Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia
  • Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia
  • Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia

Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia

4.4 49
by Cindy Pon

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No one wanted Ai Ling. And deep down she is relieved—despite the dishonor she has brought upon her family—to be unbetrothed and free, not some stranger's subservient bride banished to the inner quarters.

But now, something is after her. Something terrifying—a force she cannot comprehend. And as pieces of the puzzle start to fit together, Ai

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No one wanted Ai Ling. And deep down she is relieved—despite the dishonor she has brought upon her family—to be unbetrothed and free, not some stranger's subservient bride banished to the inner quarters.

But now, something is after her. Something terrifying—a force she cannot comprehend. And as pieces of the puzzle start to fit together, Ai Ling begins to understand that her journey to the Palace of Fragrant Dreams isn't only a quest to find her beloved father but a venture with stakes larger than she could have imagined.

Bravery, intelligence, the will to fight and fight hard . . . she will need all of these things. Just as she will need the new and mysterious power growing within her. She will also need help.

It is Chen Yong who finds her partly submerged and barely breathing at the edge of a deep lake. There is something of unspeakable evil trying to drag her under. On a quest of his own, Chen Yong offers that help . . . and perhaps more.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Michael Jung
On the day of sixteen-year-old Ai Ling's failed betrothal, she discovers she possesses incredible mental abilities that allow her to read minds and delve into the spirits of others. When her abilities help her learn about lecherous Master Huang's plot to trick her into an unwanted marriage, however, Ai Ling decides to travel to the Palace of Fragrant Dreams and find her missing father—but finds the road to the palace is filled with mythical demons that want to attack her. Using her powers, Ai Ling fights back and receives additional help from Chen Yong, a young man seeking the truth behind his mixed heritage, and his playful brother, Li Rong. When the trio's adventures send them to The Golden Palace of the Immortals, Ai Ling learns her quest is part of a greater destiny that will not only determine her fate but also the fate of countless generations to come. Taiwan-born author Cindy Pon's first young adult novel carries many intricate subplots and is richly adorned with legends, practices, and foods inspired by Chinese myths, culture, and cuisine (although the actual locales and tales are largely Pon's own creations). Character-wise, however, both Ai Ling and Chen Yong are rather stiff figures who possess interesting histories and destinies but often come off like idealized heroes rather than relatable characters. The book is not boring by any means—and certainly showcases genuine writing talent—but requires more refinement to tell the human stories Pon wants to share. Reviewer: Michael Jung
VOYA - Emily Olive Petit
Silver Phoenix has its moments of depth and beauty, but most of it is strange and gruesome and there is nothing particularly gripping about the characters. The prose is occasionally rich and refreshing but more often comes across as plastic. This story, with its setting in ancient China, will appeal more to those seeking a strongly cultural novel than those in want of fantasy. The former would be much better off with Padma Venktraman's Climbing the Stairs. Reviewer: Emily Olive Petit, Teen Reviewer
VOYA - Christina Fairman
