Pon, Cindy. Silver Phoenix. Greenwillow Books. 2009. ISBN 0061730211
Reader’s Annotation: When Ai Ling’s father fails to return from a journey to the Emperor’s palace she sets out on a journey to rescue him. Along the way she meets Chen Yong who is on a quest of his own. Together with his support and her own growing powers can she battle demons and other creatures she thought only existed in legends?
Plot Summary: Ai Ling has been rejected as a bride by several suitors and is despairing over bringing disgrace to her parents and yet she cannot help but be happy she will not yet be to a husband’s whims and needs. She is satisfied to live in her childhood home with her parents until one day Ai Ling’s father does not return from a journey to the Emperor’s palace. She sets out to rescue her father and along the way meets Chen Yong, a half-Xian who is on a journey of his own to find his birth parents. Both finds out that evil creatures and demons that they thought only existed in legends really do exist and are targeting Ai Ling and those she calls friends. Can she vanquish the evil that has targeted her and rescue her father?
This book brings fantasy and mythological creatures to life as readers follow Ai Ling along her quest to rescue her father. Ai Ling combines great spunk, bravery and a dose of naiveness thrown in to make her that much more relatable. Chen Yong and his brother Li Rong were both wonderful characters. Chen Yong’s steadiness and strength in face of the difficulties his mixed heritage brings him endears him to the reader and one can’t help but love Li Rong’s never ending cheerfulness and quips.
While the story moves along quickly and the myriad of creatures Ai Ling faces are fascinating it was almost as if there was too much thrown together without enough explanation. It seems strange that this man who is obsessed with one day reuniting with Ai Ling seems unaware of her presence while his consort is busy throwing one evil creature after another to kill her. Who is this consort and why does she have so much control over these creatures? Another question is besides being “protective” what powers does Ai Ling’s jade necklace really possess? It seems like it can toss people around on a whim, beat people up and yet when she most needs it she decides the necklace would no longer be able to help her. Why? And then there is the question of Ai Ling’s own powers that even the Immortals claim to have no knowledge of. Where did these powers come from?
This is a fun book to read especially those looking for a fantasy book that is not Westernized. It gives an interesting look inside the culture of ancient China and will peak the reader’s curiosity to learn more about the culture.
About the author
Silver Phoenix was Cindy Pon’s debut novel and was followed up with the sequel, Fury of the Phoenix in 2011. According to her website Cindy makes her home in San Diego, California and is a student of Chinese brush painting and is currently working on a children’s book.
There was some controversy when Silver Phoenix was re-released with a new cover that many considered as “whitewashed”. Cindy shared her feelings in a blog post stating that while she was disappointed she understood why it was done. The original cover was very different from anything else on the shelves of bookstores and it could potentially put off readers who labeled the book as too much of an Asian fantasy. She did appreciate that her publisher was trying to reach a wider audience by repackaging the book.
Diversity of cultures
Book talking idea
Talk about the cultural restrictions of females in this society.
Discuss what it would be like growing up in an adopted family and being of mixed heritage in a culture where this is looked down upon.
Grade 9 and up
Why did I include this book?
I included this book because I wanted to read a book written about a culture and history that is not US or American centric. This book also caught my attention due to some controversy over the “white-washing” of the book cover to try and make it more visually appealing to consumers.