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4.3 9
by Cindy Pon

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Inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology, this sweeping fantasy is set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns 16, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But


Inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology, this sweeping fantasy is set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns 16, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell. When her plight can no longer be denied, Skybright learns that despite a dark destiny, she must struggle to retain her sense of self – even as she falls in love for the first time.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Returning to the world of Silver Phoenix (2009), Pon adeptly weaves together fantasy elements and Chinese traditions and folklore in this coming-of-age fantasy. Growing up in Yuan Manor has been good for Skybright, a foundling orphan who was taken in by a wealthy family. Though her role is that of a handmaid to daughter Zhen Ni, the two girls have been best friends since birth. When a seer arrives from the capital, Skybright's future proves to be as murky as her past, with Madame Lo "unable to see her clearly." Soon after, Skybright is shocked one night when she transforms (temporarily) into a serpent demon, "a thick serpent coil snak behind her, where her legs should have been." With a war between the demons looming, Skybright learns to embrace her demon side, striking a balance between her newfound duties as leader and the normalcy of her previous life. Action, secrets, love, and a search for identity combine in a powerful tale about what ensues when the underworld and the real world collide. Ages 12–up. Agent: Bill Contardi, Brandt & Hochman. (Sept.)
From the Publisher

“The economical narrative conjures an entire world, drenched in color and texture and scent, rich in evocative mythology and heady action, and filled with vivid characters . . . A fast-paced and engrossing read for anyone weary of the same old hackneyed storylines.”  —Kirkus Reviews

"Serpentine's world oozes with lush details and rich lore, and the characters crackle with life. This is one story that you'll want to lose yourself in."  —Marie Lu, author, Prodigy

“Vivid worldbuilding, incendiary romance, heart-pounding action, and characters that will win you over--I highly recommend Serpentine.”   —Cinda Williams Chima, author, The Warrior Heir

"Serpentine is unique and surprising, with a beautifully-drawn fantasy world that sucked me right in! I love Skybright's transformative power, and how she learns to take charge of it.”  — Kristin Cashore, author, Bitterblue

“YA fans will love Pon's storytelling ability and the immersion into a world filled with love, danger, and fantasy. Readers will be begging for a sequel to find out what happens to these intriguing characters.”  —School Library Journal

