Find it at a local indie!
- Why I read it: Author's awesome Twitter presence, Chinese mythology
- Disclosure: From the library.
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.I always approach books by folks I follow on Twitter with more than a little trepidation. I've usually heard so much about their writing process, and have seen the "man behind the curtain," if you will, that it takes away some of the joy of a good story. Also, there's always that lingering question in the back of your mind. What if it just plain sucks?
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.
Well, thankfully, Silver Phoenix didn't suck. At all. Being the first full-on frontal fantasy I've read in awhile - the genre seems to have been almost entirely replaced by the paranormal - it took me awhile to find my stride. Learning an entirely new world is always more difficult than learning one you almost know. But as soon as I moved past the first few chapters, I was completely swept up in Cindy Pon's incredible world. And a burning question sat on the tip of my tongue. Why, exactly, isn't there more Chinese-inspired fantasy? Or Asian-inspired fantasy in general? The success of shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender (if you ignore the abomination of a movie) surely demonstrates that there's a market, right? Who doesn't love reading about dragons and goddesses and places with names like the Palace of Fragrant Dreams? Well. I guess that's a post for another day, but I, for one, found it refreshing to read fantasy with nary an elf nor orc in sight.
Also, the food. Oh my dear sweet goodness, the food. Pon's descriptions border on pornographic for foodies like me, and I turned the last page wanting decent Chinese food SO FREAKING BAD. (I'm still waiting, by the way. All we have around here are really crummy Americanized buffets with Jello and chocolate pudding as the primary offerings.)
Anyway, beyond just food, though that was definitely where it stood out the most, Pon's descriptions made this book for me. Her prose and character development left a little more to be desired - (highlight to read spoiler) I was really, really pissed at how much Ai Ling wants to bring back Li Rong from the dead when that's obviously a stupid idea, and I felt like Zhong Ye's death was hugely anticlimactic - but honestly, I needed a good fantasy read so badly that I didn't really care. Fantasy is rarely about the writing or characters, anyway. Both were decent enough to give us a gorgeous world, and that's what really matters here. I can't wait to return to it in Fury of the Phoenix! Four out of five stars.