A couple of months ago (May, to be exact) my friend Cindy Pon published her debut YA novel, Silver Phoenix. It took me this long to get around to reading it, because I am a bad friend. But it was totally worth the wait.
At seventeen, Ai Ling should be married, or at least betrothed. But nobody wants her. A free spirit in a land of order and restriction, she almost prefers it that way, except for the shame it brings to her family. Soon, though, she has bigger problems than her social status: her father goes missing and she begins to realize she has a power that she doesn’t understand.
Thus begins Ai Ling’s quest, a quest to find her father and herself.
Aiding her on this journey is Chen Yong, a half-foreigner with major problems of his own, and Chen Yong’s charming, womanizing younger brother Li Rong, as well as a host of other characters. The story is a basic quest/journey tale, but set in a land of such wonder and mystery that you cannot help but be enthralled. Ai Ling meets gods and monsters, some of them in human form, finally arriving at the Emperor’s Palace to battle perhaps the worst of them all: the one that loves her.
The book is just… beautiful. It is breathtakingly beautiful. Cindy also does some fabulous brush paintings, and reading this book was sometimes like looking at one of her paintings. You can see her artist’s eye in the description, even in the language itself. The book also made me incredibly hungry. The food Ai Ling consumes is described in such loving, delectable detail that I could almost smell it wafting from the pages. Cindy is welcome to invite me to her house for dinner anytime. ;)
Anyway, a great book; you can order it here and I highly recommend you do so.
On another note, I have decided that Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, etc.) needs to be in charge of the movie version of this book, and he needs to get on it stat. It has the kinds of mysterious creatures he specializes in, and the type of strong heroine he appreciates, and the sense of wonder that he is a master of. Really. Miyazaki, get to work.
To end, one of Cindy’s paintings: