A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{June 22, 2011}   Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

Plot: Ai Ling is the only daughter of a great scolar who has fallen out favor with the imperial court. She is raised to be an educated and independent young woman. By all rights she should be married into a good family, bringing honor to her parents. But when her father fails to return from a trip to the capital, Ai Ling sets out on her own to find him. She soon finds herself prey to horrifying mystical creatures. Only her new found psychic powers and her travelling companions, the charming brothers Chen Yong and Li Rong, can help her reach the capital safely.

Note that this is not actually the cover I have but I like it much better so let’s pretend.

Good asian fantasies (as opposed to asian-stereotype fantasies which I’ve learned to dread) are rare so I was thrilled to get my hands on this book. The story reminds me a little of the legend of Mulan: a young girl abandons her traditional place in society and goes off on an adventure to save her father. Add some magic, immortals, evil plots and nice, slowly developping romance and you have Silver Phoenix.

It’s not a perfect book; it has its awkward moments and even the most tragic events lack emotional impact. The Chinese mythology throughout is fascinating but at some point the monster attacks come so often and are over so quickly that I couldn’t work up any interest in them anymore. Even the main villains are disappointing: they seem evil for the sake of being evil and are defeated far too easily. But these flaws can be overlooked, Pon’s book remains a unique and interesting fantasy adventure in a market saturated with urban fantasies.

The book includes a recipe for vegetarian mapo tofu. I haven’t tried it yet but it sounds tasty.

The sequel, Fury of the Phoenix, has just been released. When I met her, Cindy Pon told me that it is actually quite different from the first book but whatever the case, I look forward to continuing the adventures of Ai Ling and Chen Yong.

Challenges: Into the Old World Challenge (28), The East and South East Asian Challenge (1)


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