VOYA, October 2015 (Vol. 38, No. 4) - Diane Colson
Skybright knows very little of her own origin. Abandoned as an infant on the doorstep of the powerful Yuan family, she knows life only as the maidservant of their daughter, Zhen Ni. The two girls grew up as the closest of friends, but adolescence drives a wedge between them, as for the first time each has something to hide. For Zhen Ni, it is a forbidden love affair with another girl. And for Skybright, it is her body’s terrifying transformation into a serpent. In this world, such animal demons exist, but not as shape-shifters like Skybright. She finds some understanding in another misfit, Kai Sen, a handsome would-be monk who has his own inexplicable abilities. The pair falls in love. It is hardly a good time for romance, however, as hundreds of undead have returned from the grave, and both Kai Sen and Skylight play important roles in the battle against them. This fast-paced fantasy adventure is set in an ancient China of folklore, the same land as Pon’s previous books. Pon’s descriptive writing conjures precise images, as in when describing Skybright’s transformation from human to serpent: “Smooth scales rippled over her human flesh, like dragonfly wings fluttering their way from her feet to cover her abdomen.”At its core, the novel is about friendship, loyalty, and self-acceptance, with characters as delightfully real as any in the realm of young adult literature. Reviewer: Diane Colson; Ages 12 to 18.
School Library Journal
★ 07/01/2015
Gr 9 Up—Skybright never knew her parents. She was raised by an affluent Chinese family who took her into their home to be a handmaid to their daughter, Zhen Ni. The two grew up as close as sisters, best friends and confidants who shared everything. Skybright loves her mistress, but as both girls grow up, changes start to occur. While Zhen Ni finds love in a new friendship, Skybright discovers a new side of herself, one filled with darkness. She fights to balance her duties, the love she has for another, and this evil within herself. Skybright struggles to maintain her true self, as well as to hide what she is becoming from her closest friend. The teen doesn't know who she is anymore. Is she a servant, a friend, a lover, or a demon? Could she be all of these things, or must she choose one? This coming-of-age story takes readers on a fantastical journey through friendship and Chinese mythology. YA fans will love Pon's storytelling ability and the immersion into a world filled with love, danger, and fantasy. VERDICT Readers will be begging for a sequel to find out what happens to these intriguing characters.—Jessica Strefling, US Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit Library
Kirkus Reviews
Pon returns to Xia, a realm inspired by Chinese folklore and introduced in Silver Phoenix (2009), for the first in a duology. Abandoned at birth, Skybright feels lucky to be handmaid to the wealthy, vivacious Zhen Ni, who for 16 years has treated her more as beloved sister than servant. Yet Sky, already bitter with jealousy over her mistress's new companion and passionately enamored of the charming monk-in-training Kai Sen, hides a dreadful secret: at night, she transforms into a demon, half human, half monstrous crimson serpent. As Sky learns more about her extraordinary origins from the enigmatic immortal Stone, she realizes that the breach between the underworld and the land of the living endangers everything she holds dear. The economical narrative conjures an entire world, drenched in color and texture and scent, rich in evocative mythology and heady action, and filled with vivid characters. Skybright makes a refreshing heroine, both fiercely loyal and eminently practical, ready to exploit her supernatural powers while insisting on her inherent humanity. Her steamy, nigh-instantaneous (and eventually consummated) romance with Kai Sen still appears intimate and tender, even as her unwilling attraction to Stone suggests a classic love triangle. But the dominant theme remains her deep friendship with Zhen Ni, with all its complications of class, amorous entanglements, and imminent demon invasion. A fast-paced and engrossing read for anyone weary of the same old hackneyed storylines. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Product Details

Month9Books, LLC
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)
870L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Cindy Pon is a writer and a longtime student of Chinese brush painting. She is the author of Fury and the Phoenix and Silver Phoenix, which was named one of Booklist’s Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth, and one of 2009's best Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror by VOYA. She lives in Southern California.

