The Book of Phoenix – Nnedi Okorafor

About the Book

A fiery spirit dances from the pages of the Great Book. She brings the aroma of scorched sand and ozone. She has a story to tell…. 

The Book of Phoenix is a unique work of magical futurism. A prequel to the highly acclaimed, World Fantasy Award-winning novel, Who Fears Death, it features the rise of another of Nnedi Okorafor’s powerful, memorable, superhuman women.

Phoenix was grown and raised among other genetic experiments in New York’s Tower 7. She is an “accelerated woman”—only two years old but with the body and mind of an adult, Phoenix’s abilities far exceed those of a normal human. Still innocent and inexperienced in the ways of the world, she is content living in her room speed reading e-books, running on her treadmill, and basking in the love of Saeed, another biologically altered human of Tower 7.

Then one evening, Saeed witnesses something so terrible that he takes his own life. Devastated by his death and Tower 7’s refusal to answer her questions, Phoenix finally begins to realize that her home is really her prison, and she becomes desperate to escape.

But Phoenix’s escape, and her destruction of Tower 7, is just the beginning of her story. Before her story ends, Phoenix will travel from the United States to Africa and back, changing the entire course of humanity’s future.

240 pages (hardcover)
Published on May 5, 2015
Published by DAW
Author’s webpage
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This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.


Nnedi Okorafor is one of those powerful authors that I think everyone should pay attention to. She doesn’t just write, she powerfully writes. Her stories are evocative, emotional, and profound. Who Fears Death absolutely leveled me. The Book of Phoenix left me awestruck.

The Book of Phoenix, while written after Who Fears Death, is actually a prequel of sorts. Okorafor says that this book is angrier than Who Fears Death, and in a lot f ways, it is. She holds no punches, and really infuses her work with thought provoking, somewhat uncomfortable situations that will push readers outside of their comfort zone to think all of those delicious thoughts we should have been thinking long before now.

That’s the beauty of Okorafor. She makes me think.

There are a lot of reasons why I love her writing, but one of the main ones is how she often toys with mythology, twisting it and turning it to make it not just interesting, but actually applicable. She also infuses her books with cultures that aren’t typically focused on, and writes about them with respect and understanding that makes the world feel a little less big. What happens across the ocean impacts us here, and that’s a lesson that I seem to (re)learn each time I read one of her books.

Phoenix is a fantastic character. She lives a fairly isolated life in Tower 7, “easy” by some standards. She is the focus of studies; her life is regulated and ruled. She has no privacy, but she doesn’t really know any different so this is just normal to her. Quickly the frustration in her life boils to the surface, and things happen that push her outside of her comfort zone and forces her to question the life she’s living.

The Book of Phoenix is a fascinating story of growth and development, and one woman’s personal struggle that changes everything. This is really the root from which Who Fears Death grows. It’s angry and raw, uncomfortable and visceral, and Okorafor handles it all with poise and flawless prose that will pull readers in and leave them rapt.

The Towers that are the focus of much of the book are all on US soil, but once Phoenix travels to Africa, Okorafor really shows her skills at world building. There is a world that is ripe for her to create for readers, and she does it beautifully. It’s stark, and hot, and foreign, but so very beautiful, a land of contrasts and passions that is absolutely fascinating. The politics of the time span the globe, and Phoenix is inevitably sucked into them, making this a sort of cross-global story rather than a book rooted in one place. However, Okorafor writes this in such a way that it’s less of a global-cultures story, and more of a human story. That’s an important distinction, because suddenly what matters are the people, and the humanity, not so much the location.

In a lot of ways, this is a coming-of-age story. There is love and passion, true friendship and plenty of back stabbing moments. There is a ton of action, and plenty of quiet, intimate moments to balance it all out. It’s a book of contrasts, and that’s what makes it so damn powerful. In a lot of ways, this is also a book of mythology. This is a story that is not only unfolding, but is, in some ways, running parallel to so many myths that we have heard in our lives.

It’s powerful, and gripping, and one of the best books I’ve read this year. Okorafor nailed it in every respect. She’s an absolutely amazing author, and this book showcases some of her raw skill. The ending is incredible, and the journey to get there was worth every second. Nnedi Okorafor is one of those authors that you really should be paying attention to, because nothing she’s published has been less than gold standard quality.


5/5 stars

One Responses

  • Yey, I grabbed a copy of this at ALA because it looked intriguing but I had no idea what a wise life decision it would be 😀 I’ll definitely be finding a place for it high on the TBR stack now!

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