Book Review - Fury of the Phoenix

Author: Cindy Pon
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (March 29, 2011)
Reading Level: Young Adult, Also an excellent Crossover Book for Adults
Source: ARC for review from Publisher
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

Description from GoodReads:

Cindy Pon’s debut novel Silver Phoenix was called “fluid and exhilarating” in a starred review from Booklist, and Meg Cabot called it “an addictive gem.” In this companion novel, seventeen-year-old Ai Ling—her powers stronger than ever—stows away aboard a cargo ship in order to protect devastatingly handsome Chen Yong during his quest to locate his father. Masquerading as brother and sister, Ai Ling and Chen Yong face demonic predators on the ocean voyage, but their biggest threat comes from the kingdom of the dead. Part supernatural page-turner, part love story, and altogether stirring, Fury of the Phoenix further heralds the arrival of Cindy Pon as a stellar author of paranormal romance and fantasy. 

**** Review containers spoilers for SILVER PHOENIX.****

My Review:   About a year ago, I discovered Cindy Pon's 2009 debut novel SILVER PHOENIX.  In Pon's first book, she created a vivid fantasy setting influenced heavily by China and Chinese mythology.  This was high fantasy that moved away from the typical Celtic/British fantasy tales.  In the first book, we are introduced to Ai-ling - an independent, strong-spirited teen who leaves home to find her father and to escape an unpleasant marriage arrangement.  Ai-ling has special gifts that she slowly discovers throughout the book.  We are also introduced to Li-Rong and Chen Yong - two brothers that accompany Ai-ling on her journey.  The book concludes with a confrontation between Ai-ling and Zhong Ye, a powerful dark sorcerer, who views Ai-ling as someone who can re-connect him with Silver Phoenix, his first love.

Since finishing SILVER PHOENIX, I have been wanting to read the sequel. It is always a good sign when I really want to read the sequel.  There are so many books that I read the first one and think "when I get to the next one, I get to it".   However, Pon created a world that I wanted to spend more time in and to discover what would happen to Ai-ling and Chen Yong.  

When I started FURY OF THE PHOENIX, I was fully expecting a similar story to SILVER PHOENIX.  This is not a negative reflection of what I expected from Pon's writing but rather, an expectation of most sequels which tend to be very similar in format offering very little that is new.  Of course, when the novel kicks off with Ai-ling attempting to illegally board a vessel in order to stow away and attempt to save Chen Yong's life, I wasn't surprised.  My thought - great way to kick off the start of this tale.  However, as I kept reading, something wasn't falling into place.  This book had a different feel to it.  

First, this book has two narrators.  The story shifts between Ai-ling's perspective and time to Zhong Ye's perspective from when he was a young Eunuch in the Emperor's Court.  Initially, I wondered about this choice.  Yet, I was soon wrapped up in Zhong Ye's early life and his relationship with Silver Phoenix and what led him to become the sorcerer that we came to see him as in SILVER PHOENIX.  

Second, the action is significantly different in this story.  As the journey unfolded, I found myself loving the back history that is revealed and how the past and present provide a mystery & love story that sucks the reader in. It was at this point where I had to literally make a mental shift.  Pon wasn't being predictable and safe.  She had deftly added an additional layer to the story that I really found intriguing. Rather than just a fantasy adventure, this delved into aspects of motivation, choice, consequences, forgiveness, love and redemption. Throughout the story, I kept trying to figure out how she was going to pull it all together and do so in a way that would be satisfying and provide a fitting ending to her series. And guess what...she did pull the whole story together and I loved the ending.

I so wish I could say much, much more but I don't want to spoil this especially since the book won't be out for another 3 months. If you loved SILVER PHOENIX, you'll love FURY OF THE PHOENIX

If you haven't read SILVER PHOENIX, why don't you go read it now so that you can be ready for the release of FURY OF THE PHOENIX in late March.  I am pre-ordering my copy of FURY now so that I will have a lovely hardcover to match my copy of SILVER PHOENIX.  And I just may have to go all fan-girl and track Cindy Pon down at a author event/signing to get it signed as well.  

For more information about Cindy Pon, check out her website   

or you can find her on twitter: @cindypon