Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon 2009 ARC
Greenwillow Books/Harper Collins
IQ "How do I tell them that the feel of dragon sales beneath my hands is more real to me than the embroidery I'm working on?" Ai Ling pg. 331
REviews (imagine some guy yelling REMIX! at the top of their lungs, now replace that with some guy yelling REview! ahaha). A REview is when I re-review a book. I'm re-reviewing books I reviewed early on in my blogging 'career'. My original review
Ai Ling doesn't have any suitors and she doesn't mind, she's not ready to be married. Besides she has more important things on her mind, like her father's disappearance. Her father left to go to the Emperor's Palace and it's been weeks since Ai Ling and her mother have heard from him. Ai Ling decides that she must find him and on her journey she must tackle many frightening obstacles, creatures she thought existed only in books. Her journey will be perilous but with the help of some new friends and her jade pendent along with her courage, she just might rescue her father and bring them both back home.
This book needs a warning label "DO NOT READ WHILE HUNGRY." Actually "DO NOT READ WHILE NOT EATING CHINESE FOOD." seems to be more apt. All the mentions of food are both good and bad. Besides the obvious hunger pains, all the descriptions of food can get tiresome but at the same time, the attention to detail in the book is exquisite. It's a double edged sword (chopstick? heehee. Ok I'll stop). I did however love that Ai Ling loved to eat. It may be a cultural thing (Xia is loosely based on ancient China) since I think Americans are overly obsessed with losing weight, but I found it refreshing to read about a protagonist who doesn't mention her weight. She is unafraid to show her love of food, even around guys and I admire her for it. Ai Ling overall is a great character. She's brave and a food lover, what's not to love? I admired her courage so much, even while I sometimes cursed her stubbornness (which is the pot calling the kettle black in my case). My only other complaint was the nonstop action. There is so much going on, so many creatures and monsters that Ai Ling needs to save herself and her companions from, there was a lot going on. I wanted a little more interaction between the characters and to see more growth.
All that being said the world building in Silver Phoenix is one of the best (in my humble opinion). The author describes every single thing in the world of Xia, giving the reader a vivd idea as to what the world is like. You can see the food, the palaces, the beautiful scenery and even the monsters in your mind's eye. Cindy Pon has a wonderful imagination and one of my favorite parts of the whole book is the description of the Golden Palace and its gardens. The Observant Tree is creepy (eyes hanging from branches, watching your every move!) and the Love Lost Tree was a sad, yet fascinating idea. The Love Lost Tree is described thus "The sound of a hundred heartbeats thudded against Ai Ling's ears each pulsing to its own story of loss." (pg. 159) I love the main characters in this novel. Ai Ling is amazing but I have a special place in my heart for Li Rong. He was born in the wrong time period, since it wouldn't be proper for any lady to respond to his jokes and flirtations at the time he's living in ;) Li Rong is bold, sometimes foolishly so, honest, caring and such a fun character. He's not just there for comic relief however, he adds to the story of Chen Yong (his half brother). I do wish that we had learned more about Li Rong though because he didn't seem to have his own story. Chen Yong is a great character as well, reserved, brave and fiercely loyal. His feelings and experiences relating to his mixed background is one that many biracial and multi ethnic people can understand.
Silver Phoenix is an action packed story that is hard to put down. Not only will you keep reading to find out what happens next, you will also want to stay in Xia and mentally savor all the food ;) The story is enthralling and well developed, the author does not reveal the villain right away which keeps the reader guessing. I do wish the novel had slowed down at some point and more character interaction occurred. An excellent China inspired fantasy (with a lovely cover!) that people should read if only to visit Xia and meet the hilarious Li Rong, brave Ai Ling and loyal Chen Yong. My only regret is reading this book in July and having to wait till March for the sequel!
Disclosure: Received from author. Thank you so much Cindy!
PS Have you written your letter to Borders/Barnes & Noble yet? My letter will go up August 1.