Verdict: THE PHOENIX RISING: DESTINY CALLS at its best is an innovative fantasy that succeeds beyond genres.
A fantastical adventure through a refreshingly creative and elaborate world, THE PHOENIX RISING: DESTINY CALLS is heavy on plot and light on logic.
During the day, Nanyamka Apiyo Morowa is an aspiring journalist studying at New York University, a friendly girl more commonly known as “Kay.” But at night, she’s paralyzed by prophetic dreams involving a jungle, a lion, and an ivory dagger. The dreams bother her, but it’s not until she runs—literally—into Callum that they become particularly problematic. As Kay and Callum fall in love, Kay’s dreams begin to disrupt her waking life. Instead of the recurring nightmare she has had since childhood, these new dreams involve disturbing images of Kay holding the lifeless body of her beloved. Kay cuts Callum out of her life in fear that the dreams will come true, and figures it will be easy to forget him while on a coveted journalism apprenticeship in South Africa. But the night before her flight her parents admit that they’ve kept Nanyamka’s heritage a secret: she is South African, adopted when her mother was killed in a building fire. Nanyamka is infuriated by her adopted parents’ deception and she leaves the country without saying goodbye—an act she will regret when she is kidnapped upon landing in Cape Town.
Nanyamka is soon rescued by a woman named Tuki and led with other refuges to “Ipharadisi,” the isiZulu word for paradise. In Ipharadisi, Nanyamka learns the true meaning of her dreams and of her name, and adjusts quickly to her new role in this new life.
The second half of the book includes a lot more action and a very intricately designed world. The fantastical, complicated adventure can be overshadowed by undeveloped characters, narrative and plot. The use of South African landscape, Zulu history, and fantasy elements are all excellently balanced. It can be hard to follow the plot as the scenes snap disjointedly between locations and conversations, and there are many holes in logic, but most disappointing are the two-dimensional characters. Kay’s dual love interests, in particular, never develop personalities beyond their devotion to her. There are several well-plotted action sequences toward the end that all could have acted as conclusions, but the story drags farther into fantasy and ends on an odd cliffhanger.
THE PHOENIX RISING: DESTINY CALLS at its best is an innovative fantasy that succeeds beyond genres.