Series: The Kingdom of Xia,
Also in this series: Fury of the Phoenix
Published by Greenwillow Books on 28 April 2009
Genres: Action & Adventure, Asian Mythology, Emotions & Feelings, Fantasy, Girls & Women, People & Places, People of Color, Young Adult
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Also by this author: Fury of the Phoenix, Blue Skies, Serpentine
Place(s) Traveled to: The Kingdom of Xia (based on ancient China)
First Line: The eunuchs said the windows were ceiling height to allow the concubines their privacy, but Jin Lian knew it was also a way to keep them trapped.
I first heard about Silver Phoenix on Twitter right before it was released but even if I hadn’t I’d have instantly been drawn to the cover in stores. The cover on the hardcover is absolutely GORGEOUS and I bought it the day it was released. I had every intention of reading it shortly thereafter as well but fates conspired against me and it sat on my shelf, neglected, along with so many others. Then recently on Twitter I was struggling through a book and saying how I’d need something really good to read afterwards. I don’t recall the exact way things feel out but in the end PoseySessions was betting me $5 if I could finish Silver Phoenix up by the end of the weekend. (This all happened on a Thursday I believe.) Not one to walk away from a challenge I accepted. I then despaired that I would do it as it took until Saturday to finish the book I was reading and I had a family even more of that day.
I despaired about being able to finish as the beginning of Silver Phoenix was a little slow. The prologue had me a bit confused (I’m slow sometimes) as I was immediately thrust into this foreign world. From there we jump forward 19 years (or so) and I have to readjust on what I think I know. In Chapter 1, we meet Ai Ling the heroine who is being sent off to potential betrothal meetings as all good Chinese girls in this time are destined for marriage and a life behind walls. But Ai Ling’s family is tainted with a bit of scandal and she is a bit too tall and she struggles to fulfill her duty and remains unwed. When her father disappears, Ai Ling does a very brave and unusual thing and decides to set off in search of him. It helps that Ai Ling isn’t your ordinary girl but she has special gifts that she’s only just begun to understand.
From the moment Ai Ling leaves the sheltered walls of her home the book really pick up in pace. It becomes this action packed roller coaster and I found it hard to catch my breath. Around every corner there is peril and beasties that are trying to kill Ai Ling. Some of who might have succeeded if it wasn’t for Chen Yong and his brother Li Rong. I LOVED the interaction between Chen Yong and Li Rong as well as that between Li Rong and Ai Ling. Li Rong is witty and fun and just makes a person laugh. Which is great because Chen Yong is just way to serious for his own good. Granted he has his reasons for holding himself aloof from the world but there is just this naturalness about Li Rong that makes you instantly like him. Based on characters alone Silver Phoenix was a win.
But even great characters need a good plot and Silver Phoenix has that in spades. Its a bit supernatural and a bit mystery with wonderful undertones of friendship mixed with a dash of romantic tension. I became so invested in this story that I lost track of the world around me and essentially devoured this book in just a few hours. This is such a rarity for me these days as I’m easily distracted by modern technology and the telly. Ai Ling is such a strong character and she kept facing all these creatures that I couldn’t stop turning pages to learn why it all was. Throughout the book Pon leaves little breadcrumbs and hints as to what is to come but never enough to make the story predictable. Can you guess the outcome of the book, yes, or at least I could for the most part. But Silver Phoenix isn’t really about the how it ends but the journey to get there.
I have to admit my readings of books based in China (even loosely as this one is) so I don’t know a ton about the rituals and culture. Cindy Pon does a great job of weaving in all the histories and expectations of the time without bogging the story down in details. So you can learn without realizing that you are learning something. I loved the history and how Pon wove in the various myths and legends from the east in a really seamless way. While reading the book it all felt real and I was able to push reality aside and imagine myself in Ai Ling’s world. Although one tradition I’m glad Pon didn’t explore was footbinding….ouch! I read one book (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan) a few years back that had long descriptions of the process and my feet STILL ache.
My one regret is that it took me so long to read Silver Phoenix. Although a small part of me is glad because now I have only a short time to wait until its sequel, Fury of the Phoenix, is available. I am DYING to get my hands on this book. I need more of Ai Ling and Chen Yong as I did not like how Pon left things at the end of Silver Phoenix. Not that it was a bad ending, because it wasn’t. It was a very good ending and perfect for the story. But for me it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t ready to leave their story so I am glad that it will be continuing on in another book. You can be sure that as soon as I get my hands on a copy that I will be reading it! Just as I strongly suggest for all of you to run out and grab a copy of Silver Phoenix and read it. Its well worth the time especially for all of you out there who love mythological based stories. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with this one. I know I wasn’t.