Phoenix Rising – a Fantasy Book Review

Phoenix RisingScience Fiction and Fantasy seem to overlap, so I’m posting this review.

Phoenix Rising, Ryk E Spoor’s book is not exactly part of a series, but the Afterword says other books have been set in this fantasy world of magic.  The first five chapters were hard for me to get through.  There are so many characters introduced, each with more than one name or title, and three story-lines of which two seemed like fairly typical sword and magic fantasies.  I almost gave up on the book.  Then I got to the third story line which features an intelligent toad named Poplock.  This idea seemed fresh and the writing lighter.  About half way through the 400 page book, there was a nifty plot twist that added a fourth story line that I liked.

Those early chapters led me to this approach:  Read a chapter of Poplock’s story; then search thru the ebook for the next time his name appears and read that chapter.  (E-books give me a lot of control; I can also search for the first time a character appeared if I forget who they are.)  Two of the story lines converged fairly soon and I never missed the skipped portions of that third story line, which joined up with Poplock in the last 100 or so pages.  There are plenty of open plot threads for a sequel.  I finished the book and mostly enjoyed it.  I don’t think I will look for the sequel though.


5 thoughts on “Phoenix Rising – a Fantasy Book Review

  1. Hm. Doesn’t seem to have a reply link for your latest post.

    I’m published by Baen Books, one of the larger traditional publishers of F/SF books, so I have of course worked with professional editors; they’re the ones that decided, for instance, that I should remove some chapters and perform some other changes on _Phoenix Rising_ as well. Major advantage of traditional publication: they not only pay you in advance, they pay for the editors, cover, layout, proofreading, and distribution in physical form.

    This is of course why they’re very picky; for a book they give a $5,000 advance on, they’re probably spending another $25,000 to actually publish. And if it’s an author’s first book, they assume it won’t sell well, so they assume they’re flushing at least $20,000 of that down the toilet.

    The problem with doing short stories as loss leaders is that I’m not terribly good at the short story form. They take a lot more effort to write per page than novels do. So writing them isn’t a cost-effective use of my writing time, and I get *very* little writing time (average of about 5 hours a week).


  2. Thanks for looking at my review. Maybe I just started at the wrong book? I puzzle over the best way to introduce back-story in my own writing. A friend of mine calls it “the curse of knowledge”, having a lot of details to present. Glossaries to explain each character don’t work well for me either – my eyes glaze over before I finish reading them. Best of luck with the next book.


    • Well, that’s the first book in the Balanced Sword trilogy. The other published work in that universe (_Digital Knight_, my first novel, soon to be reissued in an expanded and revised form as _Paradigms Lost) is actually urban fantasy, which only mentions Zarathan (the world in which _Phoenix Rising_ takes place) as an aside. There are connections there — for instance, Xavier Ross comes from the same town as the hero of _Digital Knight_, and actually has some contact with him.

      But for the main story there, no, you had no choice but to start with _Phoenix Rising_. The other two books, _Phoenix in Shadow_ and _Phoenix Ascendant_, might be a little less dense to work through, since much of the exposition and main character introductions were finished in the first book, but I don’t know if it would make a difference to you.

      Yes, it’s hard to know where to start and how to convey the knowledge. I’ve fought with that in every book and series I’ve written so far. _Phoenix Rising_ went through considerable editing; it had more chapters at the beginning, originally, which introduced you to Kyri and her family at a much younger age and let you watch her lose her parents, investigate what happened to them, and so on.

      Zarathan is a huge world, one I’ve been constructing for over 35 years, and the intricacy of the world is part of the story. Unfortunately, that DOES potentially make some things drag, and I never could figure out a good resolution for it. If you skipped over the non-Toad sections, unfortunately you probably also missed the parts that make the central character come more alive; Kyri’s most defining events are probably her first combat (and loss of her brother), and her subsequent discovery of who was actually behind the murders of her family members, and most especially her direct, rage-at-the-heavens challenge to Myrionar to explain why it had abandoned them and given her family neither justice nor vengeance.

      I will admit freely that Kyri is less quirky and fun than Poplock. She’s a serious, straightforward young woman on a mission. Tobimar sits a bit between them; he’s not quite as grim as Kyri (and has less reason to be, admittedly) and not quite as odd as Poplock himself.

      Anyway, I still thank you very much for reading and for posting the review!


      • I have seen this idea, and am considering it for my own work: write short stories or novellas that you offer for free to gather those neat bits of story that don’t fit in a full novel. This is supposed to allow readers to sample your world before they commit, offer a gift to fans who are eager to learn more, and perhaps let a reader pause in the main book to “catch up” if they feel the need. I’m not sure how to work that last “catch up” bit. I don’t see footnotes in novels – maybe there should be?
        I did get a kick out of the image of a hero on a quest, Tobimar, walking around with a toad sitting on his shoulder and whispering into his ear.
        Have you worked with a professional editor? I have not yet felt my work justifies the expense (I’ve seen $3000 to $5000 estimates), but I know it hurts me. It seems like a ‘chicken and egg’ problem.
        Since you have lived in Zarathan for 35 years, you must know every corner and many nifty short stories. says shorter works don’t sell as well, which must mean shorter works don’t appeal to readers as much, which seems a shame. Sometimes a story deserves to be a certain length and shouldn’t be artificially blown up. I see that Jim Butcher (Dresden series) is well known enough now that he can sell a collection of his short works. Would that we all get there eventually!
        You have a lot more experience than I do, and I appreciate you taking the time to message with a neophyte.


  3. Well, certainly Poplock approves of people reading his sequences!

    Sorry it didn’t grab you in the other areas, though. While Poplock is certainly important, it’s more Kyri and Tobimar’s story, and will remain so in the other two books (though Poplock has very key roles to play).


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