. They know he's only happy when he's changing the status quo and the people who voice their frustration with him, or don't follow him, end up the bad guys in the story.
I kept reading in the hopes I was wrong about the ending. In the hopes that this story was like Plato's Cave and these kids would find the light. I knew what they would actually find and I was hoping I'd be wrong. I was not. And then the book ended on that predictable note.
Ahem. Sorry about that.
The fact of the matter is, this story is amazing. The first few pages set up the entire thing perfectly. A queen, reading a stereotypical fairy tale to her daughter, and the daughter arguing with every little thing. To quote the Queen, " You are determined to take everything from this story except what you are supposed to." When the daughter, Princess Adrienne, finally gets old enough to have a tower and dragon of her own, she is so completely against the idea that her parents have to drug her food!* After some time, and many dead princess, Adrienne finds a sword hidden underneath her bed and decides to take action. She has the dragon burn the tower, making it look like the "wild beast" killed her, and then sets off to free her sisters.
Unfortunately the armor she has was designed for guys that weren't quite her size, so she has to get something new. She goes into town and finds a Dwarf Blacksmith. Turns out, the dwarf just drinks at the tavern. It's his daughter, Bedelia, who does all the smithing, but if anyone found out, they'd be run out of business. No one wants armor from a female blacksmith. After getting her armor and accidentally getting the shop burned down, Bedelia joins Adrienne on her quest. Thus ends the first book.
I am so glad that this series is garnering a lot of attention. There are a lot of people, kids and adults, that I think would benefit from reading this. The fact that the book is so popular is a positive sign that the comics industry and girl geeks are ready for a change. We can start replacing all the stereotypical princess stuff with actual, cool, relatable princess stuff. Adrienne and Bedelia are the type of heroes I'd still love to aspire to be. Confident, strong (physically, emotionally, etc.), talented. These are traits that we're told are associated with Disney Princesses, but they all still needed a prince to come and rescue them.
Though I will say this, those kids who go through Prince Charming's Charm School for Future Kings do NOT have it easy! Everyday having to make sure your hair is perfect, fighting in a style that could easily get you killed "How will anyone even know you're sword fighting without our arm up?". And then your only choices are to either go slay a dragon, or go fight in wars for king and country. I'd have rather stayed playing in the mud, too. Clearly royalty ain't easy.
That being said, this series is a new take on an old understanding of zombies. There is no virus that creates zombies, though it is called the Zombie Plague. Instead, the dead are raised by the Zombie Priest who practices black magic.
The "heroes" of the story are, according to the law, mobsters. They are also the only ones capable of keeping the zombie hordes restricted to the Zombie Priest's territory.
In this particular book, the main character, Goon, is introduced to a man who was cursed by the Zombie Priest and now lives as a man called "Buzzard" who must eat dead human flesh or go mad with hunger.