Spirit possession, reincarnation, nasty demons, and even a touch of romance permeate this novel set in ancient China. The story follows the young heroine, Ai Ling, across a landscape of altered reality as she searches for her father, who she suspects is a prisoner within the Emperor's palace. Her travels elicit a string of grisly encounters that lead her to the evil Zhong Ye, who has survived for centuries by consuming the souls of unborn children. A terrified Ai Ling finally learns the truth: she is the reincarnation of Silver Phoenix, Zhong Ye's ancient love who has returned to be his wife. Sensitive readers will squirm as Zhong Ye weds Ai Ling and then tries (unsuccessfully) to consummate their marriage against her will. Strong characters and lyrical writing make this story compelling for young adults. The various demons that cross Ai Ling's path during her travels are brilliantly conceived. Violence and some sexual references are relevant to the story and generally teen-appropriate. There is only one small point that bears mentioning: Ai Ling is a strong young woman who defies traditional gender roles, except when she is with her male travel companion, Chen Yong. Their budding romance would be all the more interesting if she were to challenge him a bit more, both through her actions and her observations. It would be satisfying to see the author expand upon Ai Ling's inner strength as she matures in a sequel. Reviewer: Christina Fairman
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—At 17, Ai Ling is past the age when most girls in the kingdom of Xia have married and borne children. The gods, it would seem, have a different destiny in store for her, one that begins to reveal itself when her father travels to the Emperor's Palace and fails to return. Ai Ling is determined to find him and destroy his captor, a corrupt advisor who has unnaturally extended his life by feeding on the souls of others. On her journey, which is rich in action but a little slight on character development, Ai Ling meets Chen Yong, a young man of mixed race who seeks the truth of his birth and faces a variety of predators, both demonic and sexual. Fans of Tamora Pierce's and Robin McKinley's work will enjoy the adventure and strong female protagonist; the Chinese-influenced society and bestiary may also tempt aficionados of Asian culture and media.—Christi Esterle, Parker Library, CO
Kirkus Reviews
Ai Ling wants to be a dutiful daughter, but surely marrying the vile widower Master Huang is a bad idea. If Ai Ling finds her missing father, then won't she and her mother be freed from blackmail and manipulation? Ai Ling sets off across the kingdom of Xia to find her vanished father, but finds herself embroiled in both Imperial and mystical intrigue. Her quest is aided by her new friends, the exotically handsome half-Xian Chen Yong and his flirtatious foster brother, Li Rong, both seeking Chen Yong's birthparents. Together, they rescue gods, fight zombies and travel to dangerous lands where three-eyed men ride flying chariots. Luckily, Ai Ling has newfound powers that aid in their fight against the forces threatening both the trio and the entire land of Xia. Ai Ling is a well-developed protagonist, from her shyness to her great love of food (leading to plentiful mouthwatering descriptions of meals). This fantasy heroine, who shows her spunk with quiet self-determination instead of swordfights, headlines an appealing magical adventure set in a refreshingly non-Western milieu. (Fantasy. 12-14)
Alyson Noel
"Beautifully written, lush, exotic, and romantic, with a gutsy heroine who defies convention to fulfill her destiny—Silver Phoenix has it all!"
Meg Cabot
“I couldn’t put it down. Your heart will be racing, and you’ll be aching for more. An addictive gem.”
Alyson Noël
“Beautifully written, lush, exotic, and romantic, with a gutsy heroine who defies convention to fulfill her destiny—Silver Phoenix has it all!”
Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) (Starred Review)
“Brilliantly conceived . . . strong characters and lyrical writing make this story compelling for young adults.”
Booklist (starred review)
“A sweeping saga . . . Pon’s writing, both fluid and exhilarating, shines whether she’s describing a dinner delicacy or what it feels like to stab an evil spirit in the gut.”
"A sweeping saga . . . Pon’s writing, both fluid and exhilarating, shines whether she’s describing a dinner delicacy or what it feels like to stab an evil spirit in the gut."

