starlady: the philosopher's garden (obligatory china icon)
Pon, Cindy. Fury of the Phoenix. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2011.

Disclaimer: The author is a friend of mine.

I liked the first of Cindy Pon's alt-China YA fantasy books, Silver Phoenix, very much, although it took me eons to get around to reading this book, the direct sequel. Fury of the Phoenix follows Ai Ling and Chen Yong as they journey to Jiang Dao to find his father, as well as Ai Ling's enemy Zhong Ye three hundred years in the past as he meets Ai Ling's past self Silver Phoenix and strives to climb the ladder of court rank in the Emperor's palace.

Silver Phoenix was great because it was such a frenetic, awesome story, and while a lot of what I liked about Ai Ling still shines through in this volume, giving half the story to Zhong Ye takes away from spending time in her perspective and on the whole this book feels a little bit more conventional than the first one. That said, it's still definitively a China-that-never-was fantasy with accurate cultural details, a strong female protagonist and a very frank attitude towards bodily appetites (food and sex) that I found refreshing. I also liked how even the characters of the cod!European country, Jiang Dao, were dealt with fairly while keeping the perspective very much through Ai Ling's Xian eyes.

Cindy tells me that she has just turned in another book set in Xia. I can't wait to read it.
starlady: the philosopher's garden (obligatory china icon)
Pon, Cindy. Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia. New York: Greenwillow, 2009.

I really enjoyed this book; in point of fact I devoured it in one and a half sittings, which is unusually fast even for me.

Ai Ling lives in an out of the way town in a fantastic Sung dynasty China, the doted-on only child of her father, a former high government official to whose name scandal still clings; thus after Ai Ling fails to secure a betrothal and her father is summoned back to court, she and her mother have no one to turn to when a wealthy merchant decides that Ai Ling has the womb to bear him a son and tries to force her into becoming his fourth wife via a forged debt obligation. Rather than place her mother in an impossible position, Ai Ling leaves home in an attempt to find her father at the imperial palace. Along the way she meets Chen Yong, the half-foreigner son of an imperial concubine, who has his own reasons for accompanying her. Things get interesting even before Chen Yong's younger (adopted) brother Li Rong joins them; Ai Ling, not to put too fine a point on it, attracts the attention of demons repeatedly, and her learning to deal with them, to master her own powers, and about her past and destiny is the meat of the novel.

Phoenix in flight ) Silver Phoenix is an awesome book and a truly Chinese fantasy, and I am very much looking forward to the sequel, Fury of the Phoenix, despite the fact that Greenwillow, in an effort to boost sales, has redesigned and whitewashed the covers of both of Pon's books.

It's still possible to buy the unwhitewashed edition of Silver Phoenix new at Amazon, thereby boosting Pon's sales figures, and if you want to try the book out first you can read the first 70 pages here. Or view the book trailer below! Happy reading.


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