Silver Phoenix has been on my radar for a while, but I never found it in book stores. Eventually I ordered it on Amazon. It rose to the top of my TBR pile when I heard about the controversy over the new cover and I learned that Barnes & Noble and Borders never ordered the book with the original cover because it was too Asian.
Well some really smart people lament this horrible example of institutional racism better than I can. But I just want to say, this book-buying-white-girl loved Silver Phoenix in all its Chinese splendor.
Ai Ling is the daughter of a scholar who was exiled from the Emperor's palace before she was born. She wants to be a good daughter and honor her parents, but she has qualms about entering into an arranged marriage. Unlike most girls in Xia, Ai Ling can read and write. Without her father's knowledge, she's read all about mythical monsters in The Book of the Dead.
Ai Ling's father is summoned to the palace, but gives her a jade pendant before he goes. When he doesn't return, Ai Ling decides to travel to the palace and bring him home. So what if decorum dictates that single women shouldn't travel alone?
On her journey, Ai Ling discovers the monsters from The Book of the Dead are much more than myths. Ai Ling survives a demon attach thanks to her jade pendant and the courage of her spirit.
While traveling, Ai Ling crosses paths with Chen Yong, a young man whose fate has been intertwined with hers since before she was born. They continue towards the palace together and embark on an adventure to fulfill their destinies.
I love how Ai Ling is a kick-ass heroine in a world that expects women to be seen and not heard. Sure Chen Yong saves her the first time they meet, but pretty soon she does most of the saving and ass kicking. I also loved the reincarnation/ancestor-worship/spiritual stuff interwoven throughout the fantasy.
In some ways this is a road-trip story. Some friends travel to the palace and of course get side-tracked and have adventures along the way. Of course, it's also a coming-of-age story as Ai Ling discovers her own strength. I love how Ai Ling is not shy about eating and the descriptions of food made my mouth water. The sexual tension between Ai Ling and Chen Yong definitely left me hankering for the sequel, Fury of the Phoenix.
Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon is a great fantasy and a quick read. Buy the beautiful original cover before they're all gone!