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Silver Phoenix

Chapter One

The book lay heavy in Ai Ling's lap, so massive it covered her thighs. She pressed her knees together, for fear the tome would crash to the ground otherwise. Bound in a brocaded cover of rich crimson, characters embroidered in gold read The Book of Making. She didn't want to open it.

"Take a look." Mother inclined her head. Black hair spilled over her shoulders in thick cascades, and the subtle scent of gardenia oil drifted with her every movement. Ai Ling rarely saw her mother's hair loose. She looked beautiful.

Ai Ling let the book fall open to a random page. Her face flushed at what she saw—a man and woman stark naked, their limbs entwined. The Dance of the Cranes was printed neatly above in black ink.

"Mother . . ." She could not bring herself to meet her mother's gaze.

"Keep looking, Ai Ling. This book is informative, with all the things you need to know about the bedchamber and what it takes to pleasure your husband."

Her mother put a gentle hand over hers. Ai Ling had always admired her mother's slender fingers, so deft in embroidering and playing the lute.

"It's soon time for you to wed. It's been one year since your monthly letting began." Her mother flipped the pages, and more nude figures filled Ai Ling's vision. "It tells you how to gauge your most fertile days, which positions are best—"

"But you didn't have me until you were twenty-four years!" Ai Ling wanted to slam the book shut, even as she was riveted to the drawings on the page. The only color came from the lotus pink of the woman's lips and the tips of her breasts.

"Imarried late, my heart." Ai Ling's mother stroked her hair, tucked a strand behind her ear. "It wasn't that your father and I didn't try. We lost one before we were blessed with you. He was born still—without spirit."

She could have had an older brother. Her mother's light brown eyes were bright with remembered sorrow.

"I didn't know," Ai Ling whispered.

"Now you understand what a true joy you are to us." She touched Ai Ling's cheek. "Keep the book. Look through it. I'll visit in the evenings before bed so we can talk." Her mother rose, stepped delicately from the platform bed, and bade her a peaceful night.

Ai Ling remained sitting with the book in her lap. Its weight on her legs did not compare to the thoughts which weighed on her heart. After a few moments, she rose, placed The Book of Making on her writing desk, blew out the lantern, and slipped into bed.

Rest did not come quickly that night. When she finally drifted into slumber, her dreams were of couples etched in black, moving in jerky motions, passive smiles painted upon their faces, an emptiness within their eyes.

Ai Ling jostled against the plush silk cushions of the sedan seat. Father had hired it for the occasion. She had suspected her parents' intention when Mother shared The Book of Making last month, but she wasn't prepared for a betrothal so soon. She would be given away, traded off like cattle, fortunate to see her parents perhaps once a year—if her future mother-in-law allowed it.

Her empty stomach turned. She wished she wasn't alone, being presented as if royalty, under just as much scrutiny. What would her betrothed look like? With her luck, he'd have squinted eyes and not reach past her chin.

Despite it being in the tenth moon, the days were still hot. She fanned herself, feeling stifled, wishing protocol allowed her to draw aside the heavy drapes. Muffled shouts from vendors offering their wares reached her ears. Ai Ling peeled back the corner of the drape and peered out, spying a cobbler bellowing from his stand. A mother pulled her toddler son by the hand past the sedan, promising a candied fruit if he behaved. Ai Ling was whisked down the main street and allowed the curtain to drop once more, isolating her in a hot muted red.

The sedan stopped too soon. She wasn't ready. She brushed a nervous hand over her hair, where Mother had placed the delicate jade hairpin from her betrothed among the coils piled on her head. She had always worn braids until today. As a married woman, she would never be able to wear loose braids again. Her stomach clenched, and she fisted her hands tight to gather courage.

"Mistress Wen arrives!" shouted a deep sonorous voice.

Ai Ling wilted against the cushions. They had hired a master of ceremony? The Goddess of Mercy help her.

The curtains were swept aside, exposing her to the harsh light of midday. She blinked a few times and saw her mother and father, along with, she assumed, Master Wong, Lady Wong, and her betrothed, Liao Kang.

The master of ceremony, a rotund man with a fringe of hair circling his scalp and plump red cheeks, bowed low with surprising grace and proffered one hand. She took it and stepped into the empty street. She dared not look around but wondered if they had somehow cleared the area. She walked past her parents and immediately went to Lady Wong, her future mother-in-law, as protocol dictated.

The petite woman raised one arm, clad in a lavender silk sleeve banded in gold. Ai Ling took the woman's cool hand and pressed it to her lowered brow.

Not a bad-looking girl. Good hips.

Her stomach seized as if someone had hurled a rock at her middle. She nearly reeled but managed to remain standing. Ai Ling lifted her head in shock, felt the blood drain from her face; but no one else indicated they had heard Lady Wong's comment.

Lady Wong regarded her with calculation. A palpable sense of disdain poured toward Ai Ling. The woman flicked her gaze up, then down.

Silver Phoenix. Copyright © by Cindy Pon. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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What People are saying about this

Meg Cabot
“I couldn’t put it down. Your heart will be racing, and you’ll be aching for more. An addictive gem.”
Alyson Noel
“Beautifully written, lush, exotic, and romantic, with a gutsy heroine who defies convention to fulfill her destiny—Silver Phoenix has it all!”