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Serpentine 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I dont know much about the Chinese fantasy tradition, but I loved being introduced to a new form of fantasy with different tropes. So refreshing! I highly recommend reading this book.
ChristinaReadsYA More than 1 year ago
For the world within Serpentine, Cindy Pon gives plenty of details that create an atmosphere of a distinctly different time and culture and help settle you into her fascinating world. The lush atmosphere is reminiscent of older fantasy narratives. In these narratives, I have never had trouble picturing what the characters were doing - the details of their everyday lives had been mapped out. Pon does this well in Serpentine: you can imagine the food and clothing as well as Skybright as she routinely wakes to help Zhen Liu, her mistress but almost adopted sister. But don't let my praise fool you: though the lush atmosphere is wonderfully established with evocative details, the plot is not bogged down by those details; it's fast-paced and full of action. The plot and atmosphere enhance one another and showcase Pon's beautiful, sweeping writing style. Atmosphere and culture? Check. World-building? Also check. I do not know much of Chinese folklore and mythology, but what Pon introduced in this novel made me WANT to know so much more. The underworld, Skybright's power, the monastery, and more. The way Pon incorporates these elements is also particularly fresh. This story is about a girl whose life is changed when she comes into an extraordinary power, yet there are no info dumps that I can recall about her power. Everything is smoothly settled into the plot and character development. Skybright is determined enough to take charge of her own destiny, and you as a reader are along for that ride without pause. Skybright is perhaps what I enjoyed most from Serpentine: her voice is a particular treat to read...Skybright is selfless on a day to day basis as a handmaid to her good friend and mistress, Zhen Liu. While many other characters might bemoan the circumstances surrounding their mysterious fate, Skybright learns how to control her power without faltering in her daily duties. Her quiet strength, determination and dedication add an interesting, fresh lens unseen in YA. Fighting otherworldly creatures is portrayed in a distinctive manner for her coming-of-age, as is the evolution of Skybright's friendship with Zhen Liu. If you enjoyed reading about the strong female friendship between Nehemia and Celaena in Throne of Glass, well, this isn't between an assassin and a princess, but Zhen Liu and Skybright are two fierce women in their own right, with an absolutely wonderful bond that is tried but true at its core. At the beginning, Pon discusses how she was inspired by the women in her life. This shows in Serpentine and its heart, the main female friendship and the strong character development for these ladies. Side characters such as Zhen Liu and Kai Sen are developed alongside Skybright's narrative, with stories of their own. Skybright's romance with Kai Sen is intense and intimate; they discuss their lives on a deeper level, and their kisses are imbued with a charged edge because of that emotional connection. If you enjoyed the way the romance was handled in The Hero and The Crown, I believe that you will also enjoy the romance in Serpentine...For all the limitations of Skybright's power, she too is a force to be reckoned with, and others would do well not to underestimate her. ...Once you start reading Serpentine, you won't want to stop... My review is apparently too long for B&N; for full version, see google.
nhr3bookcrazyNR More than 1 year ago
his book was very different than ones I usually read. Based on Chinese mythology, it has shape-shifting, demons, good guys, bad guys, and at the heart of it a deep and abiding friendship between two girls raised as a privileged daughter of the house and an abandoned baby raised to be her handmaiden. It was unique in many ways, and left you ready for the next book to come in the series.
sdanielw More than 1 year ago
I definitely fell in the middle on this one. There were things I loved about it: the relationship between Skybright and her best friend/mistress was great, the world was beautiful, and the ending was unexpected (in a good way. On the other hand, some of the exposition was clumsy and I didn't ship the main pairing at all. I tried, but they seemed completely lacking in chemistry. Overall, definitely a worthwhile read that surprises with an interesting ending. I'd love to see more of Skybright's story.
KarenHallam More than 1 year ago
What a discovery! Such a gorgeously written tale inspired by Chinese Mythology. I loved Cindy Pon's vivid, textured, and multilayered word building. I often felt I was right there in the scene, eating the delicious exotic meals and drinking tea, in a meditation. Only to be swooped into the Fantasy of Skybright, the sixteen-year-old handmaiden to a wealthy family, who discovers her true nature, and what she really is, but she can't let anyone know. Until she meets, a mysterious monk-boy who learns of her true nature and fights for her. Skybright is a strong character, and her devotion and deep love for her mistress, Zhen Ni, is heartwarming, their friendship more as sisters. I loved this book! So rich in detail and character--and then there's the high fantasy! Such a well developed and fantastic world. I cannot wait to read more from Cindy Pon.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this. It reads very easy even with a lot going on. Skybright is a mysterious character and almost all the conflicts in the book stem from it. I'm very into Chinese themed books so this was a great treat and even if you're not into the theme, it can still be very enjoyable. Definitely give it a read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
UncreativelyZoey More than 1 year ago
