Review of Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon. ★★1/2
A YA fantasy adventure with trigger warnings for sexual assault.
Silver Phoenix is the story of Ai Ling, a girl who goes on a journey to find her missing father and to escape an unwanted marriage at home. Along the way, she faces takes from numerous demons and discovers a strange power within her self.
For the most part, Silver Phoenix was readable. It even ventured towards enjoyable in some sections, but ultimately it’s not a book I have any desire to read the sequel of or even to hang onto my copy.
The writing is very simplistic and reminds me of a middle grade novel more than a young adult one. However, the level of sexual harassment and the attempted rapes put this firmly out of the middle school age zone.
The setting of Silver Phoenix, Xia, is very patriarchal. Girls are forced into arranged marriages and are usually not allowed to leave the house. Throughout the book, Ai Ling is repeatedly harassed and almost raped twice. It’s frequent enough to be a drinking game.
The plot itself didn’t stand together very well, especially at first. the events don’t really seem connected to each other or add drive to the plot. The scenes (mainly of various demon attacks) feel stringed together and don’t really add up to a whole. Not to mention that Ai Ling, the protagonist, doesn’t really do much for the majority of the book. Mainly things have happened to her, and what she ends up causing is mainly a result of her magic amulet (until the end, when she finally has to stop relying on it).
On the positive side, I liked Ai Ling more by the end and the love interest was decent throughout. I was initially off put by a major character death, but I liked the way that wrapped up.
So, I don’t really know who I’d recommend this one to or if I would recommend it. Maybe if you’re looking for Asian themed fantasy books?
These are the three covers available for Silver Phoenix. The far right is the original US cover, while the far left is the paperback US cover. The middle is a foreign edition, I think. Notice how on the original cover Ai Ling is specifically presented as Asian (which she is) and how the cover was then changed to make her look like a goth white girl? You can read the author’s response, in which she basically says that the story is what matters to her, and if the whitewashed cover will help her reach a larger audience, she’s good with it.
On the artistic side of things, the middle cover is by far my favorite. I really like the composition and how it just blends together well. I dislike both other covers. The paperback is so stereotypical and looks like the innumerable hoards of urban fantasy. It’s not even well made! The jade necklace is a disgusting neon green, and I hate the obscuring of her face.
The hardback cover has some issues with edges. Some are really hard and clearly cut out, while others have been blurred into oblivion. There’s no coordination among all the different elements here, and instead of working with lighting and color to unite the piece, things were just blurred together or airbrushed. In my opinion, the result’s a mess.