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Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written! So well written I am almost bursting to the extreme of pride for this author! I loved it and would not ever regret reading this book, it is very unique, which is surprising, and I cannot wait for more like it! Thank you!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this book looked nice, but to my surprise the story was excellent. I love this book! Can't wait to read the second book.
Emmilee More than 1 year ago
Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon is a fantasy in ancient China about a girl named Ai Ling. When a man tries to black-mail her into marriage, Ai Ling runs away from home in search of her missing father. Along the way, Ai Ling runs into some supposedly fictional creatures and a boy who she has a mysterious bond with. Facing death and unwanted marriages, Ai Ling must discover the secret of destroying her old enemy. An enemy that goes back to her last incarnation. Cindy Pon has made an intriguing blend of Chinese myths and history that will pull you in and not let you go untill you finish the book. Ai Ling's story continues in Fury of the Phoenix.
TheMochaLatte More than 1 year ago
I immediately dove into the novel and was surprised by Cindy Pon's writing. It was easy to read, very descriptive and gave the reader excellent perspective. It was easy to see myself in Ai Ling's shoes, to see the world as she did was really exciting. Ai Ling, of course, was my favorite character. She was a fierce protagonist with a kick-ass attitude, a strong persona and spunk. Can a protagonist get any better? Me thinks not. Oh and we mustn't forget the action. Yes my pretties there's a lot of it. Silver Phoenix was on the edge exciting with it's mythology and creepy crawlies popping up after each and every turn. I really enjoyed it! Romance; Silver Phoenix has it. Disappointed? Don't be! Unlike many other Young Adult novels Silver Phoenix has a slow progressing romance that isn't instantaneous and unprecedented. There's plenty of reason for it and seeing it grow was exciting and at times almost grueling. Quick romance haters will love the change of pace in Cindy Pon's debut novel. I found Silver Phoenix to be a very enjoyable and exciting read with non stop action and development that left me pining for the sequel.
Trebble More than 1 year ago
If you want to take a journey across ancient China and through mythical Chinese lands of beauty this book will not disappoint. It is also a wonderful paranormal journey with a beautiful young woman when such things were unheard of for women. Her journey to find her father is met with mythological creatures she only read about in her father's books. She also finds an enigmatic companion who's life becomes entwined with her own. Chen Young and Ai Ling become fast friends and true allies throughout this colorful, mythical adventure. This book is a wonderful and fun journey much like the art films recently making it's debut on the American culture scene. The main character Ai Ling is very likable and I love the fact that she was a strong character even though she had no defensive training and had lead a sequestered life which was typical within her ranking in society. Sometimes she was frustrating in her rash decisions, but she learned from those decisions as well. I loved that about her character. There was violence and some sexual references which may not be appropriate for very young kids, but I think it was well done and it was within a cultural reference. Older teens will love this book. I gave this book 5 stars and can't wait for the next installment of this series. "The Fury of the Phoenix" should be here in April, 2011.
gl More than 1 year ago
Ai Ling is a young girl who is raised differently from most girls. Her father had been a respected member of the Emperor's court and given his daughter the best education possible. Not only can Ai Ling read and write with a beautiful hand, she is familiar with the most sacred texts. Ai Ling is still subject to society's rules and at her betrothal meeting, Ai Ling finds that she has the ability to hear people's thoughts. She hides her gift, but Ai Ling is considered an unsuitable match and is humiliated. Her bad fortune does not end there. Her father must suddenly journey to the Emperor's court. Before he leaves, he bestows on his daughter a special pendant to keep her safe. When he fails to return, Ai Ling and her mother have no one to turn to and Ai Ling undertakes a quest to find her father and bring him home safely. During this journey, Ai Ling befriends Chen Yong, a half Xian and half Western young man who is on a quest to learn more about his parents, and Li Rong, Chen Yong's adoptive brother. Together the friends encounters mythical beasts and dangerous enemies and must face challenges that they had not imagined and could not have prepared for. To be honest, I had been very excited about the book even before I had the chance to read it. A young adult fantasy novel set in Ancient