Title: Silver Phoenix
Author: Cindy Pon
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Publication Date: April 28, 2009
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.
Since seeing this book floating around on the blogosphere and getting pretty good reviews and also seeing the beautiful and unique cover, I wanted to read it. I got that chance when I won this book in a contest.
I thought Pon's writing was very tight, simple and elegant. I really thought it was an enjoyable read from that perspective. She creates a unique world, perhaps an alternate history or something totally new, I can't be sure. It had a very historical feel to it with magic tied in. I really liked the mythology of the world; the forces of good and evil, the mortal world and the afterlife.
The main character, Ai Ling, is a strong young woman. She's really a great heroine in the story who is smart and brave. We are with her when she discovers her powers early on and with her as she learns how to use them while trying to find her father. She meets Chen Yong, a young man on his own journey. Between them there is a slight romance. I really expected more and thought the book could have benefited for more on that aspect (since when do I want MORE romance?) because there was a lot of romantic tension but I think there was not a lot given in the end to the reader; we don't see the romance resolve into anything.
Another aspect I think fell short for me was the interaction of characters and the story itself. For the character relationships, I thought the conversations between the main three characters were stiff and uninspiring. I wanted more. I figure the characters were acting as they should act in their world, but I needed more to really connect with them. I felt like everything was very formal and was never able to become more than that. For the plot, I liked the ending, but for most of the book I felt like there wasn't a distinct direction and it left me wondering where everything was going.
Overall, I liked the idea behind this book and I thought it was a decent read. I read it in one day and it entertained me enough but never quite was able to go beyond that. I would be interested to read more from this author because I think she has something good going on but I would hope these types of issues I mentioned would be resolved for further books. C+