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Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia Hardcover – April 28, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up—At 17, Ai Ling is past the age when most girls in the kingdom of Xia have married and borne children. The gods, it would seem, have a different destiny in store for her, one that begins to reveal itself when her father travels to the Emperor's Palace and fails to return. Ai Ling is determined to find him and destroy his captor, a corrupt advisor who has unnaturally extended his life by feeding on the souls of others. On her journey, which is rich in action but a little slight on character development, Ai Ling meets Chen Yong, a young man of mixed race who seeks the truth of his birth and faces a variety of predators, both demonic and sexual. Fans of Tamora Pierce's and Robin McKinley's work will enjoy the adventure and strong female protagonist; the Chinese-influenced society and bestiary may also tempt aficionados of Asian culture and media.—Christi Esterle, Parker Library, CO
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* If the cover image of a fearless Chinese heroine reminds readers of such films as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, that’s intentional; the story inside will, too. First-time novelist Pon has a screenwriter’s talent for producing a sweeping saga, and in this, the first of two books set in ancient China, 17-year-old Ai Ling faces demons, monsters, and gods as she tries to fulfill her destiny. Frightened after a local man tries to blackmail her into marriage, Ai Ling resolves to journey to the emperor’s palace, where her missing father was last seen. Along the way, she meets the handsome Chen Yong, who is of mixed parentage and on a quest to find answers to questions about his family that have haunted him his whole life. (In the story’s prologue, readers get hints about his origins.) As in most martial-arts movies, the story sometimes takes a backseat to the action, but Pon doesn’t stint when it comes to her characters. Ai Ling is a clever and determined heroine, Chen’s younger brother is a witty teen whose girl-crazy ways transcend the centuries, and even the monsters have dimension. Pon’s writing, both fluid and exhilarating, shines whether she’s describing a dinner delicacy or what it feels like to stab an evil spirit in the gut. There’s a bit of sex here, including a near rape, but it’s all integral to a saga that spins and slashes as its heroine tries to find her way home. Grades 9-12. --Ilene Cooper

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Product Details

  • Series: Silver Phoenix (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwillow Books; 1 edition (April 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061730211
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061730214
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,730,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It's possible I'm being more harsh on this book than I would have been if I hadn't read such glowing reviews before hand. Maybe my expectations were too high, so take everything I write in this review with a grain of salt.

The Awesome:

Excellent world-building.

Without giving away a major plot point, I'll just say that reading this book really made me want to hear the story of the Silver Phoenix.

The lead is a kick-butt female with a cool power.

The Not-Perfect:

Throughout the entire book, I didn't really get a sense of who the villain was and what the motivations for attacking Ai Ling throughout the book were; I didn't really feel like we got to know the villain(s) well enough to fear them. I know it's explicitly spelled out for us near the end, but that seemed too late. I think it could have helped tie together some of the events of the book so they seemed less like a series of episodes and more like a complete story.

Ai Ling's power seems to work a little too well for someone who is making it up as she goes along.

The Up-To-Personal-Taste:

I wouldn't call this story romantic in any way. I read reviews that mentioned romance, and so was disappointed to find that though there are two people who have feelings for each other, that relationship is not really explored, and it's left unresolved at the end. I don't hold it against the book that it wasn't romantic, more against the reviews that mentioned a romance that isn't really a *romance.* Unresolved sexual tension? Yes. Romance? No.

All that being said, if a prequel is ever written about the Silver Phoenix I will definitely read it. If more is written about Ai Ling, I'll probably read that too. This book was a nice change of pace from the more euro-centric fantasies I generally read.
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Format: Hardcover
Gold Star Award Winner!

From the beginning, Ai Ling has lived life differently from most young women in Xia. Born of parents who married for love, she is a cherished only child in a society that prizes sons, educated by her scholarly father and, as she comes of age, the ability to sense the thoughts of those around her.

When her father is called to the Palace of Fragrant Dreams expecting to be away no longer than two months, he leave his daughter with two things: a green jade pendant carved with the character "spirit" and the reminder that she is special beyond the belief held by a doting father.

A woman traveling alone is a dangerous undertaking, but more than three months pass and an opportunistic merchant tries to force her into an unwanted marriage, and Ai Ling knows that she must journey to the Palace herself and bring her father home. Attack by an unknown, dark force brings rescue and a traveling companion in the form of nineteen-year-old Chen Yong, a young man also searching for his father.

It is only after another attack, the counsel of Master Tan, and a glimpse at The Book of The Dead, that Ai Ling truly begins to grasp the enormity of her power and the menace she faces. Joined by Chen Wong's brother, the outrageously flirtatious Li Rong, the three teenagers embark on a pilgrimage that will lead to the gods themselves...and eventually to a confrontation with an evil sorcerer Ai Ling has (unknowingly) faced before.

Where do I start with all the things I love about Cindy Pon's debut fantasy SILVER PHOENIX? Finally, a novel based on Chinese legends and myth rather than the same, tired rehash of Celtic and other western European folklore. I relished Ms.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
3.5 stars

Hmm... Silver Phoenix, for me, was kind of a mixed bag. I was strongly attracted by the fantasy imperial China setting and enjoyed all the unique "sights" so to speak (and the tastes, while we're at it! The food descriptions are sumputuous throughout~), but the story overall felt a little disjointed to me. I didn't feel much of a sense of urgency for Ai Ling's quest throughout the story, even when--logically--I knew there was a lot at stake (e.g. her dad is missing, maybe dead; her household is running out of money; perverts keep pressuring Ai Ling to marry them, etc). There was just something about the narrative that left me feeling strangely detached.

My other big "huh?" moment comes from this huge and sudden turnaround in the story halfway through it. At almost exactly its midpoint, the Actual Quest (featuring the Final Villain) abruptly kicks in in a *literally* deus ex machina way (a flying dragon appears in our heroes' path to take them up to the Heavenly Mountain where a goddess appears and conveniently Explains All about the Final Villain, the goal and stakes of The Quest, etc, in one fell swoop).

That said, this sudden-turnaround was kind of where the story came to life for me. Fun but somewhat extraneous characters quickly exit, and the story shifts from Merry Band Journeying Through Monster-ridden Countryside to kind of a Chinese mythology phantasmagoria version of Alice in Wonderland, with our heroine and company traveling through truly wondrous and strange new lands (which, sadly, don't all get fleshed out).
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