As a massive fan of Yoon Ha Lee's previous series (the wonderful space opera series that starts with Ninefox Gambit), I was an easy sell for a fantasy book from the same author, especially that rarest of animals the standalone novel. While I can't say I'm an equal fan of the cover art chosen for the book, its contents were enough on their own to sell me completely.
Phoenix Extravagant is set in a world where automata have been introduced for some roles, such as policing the local populace of the occupied territory of Hwamal, now a subject state of the neighbouring country of Razanei. Jebi just wants to get a secure job, one which will allow them to use their talents for art, but their background is something of a handicap even though they try to hide it by taking on a Razanei name. This causes conflict between Jebi and their sister, still mourning the death of her wife during the invasion, who becomes even more incensed when Jebi takes on a job with the Ministry of Armor.
In an extension of the automata, the Ministry has used their technology to create automata for use in warfare and wants to use Jebi's knowledge and skills to understand just what went wrong with the one they currently have locked in the basement. Jebi is horrified to discover the source of the automaton's self-awareness and, alongside their growing relationship with the Ministry's chief duellist, finds themself becoming Hwamal's most unlikely revolutionary.
I really enjoyed Phoenix Extravagant, which has a plethora of interesting world-building elements and the author's customary sly humour. Jebi as a protagonist has a one-track mind without being two-dimensional and their relationship with their sister in particular feels very genuine. If I have any complaints, it might be about the speed with which Jebi and Vei's relationship appears, seemingly created out of very little, but that's a minor quibble in an otherwise excellent book.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.