Reviewing Serpentine is hard because I didn't have particularly strong feelings about it in either direction. In the beginning, I thoroughly enjoyed the writing but wasn't totally invested in the story. And that's pretty much how it went the entire way. The story definitely did get more intriguing, but it didn't feel as if it had enough intricate and fleshed-out details to seem believable, and so instead I found myself rolling my eyes sometimes. Still, the mythology of Serpentine is something I haven't seen a ton of before, which was refreshing. I felt so immersed in the setting and could picture it so easily. The dark forests, the huge manor, the monks right next door. I know I already used the word refreshing, but it applies here as well. Another good thing that Serpentine does? It tells its tale through the handmaiden rather than the privileged girl who owns the handmaiden. It's obviously not the first book to do so, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a nice break from the upper class. However, Skybright and her mistress, Zhen Ni, are practically sisters. They've known each other since they were babies, grown up together. But there's still a pretty big divide, if you ask me. Zhen Ni is still a mistress. Skybright can never herself marry or have children, and sometimes I feel like the book didn't really make a big enough deal of that. Now, those are things that I don't personally want, but the thing is that I have that choice. I have an option to want it, to do it someday. Skybright never has. Nevertheless, Skybright and Zhen Ni have quite a strong connection. Until, of course, they both start keeping their own secrets from each other. You just know that's not going to end well. As characters, I didn't find either of them particularly interesting. Maybe it's because I couldn't connect to them, I don't know. But not a single one of the characters in Serpentine was particularly remarkable to me. I didn't hate them, no. Skybright's love for Zhen Ni and her strength as she dealt with her own changes were important, sure. But beyond that I just . . . didn't care much, I guess. I was intrigued to find out what was going on with Skybright, where the story would go. But that wasn't really about her. The romance is probably where I have the strongest feelings, because it was just so unbelievable to me. It happened too fast and I didn't feel a genuine connection. I rolled my eyes. Quite a bit. They meet and talk a handful of times throughout the entire novel. In the beginning, Skybright sees Kai Sen for the first time from very far away and she suddenly can't stop thinking about him. Which kind of set the tone for the entire romance. And, of course, a third party sort of enters the picture and I just. WHY. NO THANKS. Of course, Serpentine also features a f/f relationship. YAY! FINALLY! I feel as if we didn't see enough of one of the characters involved, but it was still something nice to see, and it actually does play a part. (AKA it doesn't feel as if it was just thrown in to check off a box.) It's so unfamiliar to many of the characters in the book, unacceptable to some. It was a little heartbreaking to see the damage that simple love between two people could cause. Plotwise and in terms of what's happening to Skybright, it had its weak moments and its stronger moments. The stronger moments were definitely at the end where there were a few plot twists. See the full review here! http://uncreativelyzoey.blogspot.com/2015/09/arc-review-serp
chapterxchapter More than 1 year ago
Oh my gosh, where do I start with this review? Serpentine by Cindy Pon was a book that reminded me of reasons why I fell in love with reading to begin with! Author Cindy Pon’s writing completely and utterly drew me into a world filled with magic and Chinese mythology. Honestly, there wasn’t anything that I didn’t love about it. The characters all had personalities of their own that readers will love and hate, and the storyline is one that I just could not get enough of! And the action! Battles between monks and demons? Say whaaaaat? The slice of a sword, the swipe of claws, the screams of pain and the sounds of death…ugh! This book was just…perfection! Imagine being a girl who, on her sixteenth year, learns that she is not exactly who (or what) she thought she was! That the life that she came to accept was nothing compared to the destiny that she was born to become. All her life, Skybright has always been the handmaid to Zhen Liu, the daughter of a very wealthy and prominent family. Where, through the years, the two become as close as sisters. But when the time comes when Zhen Liu must take a husband, secrets unfold, not only for Zhen Liu, but for Skybright herself. Unaware of who her parents were, Skybright has only known the life of being a handmaiden. But suddenly her world is turned upside down when she awakens to find herself with a tale of a serpent with her own upper body. Where rather than walking around, she is slithering along the ground and is able to smell and feel her surroundings in a completely different way. The way in which the author describes her transformations was done on point. I could totally picture Skybright transforming from human to serpentine right before my eyes. I could imagine the pain and fear that goes through Skybright’s head. Her fear of being found out turned into my fear as well! Not only the fear of being found out by her household, but also by being found out by the man that she has feelings for. The question of who to trust is constantly thrown in the picture which had me reading faster and faster to see which way the story would go. With Skybright finding out her lineage, to witnessing such a beautiful friendship, and watching Skybright’s acceptance of her destiny, Serpentine by Cindy Pon is a book that should be on everyone’s list of must reads. For some, the beginning may have been a slow start as the heart of the matter starts to unfold, but for me it was perfection! I was able to absorb myself slowly and more in-depth with the turn of each page. This book is at the top of my MUST READ list. It’s amazing! You definitely need to check it out because OMG! If this book could be turned into a movie as exactly how it played out in my mind, that would be topping on the cake. Fans of fantasy and mythology will devour Serpentine by Cindy Pon. Read this book. Now. Run. Slither away and get a copy ASAP!