China with a young, smart and brave Chinese heroine on a quest to save her father from an evil presence in the Emperor's Court!? Count me in, I thought! Growing up, I hadn't read that many books that were set in Asia or had strong women heroines. I had read The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, but the heroine there is worlds apart for Ai Ling. While reading the book, I was very conscious that it had a young heroine whose family helped her develop her intellect and strength. Ai Ling was strong and had confidence in her abilities - this helps her through the trials ahead. I also got a kick out of how much the book reflected the flora, fauna, food and possibly myths of China so naturally in its references to images, scents and atmosphere. For instance, Ai Ling's betrothed was "a bamboo of a boy, the barely green type, with large almond eyes in a pale face." I'd be the first to admit that it's a bit silly to be happy that Ai Ling had dried mangoes and dried squid in her traveling pack and that she craved pork buns, hand pulled noodles, dumplings, and duck, but I was! I couldn't help but notice that even the scents and jewelry were Asian, from Ai Ling's mother's the gardenia oil and jade hairpin to the peonies that inspired Ai Ling to paint. Food and smells evoke memories and location in my mind and have appeared effectively in many of my favorite novels, so these descriptions resonated with me and was just another reason for me to chuckle while reading Silver Phoenix. But putting aside my excitement to have an Asian heroine, I enjoyed the book for many other reasons. The writing was so clear and effective without being overdone. The characters were well established, seemed so natural and were so so simpatico that I was on their side from the start. The kingdom of Xia was unique and well developed as a whole new world inhabited by demons and fantasy creatures that were different from the usual fantasy mold. Plus, the journey was action packed - I found myself constantly waiting for the next phase in their adventure to see how Ai Ling, Chen Yong and Li Rong would respond.
dibbylodd 12 months ago
An engaging story, a bit like Eon and Eona. A marvelously strongly young woman who does not fit the usual mold society offers. A mad collection of evil entities opposed her and she keeps finding more and more of her special power. Some romance, but not enough to sidetrack the main storyline. A fine read.
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Why in heaven's name are people role-playing in the reviews for this book? KNOCK IT OFF. You're being ridiculous and unhelpful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He looks up at her "im sorry if i made you feel uncomfortable..." he says
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natalierenae More than 1 year ago
Silver Phoenix was entirely different than what I expected, but in a good way. I've always been intrigued by authors who manage to incorporate fantasy into history-especially when it's obvious that a lot of research has gone into making sure that history is correct. The word that immediately comes to my mind to describe Silver Phoenix is "unique." Not only do I feel that the historical fantasy genre holds an untapped wealth of ideas, but I also think that the publishing world is in need of some fresh voices. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of GREAT books out there, but when you read as much as I do, few books really stand out after awhile. Silver Phoenix had a lot of what I love in books-excellent writing, good plot development, and (what I found to be EXTREMELY refreshing), characters that were real. And for once, the entire book didn't revolve entirely around two teens suddenly realizing that they were desperately and irrevocably "in love" (quotes are there for a reason, guys) with each other. ***SLIGHT SPOILER*** Not to say that there wasn't romantic tension, because there definitely was. And I'm not going to say that I don't want the two main characters to get together eventually, because I definitely do. ***END SLIGHT SPOILER*** It was nice to see characters who hadn't found their "soul mates" (again, quotes) by page 75. I don't mind romance (in fact, I tend to like it quite a bit), but characters who get together so incredibly quickly tend to make me think of the relationship as cheap and superficial. I was really impressed to find that Silver Phoenix is Cindy Pon's debut novel. Wow! Silver Phoenix ranks high on my list regardless, but to know that this is the author's first published book makes me respect the novel even more. A lot of times, I find that debut authors take a little time to find their own voice and ideas, but Pon jumped right in with a beautiful piece of work. I'm definitely excited to see what she has planned for the future! (And I heard there's a sequel in the works. Yay)! In a Sentence Silver Phoenix is an excellent debut novel with a unique approach, realistic characters, and a good writing style.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago