Phoenix Burning

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Fanfiction
Title: Phoenix Burning
Author(s): Yahtzee
Date(s): 2001
Length: novel, ~90,000 words
Genre: AU, futurefic
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
External Links: Phoenix Burning (Insect Reflection)
Phoenix Burning (AO3)
Phoenix Burning (FF.net)

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Phoenix Burning is a Buffy the Vampire Slayer novel by Yahtzee. Set after 'The Gift', it is an AU taking place 350 years in the future, which stars Buffy and Angel together with numerous original characters, and has the pairing Buffy/Angel.

Summary from the author: This is a follow-up to "The Gift" quite unlike most you will have seen. Buffy awakens from death to find a world vastly changed.[1] Yahtzee further elaborates:

Readers can expect spoilers for anything that has happened through the episode "The Gift," but should be warned that the story goes AU after that. Dramatically AU, in fact. So AU that I cannot quite believe I am writing this. Those who have read my earlier stories will notice very quickly that this is something of a departure for me. Those who have not will notice that this is something of a departure from most fanfic in general. But I ask all of you to take a chance and go on the journey with me; I don't think you'll be disappointed.[2]

After Yahtzee had left the BtVS/AtS fandom, she stated in an interview with Chrislee:

Phoenix Burning was the most fun to write, because I was just OVERTAKEN by this idea and ate, slept and breathed it for three months, all of which felt like an amusement park ride. Then it got such a great response, which really spoiled me![3]

Reception

Phoenix Burning rapidly established itself as a Buffyverse classic, and is among the most frequently recommended works in the fandom. It has a very broad appeal, being recommended by fans who usually prefer other pairings, don't usually read gen/het, don't generally enjoy stories centering on Buffy, or even who didn't enjoy the show. It is frequently praised for its characterisation of Buffy. The novel won several awards, including Best Drama in the Halo Awards Summer 2001 and several categories of the Undead Awards 2001.[4]

