Monday, January 11, 2010

Book Review: Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

    Title:  Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia
    Author: Cindy Pon
    Genre: Young Adult
    Hardcover: 338 pages
    Publisher: Greenwillow Books
    ISBN-10: 0061730211
    Summary:  No one wanted Ai Ling. And deep down she is relieved—despite the dishonor she has brought upon her family—to be unbetrothed and free, not some stranger's subservient bride banished to the inner quarters.  But now, something is after her. Something terrifying—a force she cannot comprehend. And as pieces of the puzzle start to fit together, Ai Ling begins to understand that her journey to the Palace of Fragrant Dreams isn't only a quest to find her beloved father but a venture with stakes larger than she could have imagined.  Bravery, intelligence, the will to fight and fight hard . . . she will need all of these things. Just as she will need the new and mysterious power growing within her. She will also need help.  It is Chen Yong who finds her partly submerged and barely breathing at the edge of a deep lake. There is something of unspeakable evil trying to drag her under. On a quest of his own, Chen Yong offers that help . . . and perhaps more.  [Cover photo & description provided by]

    Cindy Pon's Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia is an adventure-filled YA fantasy novel of the refreshingly non-Western variety.  Fans of epic adventure stories, independent heroines, and Chinese culture will definitely enjoy this book.

    What I Liked:
    • The Asian-inspired setting and mythology
    • Ai Ling's healthy appetite!  This book had me craving delicious Chinese food every few pages.  I absolutely loved Ai Ling's passion for tasty meals!
    • The courageous heroine who is capable of rescuing herself. 
    • Ai Ling was not a cookie-cutter, generic heroine but a well-developed individual with her own desires, strengths, fears, and flaws.
    • Chen Yong as Ai Ling's steadfast and intelligent companion.  His history is intriguing and the roll he plays in her journey is not what I initially expected it would be, but it was still pleasantly complex.
    • The ending, which surprised me and is not generally the type of conclusion I enjoy.  But in this case, it feels true to the characters and makes me eager to read the second book.
    What I Wished:
    • There were not quite so many 'epic quest' moments and objects (glowing pendant, enchanted dagger, vial of magical tears, etc.).  At times, it seemed that every single person or creature they met along the way either brutally attacked them or conveniently had some significant item to bestow upon them.
    •  The tension didn't lag a bit in the middle.  Most of the time, the encounters with new characters and locations helped to propel the plot forward rather than distracting from the primary focus of their journey, but around the middle of the book the forward momentum seemed to falter a bit.  Thankfully, the main characters are consistently compelling and the story's pace & tension both pick up again in the last few chapters.
    Cindy Pon's Silver Phoenix will appeal to fans of adventure stories and to readers with an interest in Eastern culture and courageous heroines.  Reading this book made me want to look for more Asian-inspired fantasy novels, and I look forward to reading the second half of Ai Ling's story in Cindy Pon's next novel.

    Silver Phoenix does have a significant amount of violence & contains several sexual references (including a scene of attempted rape), so I would consider this book YA and not middle-grade.  Readers who enjoyed Shannon Hale's Book of a Thousand Days and anyone who enjoys reading about strong female characters embarking on fantastical quests, will thoroughly enjoy Silver Phoenix.  But I do recommend having an ample supply of noodles and pot stickers on hand before starting to read this book because Ai Ling's passion for delicious Chinese food is highly contagious!  :-)  To read more about Cindy Pon and her upcoming projects, you can visit her website, blog, & twitter.

    Happy Reading!  :-)


    Carina said...

    This looks really interesting, though I don't read much fantasy anymore. I like the way you did your review - the list of likes versus wishes!

    BURIED IN BOOKS said...

    I have not come across one book with an Asian heroine in it. Though today I read a review with a hot Asian Goth boy in it as the love interest to the girl Terra. This book sounds great! I'd love to read it. And your review is excellent. I think of Mulan when I read it and how strong she was.


    Lydia said...

    Really thoughtful review. I felt the same about most of the book (and am outraged at the cover change on it).

    Erika Lynn said...

    ive read a lot of great reviews for this but never picked up the book, i might have to now

    Kristen said...

    Thanks for the honest review! I've had this one since Christmas and keep meaning to read it soon.. or soonishly. Definitely sounds like an engaging book besides some of the faults you found in it. And I really need some Epic soon - and Mockinjay will meet that and I'll probably crave more - so maybe this will be next after that.


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