ARC REVIEW: Sparks of Phoenix by Najwa Zebian (4 Stars)

Cover of Sparks of Phoenix by Najwa Zebian depicting golden wings on a dark blue background with lightning bolts

Rating: Five star rating represented by five bumblebees (4 out of 5)

In Sparks of Phoenix—Najwa Zebian’s third book of poetry—she takes her readers on a powerful journey of healing.

As the phoenix emerges from its ashes, Zebian emerges ablaze in these pages, not only as a survivor of abuse, but as a teacher and healer for all those who have struggled to understand, reclaim, and rise above a history of pain. The book is divided into six chapters, and six stages of healing: Falling, Burning to Ashes, Sparks of Phoenix, Rising, Soaring, and finally, A New Chapter, which demonstrates a healthy response to new love as the result of authentic healing. With her characteristic vulnerability, courage, and softness, Zebian seeks to empower those who have been made to feel ashamed, silenced, or afraid; she urges them, through gentle advice and personal revelation, to raise their voices, rise up, and soar. (Goodreads)

I only recently read and was rather disenchanted with Amanda Lovelace’s the mermaid’s voice returns in this one, and if I had to describe Sparks of Phoenix in one sentence, I would say it’s what the mermaid’s voice is trying to be. Najwa Zebian’s writing really spoke to me and my own experiences of emotional abuse, and it made my heart soar more than once.  The powerful theme of remaking yourself in the aftermath of abuse is matched by the author’s powerful voice.

For every broken soul,
there is a
once upon a happy soul.

Some of the pieces were a bit basic and formulaic for my taste, and I feel that the collection could have benefitted from cutting some of those pieces. However, I found myself bookmarking page after page, and there are enough pieces that show what Zebian can really do that I wasn’t too bothered by the more redundant pieces.

My hands melted into my face,
and all of my words transformed
into action.

One of my absolute favourite pieces was the poem Excuse me, sir. Zebian weaves her words into something stunning and defiant in this piece, and this was when I truly fell in love with her writing.

Excuse me, sir.
My body is not a place for your conquest.
(…)
I carry with my body
the cities of the world.
I have, carved, on my body
streets that you want me to hide
because you see them as scars.

Overall, the collection was beautiful, but just missing that last little bit of oomph and freshness. I would still recommend it if you want to be taken on a journey of burning and healing, and I think it would be accessible and enjoyable even to people who don’t usually read a lot of poetry.

All quotes are taken from the eARC and may not match the final release.

Thank you to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review. 

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