Reviews

I say the same things every time: Don't usually read Buffy, don't usually read Gen... but so what. Yahtzee's got a new Buffy, and yes it's gen, but it's long, and wonderful ... read it now, before season six comes along and makes it an a/u. (Sandy Herrold)[5]
This baby's got a plot that could have come from the mind of Joss himself. Add in perfect characterization, fascinating original characters, and a stunning depth of emotion, and you might begin to describe what Yahtzee's accomplished with this one. The post-"The Gift" story that everyone will have to try and live up to. (Nestra)[6]
In my opinion, the best fanfic ever written, any ship, any fandom. While I'm aware that there are people who don't like this story, I can't understand it, because my first thought is why were you watching BtVS then? Perfectly captures the sense of plot, the characters, the dialog, veers from humor to angst to tragedy and back again and often had me on the edge of my seat. Yahtzee is one of the very, very few writers whose dialog rings so true that if you read a random line from one of her stories, you'll know who said it. (a2zmom)[7]
...arguably better than much of what Joss & Co wrote in seasons 6/7. Yahtzee is one of the very few writers who can interest me in Buffy as a character, and this novel focuses on her, in a rather unexpected setting. Deservedly among the fandom classics. (Espresso Addict)[8]
I have just finished reading an amazing story. ... I swear this author reminds me of Joss; the foreshadowing in Buffy's dreams is so much like the show. Actually, the entire story is like an episode (or several). Words can not express how good this story is. (Danielle)[9]
This was way cool. It wasn't just Buffy going off and having more adventures, though it is certainly adventuresome. I knew things were getting interesting when one started wondering what various peoples' motives really were. And the characters had both good and bad, things to like about them and to dislike. And there were points which were so sad, and points where you want to cheer. And twists and surprises, and witty quips. (Kathryn Andersen)[10]
I have never read anything by Yahtzee that didn't leave me astonished and gleeful and simultaneously replete and wanting more. ... This story is, of all of Yahtzee's stories, the one that most left me feeling that way. ... And it is incredible - right and true and awesome and just. Just. Amazing. ... Even if this story is the kind of thing you don't like, you will still like it. It transcends its genres and categories and tags. (thefourthvine)[11]
Phoenix Burning made no attempt to dovetail into a possible season 6 and bravely set off into full-on AU with tremendous results, and became one of those do-not-miss stories in the fandom. ... The plot is fantastic – well-crafted, clever, and twisty – and the OCs (of which there are scads) are wonderful, fully fleshed and fascinating. The pairing is Buffy/Angel, and it works in a way even the show never fully convinced me. Even if you’re not a fan of the pairing, like me, give it a try – you won’t be disappointed. Buffy, in particular, stands out in this fic. I have a bit of love/hate for Buffy as a character, especially in fanfiction where she typically swings between bashing and saintly extremes. Yahtzee’s Buffy strikes exactly the right chord – she’s young and fallible and uncertain but also determined and brave with that flash of extra something (understanding? insight? wisdom? I can never figure out the word) – that reminds me of why I loved the show and the character in the first place. It’s amazing. (caduceus03)[12]
Quite simply, this is the best Buffy AU I've ever read. It gives a poignancy and depth to Angel's character, works out a satisfying ending to Buffy's journey, and it paints a vivid, compelling picture of a distopian future in which the Slayers are pawns in a deep political game. Superb! (Cupidsbow)[13]
An ambitious post-The Gift AU with a pitch-perfect Buffy characterization. ... A labyrinthine plot, an interesting future world and a few familiar faces make this a hell of a ride. (Your Mileage May Vary)[14]
"Phoenix Burning" is one of the first long fics based on BtVS I ever read, and still one of the best; far-future AU for a Buffy who never came back after "The Gift." A fabulous, original work. (The Deadly Hook)[15]
I have to say that in "Phoenix Burning", Yahtzee has written one of the best Buffy characterizations I've ever read. And on top of that, she's introduced an entire cast of original characters who are engaging and whole. This is a great story and a fun read - dark in places, funny in others, and totally enjoyable. (Ames)[16]
This story is warned as being dramatically AU, set after the end of the fifth season ("The Gift") and it was, indeed, AU, but not in the way I had been expecting. For some reason I'd thought Buffy ended up in an alternate dimension or something like that (which would make a nifty story idea, wouldn't it?) but that isn't what happened. To find out what actually happened, well, you'll have to read the story, won't you? This was way cool. It wasn't just Buffy going off and having more adventures, though it is certainly adventuresome. I knew things were getting interesting when one started wondering what various peoples' motives really were. And the characters had both good and bad, things to like about them and to dislike. And there were points which were so sad, and points where you want to cheer. And twists and surprises, and witty quips. Still, some people probably won't like it because the Scooby Gang aren't there, except in memory and dream. But I still think it was way cool. So... what do *you* think? [17]
I thought it was well written, because the original characters and the plot held my attention even though I don't care at all for the two Buffyverse characters that she did use. If you're a fan of those characters, I suspect it's even better. Also, I can still remember the story well enough to have recognized the name, which doesn't happen for me often with fanfic. So I guess I'd call those indicators (for me) of a successful story.[18]
I wouldn't have read this story had it not been recced to me so enthusiastically on the BetterBuffyFics list... I was somewhat put off reading a chapter or two in and realizing that there would be no Scooby gang in the story, because I love Giles, Willow and Xander, and actually prefer fic that focuses on them or their relationship with Buffy rather than Buffy alone. That said, I thought this was a *Fabulous* story. I like AUs, and I found that Yahtzee had constructed an AU of the best kind: rich in atmosphere, with believable, interesting and fleshed-out original characters, and a story that illuminates things about the characters that you cared for in the original Universe. As you can see by the kb tally, this is a huge story, but it's got a gripping plot (that literally kept me up all night) and some interesting character observations. I didn't even mind the romance, which normally makes me gag. [19]
PB is a must-read for many reasons; here are three of them. First of all, it's an original novel-length story -- no fanfic short cuts, just a plot that's enthralling, original and has more than a couple of well-placed twists along the way. Secondly, the original characters -- for anybody who thinks that original characters have no place in fanfiction (or that there are no fanfic authors who can create and use OCs well), PB is an object lesson in how to do it right. Thirdly -- and maybe most crucially -- the characterisation of Buffy. Buffy's voice is probably one of the most difficult to capture -- PB is told entirely from her perspective (in the third person), and the characterisation is note-perfect. [20]
What Stuck With Me and Why: I hadn't even watched much of the show when I read this, probably the first few seasons, but it filled something in me that I really needed to read then. It's about depression, and loss, and trying to find who you are when everything you ever loved has been stripped away, and also trying to decide if there's any point living like that. It's about new beginnings. This is more ground down than we ever see Buffy in the show, but there's still this diamond of will in the centre of her. A story about how crushingly difficult it is to keep going, and not just in an epic way, but in a day to day mundane life kind of way. Needless to say, it spoke to my history of depression pretty hard, and the dream sequence near the end where she sees everything she's lost and finds peace with it but also takes it with her to move forward was simultaneously a punch to the stomach and a revaluation. [21]

References

  1. Yahtzee: Insect Reflection (accessed 13 February 2012)
  2. Yahtzee: Phoenix Burning: index (accessed 13 February 2012)
  3. Octaves of the Heart: Yahtzee (accessed 11 September 2015)
  4. Yahtzee: Awards (accessed 13 February 2012)
  5. All Jewels Have Flaws: Recs Index (accessed 13 February 2012)
  6. Polyamorous Recommendations: Buffy (accessed 13 February 2012)
  7. Fic Recs: Long, Plotty B/A (accessed 13 February 2012)
  8. Espresso Recommendations: Angel/Buffy (accessed 13 February 2012)
  9. Better Buffy Fiction Archive: Yahtzee (accessed 13 February 2012)
  10. KatSpace: Yahtzee (accessed 13 February 2012)
  11. 204: Two Worlds in Which We Dwell (accessed 13 February 2012)
  12. Epic Recs: Phoenix Burning by Yahtzee (R) (accessed 13 February 2012)
  13. Crack Van: Phoenix Burning by Yahtzee (NC-17) (accessed 13 February 2012)
  14. Your Mileage May Vary: Previously On Your Mileage May Vary (accessed 17 February 2012)
  15. Just Stake Me: Fanfiction (accessed 18 April 2012)
  16. The Darker Side of Sunnydale: Yahtzee (accessed 26 April 2012)
  17. Kathryn A at Gen Fic Crit, July 2002
  18. Mistral at Gen Fic Crit, July 2002
  19. Penfold at Gen Fic Crit, July 2002
  20. Novel-Length Recs, Archived version
  21. comment by muccamukk, Meme: Ten Fic That Stayed With You, May 26, 2015