Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
2009; HarperTeen


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.

Review

It is rare that a YA fantasy novel strays from the familiar set of Western mythologies and legends. Silver Phoenix is a refreshing change. Drawing heavily on Chinese folk tales, history, and culture, Silver Phoenix is an adventure story full of evil spirits with a good dose of friendship and a little romance thrown in.

Ai Ling is the daughter of a doting father, a former scholar in the emperor's court. Her father leaves to go to the palace and gives her a jade pendant upon his departure. He is gone longer than expected and a nasty, predatory businessman tries to force Ai Ling to marry him to pay off her father's supposed debts. Rather than subject herself to such horrors, Ai Ling sets off to find her father.

She quickly finds a young man, Chen Yong, who is also searching for his father. Chen Yong is handsome, thoughtful, and strong, but also has a shell that is hard to break through. He and Ai Ling both attract and repel on another. They are shortly joined by Chen Yong's younger brother who is a breath of fresh air. Always ready with a joke (usually bordering on being distasteful), Li Rong is easy to like and is a welcome relief from the more serious Ai Ling and Chen Yong.

The three characters have to battle multiple evil spirits on their way to find their fathers. I thought this was the weakest part of the book, despite being the major plot line. Some of the evil spirits were sexual in a way that felt weird. Mostly, my problem with the evil spirit part was that I didn't get it. The book didn't establish the world well enough for me to understand what was going on until I was significantly into the book. By that point, it was too late for me to form an emotional attachment to the story.

On a brighter note, I very much liked the characters. I liked Ai Ling's strength and determination. She managed to be a kick-butt heroine, while still maintaining her femininity. She was stubborn in fighting. She also cared deeply about her family, Chen Yong, and Li Ron. I liked seeing how fiercely she loved. Chen Yong was a great love interest. I like the strong, silent type. He challenged Ai Ling and was frustrating at times, but I loved his devotion to his family and his inner strength. Li Rong was just fun. I don't really go for the joker types, but he played off the other two characters well.

A highlight of this book was the food. Ai Ling sure loves her food. The author took care to describe every meal and snack in great detail. As someone who has spent time in Taiwan and Japan and loves authentic Asian food, this book made me drool continuously for hours. I'd recommend it for that reason alone.

Silver Phoenix is an odd book in that I didn't love the main plot line, but I did love the characters and food descriptions. I'd still say it's worth reading.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

15 comments :

  1. The food descriptions really are mouthwatering, it makes me hungry just thinking about them. Since you really liked the characters are you going to read Fury of the Phoenix?

    Sandy

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hmmm, I like how the cover matches you blog design. That's cool. Also I loved the review. I like fantasy books. Thanks for the review!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Characters are very important to me so I am glad that you found them well-developed in Silver Phoenix! It is too bad that the main plot was confusing but at least you enjoyed the characters and food descriptions (yum!).

    ReplyDelete
  4. That sounds disappointing about the plot, but if the characters are good then I can usually overlook problems with a plot. Sounds worth it alone for the characters and food descriptions. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sexual evil spirits? Hm. That sounds...interesting:) Good to know the characters are well done, that usually makes up for some plot deficiencies for me! Fabulous review Alison!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Heh, you'd recommend the book just for the description of the food alone, eh? Well then, that's enough for me. Also, sometimes if I enjoy the characters enough, it often doesn't matter to me if the plot doesn't work, so maybe I could really end up liking this book!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Alison, you always make me snickersnort. Now you got me curious as to what is up with those freaking spirits? Plus, who could resist Asian food?!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I've been meaning to pick this one up for quite some time. I really love this book cover and not the new one (I would have never have known it was based in China or have Chinese influences with the new cover). I'm thinking that since this is the first book in a series, maybe the world building gets better in the second book. I don't mind much about problems with the plot as long as the characters are interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I really love that the premise of this book is so different. I do think a lack of world-building to establish the plot would really get to me though. Great honest review :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. I really loved this book when I read it last year, but I was starving by the end!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm glad you enjoyed this book, because I absolutely loved it. I can't wait to read the sequel! It's sitting on my shelf!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I had to eat half way into reading this book.I liked the characters as well, but I was kind of confused with what happened at the end, but other than that I loved the change from more Western styled fantasy.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I have this one in my TBR list. I'm happy to see more books with ethnic characters. The premise does sound unusual. Thanks for your honest review, especially the sexual weirdness.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I was seriously happy to find a book set in Asia, but honestly... this one just didn't do it for me in terms of actual story delivery... Try Eon instead >.>

    ReplyDelete

I love comments. I appreciate every one! Thank you in advance.

This blog is now an award free zone. I just don't have time to pass on the awards as they deserve.

 
Template: Blog Designs by Sheila