Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages (Hardcover): 338
Series: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia (Book 1)
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.
This book is beautiful. From the cover to the concept to the writing, it is absolutely lovely. Pon does an amazing job at setting the historical stage for the setting we find ourselves in. The facts of this book and its historical context is so accurate and breath taking; it is easily my favorite part of the book. I would love to delve more into what life is like for Ai Ling in the time period. The intricacies of something as simple as her bound hair give a dynamic and life to the book that the characters and plot alone could not accomplish.
In turn, the setting is nothing without the story. Ai Ling is such a fierce female. She is strong and determined and it is easy to feel and revel in her determination to find her father. In her journey, she struggles and faces great adversity but understands the importance of the mission she set upon and never wavers in her strength to continue. Chen Yong, the male lead, is an easily likeable character as well. Strong, chilvarous, and handsome, he is hardy and worth all the interest Ai Ling can manage to give him.
Though the setting, plot and characters were strong, something kept throwing me off while I was reading this. I was not hooked into the story by the throat and was easily able to set it down for a reading break. This may be in part to the way that battles were written in this book. Pon threw Ai Ling up against some of the most unimaginable evil and yet in the span of moments the battle was over. After the first two or three occurrences, I felt the idea of battle was monotonous and lacked appropriate plot manifestations.
This book is preceded by the sequel, Fury of the Phoenix. I hope for more information on Silver Phoenix to be revealed and more interaction and development of what could be between Ai Leng and Chen Yong. I would recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction or epic fantasy. It has characteristics that most fantasy lovers will thoroughly enjoy.
Rating out of 5: