Friday, June 12, 2009

Book Review: Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

I noticed in interviews, Cindy Pon would refer to the book's blurb to describe the work, so I'm following that example. Here's the publisher's blurb, which evokes an action film:

On the day of her first betrothal meeting - and rejection - Ai Ling discovers a power welling deep within her. She can reach into other people's spirits and hear their thoughts, see their dreams...and that's just the beginning. 

Ai Ling has been marked by the immortals; her destiny lies in the emperor's palace, where a terrible evil has lived stealing souls for centuries.  She must conquer this enemy and rescue her captive father, while mythical demons track her every step.  And then she meets Chen Yong, a young man with a quest of his own, whose fate is intertwined with hers.  Here is a heart-stopping, breathtaking tale of action, fantasy, and romance - of anything with the making of legend. 

To watch a trailer of the book, click here or visit

Review of Silver Phoenix: beyond the Kingdom of Xia by Cindy Pon

Ai Ling is a young girl who is raised differently from most girls.   Her father had been a respected member of the Emperor's court and given his daughter the best education possible.  Not only can Ai Ling read and write with a beautiful hand, she is familiar with the most sacred texts. Despite her education and skills,  Ai Ling is still subject to society's rules and finds herself betrothed to a well positioned young man whom she has not met.

At the betrothal meeting, Ai Ling finds that she has the ability to hear people's thoughts.  She hides her gift, but Ai Ling is considered an unsuitable match and is humiliated.  Her bad fortune does not end there. As her parents search for a replacement match for Ai Ling, her father must suddenly journey to the Emperor's court.  Before he leaves, he bestows on his daughter a special pendant to keep her safe.   When he fails to return, Ai Ling and her mother have no one to turn to.  Ai Ling is unable to solve their problems in the village and undertakes a quest to find her father and bring him home safely.

During this journey, Ai Ling befriends Chen Yong, a half Xian and half Western young man who is on a quest to learn more about his parents, and Li Rong, Chen Yong's adoptive brother.  Together the friends encounters mythical beasts and dangerous enemies and must face challenges that they had not imagined and could not have prepared for.   

Set in the Kingdom of Xia, the tale appears to takes place in a mythical world similar to the era of the 16 Kingdoms of China between 407 AD to 431 AD.

To be honest, I had been very excited about the book even before I had the chance to read it.   A young adult fantasy novel set in Ancient China with a young, smart and brave Chinese heroine on a quest to save her father from an evil presence in the Emperor's Court!?  Count me in, I thought!  Growing up, I hadn't read that many books that were set in Asia or had strong women heroines.   I had read The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, but the heroine there is worlds apart for Ai Ling. 

While reading the book, I was very conscious that it had a young heroine whose family helped her develop her intellect and strength.  Ai Ling was strong and had confidence in her abilities - this helps her through the trials ahead.  I also got a kick out of how much the book reflected the flora, fauna, food and possibly myths of China so naturally in its references to images, scents and atmosphere.  For instance,  Ai Ling's betrothed was "a bamboo of a boy, the barely green type, with large almond eyes in a pale face."   I'd be the first to admit that it's a bit silly to be happy that Ai Ling had dried mangoes and dried squid in her traveling pack and that she craved pork buns, hand pulled noodles, dumplings, and duck, but I was!  I couldn't help but notice that even the scents and jewelry were Asian, from Ai Ling's mother's the gardenia oil and jade hairpin to the peonies that inspired Ai Ling to paint.  Food  and smells evoke memories and location in my mind and have appeared effectively in many of my favorite novels,  so these descriptions resonated with me and was just another reason for me to chuckle while reading Silver Phoenix.

But putting aside my excitement to have an Asian heroine, I enjoyed the book for many other reasons.  The writing was so clear and effective without being overdone.   The characters were well established, seemed so natural and were so simpatico that I was on their side from the start.  The kingdom of Xia was unique and well developed as a whole new world inhabited by demons and fantasy creatures that were different from the usual fantasy mold.   Plus, the journey was action packed - I found myself constantly waiting for the next phase in their adventure to see how Ai Ling, Chen Yong and Li Rong would respond.  

I highly recommend Silver Phoenix to anyone that likes adventure and fantasy stories.  It's a book that I intend to give to my niece and friends' kids once they get older.   It's a keeper!

Publisher: Harper Teen (April 28, 2009), 352 pages.

To visit Cindy Pon's website and blog click here or visit

To read a few interviews with Cindy Pon and learn more about her writing process,  Silver Phoenix, and bringing the book to fruition,  visit these sites and links :

Jen  Hayley on Jan 21, 2009 - click here or visit

Writing the Renaissance on April 21, 2009 - click here or visit

The Enchanted Inkpot on April 28, 2009 - click here or visit

Frenetic Reader on April 29, 2009 - click here or visit

Authors on the Verge on April 30, 2009 - click here or visit

Authors Now! on May 1, 2009 - click here or visit

Into the Wardrobe on May 18, 2009 - click here or visit  

The Ya Ya Yas on May 21, 2009 - click here or visit

Writing It Out on May 22, 2009 - click here or visit

The Five Randoms on May 29, 2009  - click here or visit


  1. It was fun to read your review, though I know as little of this author as I know of you! But things progress.

    your friend from Most Frequent Blogger Questions, Ron