Toby’s father is a wanted man. For as long as Toby can remember, they’ve been on the run. The Phoenix has become their home, their backyard the junk-filled seas surrounding it.
The crew of the Banshee lives for hunting down the Phoenix and now they’re closing in. Ayla has spent her whole life fighting – preparing for the moment when the Banshee will face its ultimate enemy.
But Toby doesn’t want to run any more and Ayla is his only hope. Can he turn an old feud into a new alliance?
The future is in their hands.
Bryony Pearce’s last book, The Weight of Souls was one I enjoyed tremendously, so I was looking forward to reading her next book. What made Phoenix Rising even more interesting was that it is a departure from what Pearce has written previously; both Angel’s Fury and The Weight of Souls were supernatural YA stories, where Phoenix Rising is very much a dystopian narrative. The future Pearce evokes for us is bleak and its causes are frighteningly plausible.
Pearce’s world building is fabulous. She sets up the timeline quickly and innovatively through a four-page spread of newspaper clippings, that quickly inform us about the biggest causes for the collapse of society as we know it today. These causes range from humanity poisoning the Earth to natural disasters. I really liked this way of giving the reader what amounts to a considerable info dump in a very concise and elegant manner. Pearce also clearly thought through all the effects of what happened and what the consequences would be, for example the fact that humanity would become photosensitive when existing in a perpetual gloom due to ashes in the atmosphere. These details are dropped in the narrative without great bombast, but they are there for the finding and I loved that.
Within this changed world and changed civilisation, Pearce positions her narrative mainly on the Phoenix, a ship that contains a society in miniature and shows the breadth of experiences different people had after the collapse in the stories of the crew members. I adored the diversity of characters and experiences onboard the Phoenix. Uma, Marcus, Dee and Nisha were all great, but my favourites had to be our protagonist Toby and the youngest member of the crew, Hiko. Toby is interesting because of his position on the ship. On the one hand he is crucial to the running of the Phoenix as he is the engineer in charge of the all important boiler that creates the steam to propel the Phoenix forward and on the other hand he is the protected son of the Phoenix’s Captain Barnaby Ford.
Part of the narrative is Toby coming to grips with his desire to break free and be considered an adult and be respected in his own right, a struggle that is most clearly reflected in his interactions with the villainous Crocker and Peel. While I really didn’t like these guys, Pearce manages to make them sympathetic in a rather roundabout way, which I appreciated a lot as it served to showcase Toby’s growth throughout the narrative. Another way his growing maturity is shown is his bond with Hiko. He feels responsible for the younger boy and both protects him and allows him to shine by giving him responsibilities of his own. Toby is always shadowed by his parrot, Polly, who is far more than a simple parrot. She’s an advanced AI, who serves as Toby’s guardian and friend on a ship where he as long been the youngest member on board without any playmates of his own. I absolutely loved Polly and her hectoring ways. I know she was an AI in a robotic body, but she felt real and fully developed to me.
My one complaint with the narrative would be that the entire book was told from Toby’s perspective. From the flap text, and the publicity campaign, it was clear that there were two sides to the story, that of the Phoenix and that of the Banshee, so I’d expected to get at least some of the story from Ayla’s perspective. Instead we only see Ayla through Toby’s eyes. Being confined to a Phoenix point of view also means we only learn the true nature of the enmity between the Phoenix and the Banshee relatively late in the book. To be fair, I just really loved Ayla, so my desire for her viewpoint stems from the desire to spend more time with her as well.
I really enjoyed Phoenix Rising. As a YA novel it sits somewhat at the younger end of the scale in my opinion, without losing any of its complexity. Pearce manages to infuse a lot of interesting and thought-provoking themes into the books about politics, climate change and what happens when those two collide. I can’t wait to continue Toby and Ayla’s adventure in the next book and to see if my decision to remain #BansheeCrew will be justified. If dystopia is your cup of tea then you should definitely check out Phoenix Rising.
This book was provided for review by the publisher.
This review is one of the stops on the Phoenix Rising Blog Tour, be sure to check out the others!