Book review: Stealing Phoenix by Joss Stirling

Stealing Phoenix was an accidental find of mine. On a visit to the public library I stopped by the teen section to see if any new Maggie Stiefvater books had come. None had, but this caught my eye instead, and I’m glad it did.

The book follows Phoenix, a young girl with special powers living in a community of savants. Her community is actually more of a cult, led by a fat, ugly, horrible man known only as the Seer.

Motherless teenager Phoenix, and the others in the community, earn their living by stealing for the Seer, but he’s more Bill Sykes than Fagin. For their troubles, the community get to live in a dank and dingy tower block in east London, and they don’t get punished.

Tasked with stealing from an American teenager, Phoenix fails. She manages to get the Seer to give her an extra day, and goes back to find Yves once again, only to discover that he is her soulfinder – basically her soulmate.

Phoenix tries to protect Yves by heading back to the community, only to discover that the Seer wants to use her status as soulfinder to buy entry into a worldwide club of evil savants. What ensues is a battle between love and duty to the one you love, and it’s not one that’s easily won.

Stirling’s characters are excellenty crafted. I felt like I knew Phoenix really well within just a few pages, and I completely understood her emotions and motivations throughout the novel.

Yves, too, was a great character, and the way Stirling built his family into the story was well done considering there were so many of them, and so little time spent with them in the book. Stealing Phoenix is the sequel to Finding Sky, a book which follows Yves’ younger brother. Further books follow the rest of the Benedict clan, and I’m definitely looking forward to reading them.

While I loved the characters, my favourite thing about Stealing Phoenix was its London setting. Stirling has connections to east London, and said she wanted to visit the area in a book, as it’s changed so much in the past few years due to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. I found her descriptions of London spot on, from the concrete of Barbican to the description of run down tower blocks to the plushness of some of the West End’s hotels.

Stirling’s strength is the pictures she draws of the world she created, and despite the savant elements, I felt Stealing Phoenix was realistic and relatable – two great things for a book which still whisks you to another world.

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