Title: Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia
Author: Cindy Pon
Genre: Young Adult
Publication Date: 2010
Ai Ling’s betrothal has just fallen through. Too tall, according to her would-be mother-in-law. Not that she said this out loud — Ai Ling could hear the woman’s thoughts. And that’s not the only weird thing that’s been happening lately.
First Ai Ling’s father goes to visit the Palace of Fragrant Dreams, and is gone for months. Then the town’s biggest lech shows up at the family’s door, claiming that her father owes him money — but he’ll be happy to take Ai Ling as payment. The amulet Ai Ling’s father gave her is glowing rather ominously, and demons that she thought only existed in stories suddenly start appearing around every corner.
With the help of several unlikely friends—each of whom have secrets of their own—Ai Ling must travel to the Palace of Fragrant Dreams to save her father…and possibly the entire kingdom.
I came into Silver Phoenix with fairly high expectations; I’d read several good reviews at various blogs that I follow, and I’ve come to trust that those reviewers’ tastes are similar to my own. I need to remember to take every review with a grain of salt.
I can’t really put my finger on why I didn’t like this book. It could be because I didn’t feel that much connection to the characters; or that even though the book is set in the fictional land of Xia, there’s so much Chinese and made-up world mythology involved that I was more interested in that, than in the actual story.
It’s the first in a series, and suffers from a lot of the pitfalls of other firsts: all the main characters have to be introduced, the series’ plot has to be hinted at while not getting in the way of the plot of this book, etc. There’s lots of exposition and things that are meant to catch the reader’s attention and pull them into the puzzle (so they’ll keep reading the series), and I don’t think there was enough resolution to satisfy me. I don’t think I’ll finish the series.
Do you think I’m totally off? Is there something that I’m missing that makes this story great? Let me know in the comments.