Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia by Cindy Pon
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.
Silver Phoenix was a magical and heart pounding debut that both enchanted and mesmerized me as I fell head first into the world Cindy Pon has created.
Ai Ling was one kick-butt heroine! She could stand up for herself and her comrades. Ai Ling never backed down from a challenge and spoke her mind with no restraints. After being dishonored by her betrothed and his family, Ai Ling does not have many more marriage prospects. Once her father sets out on a mysterious mission and is gone for months, Ai Ling and her mother are ignored even more. Rather than giving up and resigning herself to keep struggling to make ends meet and avoiding the creepy prospects of a local man, Ai Ling sets out to find her father and bring him home.
Non-stop action and excitement covered the pages of Silver Phoenix. The mythology and traditions included in this novel fascinated me and I was intrigued by the different customs Ai Ling discussed, although some were heartbreaking. The premise of this story was so unique... the secrets Ai Ling uncovered kept the plot moving and so many mysteries tangle together until the end.
Ai Ling encounters some frightening creatures and finds herself the owner of a terrifying new power. Dark forces surround Ai Ling and she doesn't know where to turn. Even though she is on the move with two young men, Ai Ling always protects herself and doesn't back down and expect them to protect her. She was one strong female and made me hope that I would be like that if I was in her shoes.
She has a good friend in fellow outcast, Chen Yong. Together they help each other stay safe and uncover the truth behind many secrets. I loved watching their relationship grow and the fact that they didn't fall instantly in love. Things were slow moving and I want to know more about them in the sequel!
I am sad I waited so long to pick this up because it was one magical and edge-of-my-seat read. I can't wait to see what's next for Ai Ling, Chen Yong, and the rest in the sequel- Fury of the Phoenix. I highly recommend picking up Cindy's debut. It was different from anything I have read before and introduced me to an entirely different culture and mythology.
Overall: 4.5 out of 5 stars
April 28, 2009/HarperTeen/338 Pages/Young Adult/Book One
Source: Traded (ARC)
Other books in the series: Fury of the Phoenix (Kingdom of Xia #2)