Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon a review
Being a huge fan of Wuxia (Asian Martial Arts Fantasy), and Asian themed novels, I am always on the look out for new books to read. In a few of the recommended reading lists that I have looked at, Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon has been listed several times as a good choice. So having finally finished reading this novel, here are my thoughts on what I thought was an enjoyable book.
Silver Phoenix is the first book in a series of books called the Kingdom of Xia ( the second book in the series is called Fury of the phoenix was released in 2011). It is set in what I feel to be the Late Ming early Qing period of China yet the world is pure fantasy. The Story revolves around a free spirited, intelligent seventeen year old girl named Ai Ling who is forced to find her father who went missing when he went to the palace of fragrant dreams. As she starts her journey she is noticing that she has a mysterious power that has awakened with in her. Along the way she teams up with a young man with a mysterious past of his own named Chen Yong who is on a quest for his own reasons. But the journey is a perilous one filled with monsters and mystical creatures that she had read from a forbidden text called the Book of the Dead that Ai Ling thought were only folktales and myths.
The novel itself makes for light reading. It’s pace and feel is defiantly that of a young adult novel, although content wise I feel this book is better suited for the 16 + crowd as a few scenes were a bit more adult in nature. It would have been nice if the novel was fleshed out more as I see plenty of potential in her craft, like for instance I did notice that there was very little in the way of Character growth through out the novel. Also the magic system wasn’t as strong as it could have been .
Where the real strength lies with this novel is in the detail and descriptions of the monsters and mythical creatures. The character Ai Ling always sited the fictitious Book of the Dead as a reference to what these creatures and myths were and you would think that the book really existed. From reading the appendix, Cindy Pon noted that reading Richard E Strassberg’s A Chinese Bestiary: Strange creatures from the guide-ways through mountains and seas (which is one of the better translations of the ancient text the Shan Hai Jing), was a major inspiration on her novel , and it shows. I was so taken with the descriptions that it inspired me to actually seek out a translation of the Shan Hai Jing for myself.
Over all this was a good read if you are looking for an exotic dark fantasy set in a different realm. I am looking forward to reading the second novel in her series Fury of the Phoenix.
Here is a couple of translations of the Shan Hai Jing if you wanted to see what inspired Cindy Pon
This was the book Cindy used as inspiration for the creatures in her novel
Here is another translation that I found which is a bit abridged with better price point