Thursday, 16 July 2009

Silver Phoenix (Cindy Pon)

A friend asked me yesterday for my opinion of debut author Cindy Pon's The Silver Phoenix, which she got me for my birthday this year.

"Is it very... debutey?" she asked with a laugh.

Honestly? It was a bit. It had a good story, with good knowledge of the period (so far as my layman's knowledge goes) and thoughtful plotting. But it was... debutey.

I read the first four scenes one day, very much with a critical writer's eye; I didn't like two of the scenes and thought they could have been summed up later on in the story. The first few scenes seemed disjointed to me; I put the book aside for a few days.

I picked it up again one Sunday, read a bit more... and kept reading till I finished it, that same day.

It's certainly interesting; it makes you keep wanting to read on, to find out what happens next. The ending surprised me, in a good way; it wasn't the predictable happily-ever-after.

Reading it with my critical writer's eye, I did notice some technical issues that I would have wanted to change. One example: As the heroine goes on her quest, she passes through various lands of weird and wonderful creatures. Interesting? Sure. Important to the plot? Not that I could see.

Yet when I put down the book, I realised I wanted to read on. I wanted to know what happened to the characters next; I wanted to follow them in their next adventures. I was fond enough of the three main characters that when something awful happens to one of them, I was upset.

To me, that's the sign of a good book. I've studied "well-written" books at university that are chock-full of symbolism and themes and so on; and I enjoy those books. But for leisure I prefer light escapist reading, with characters I can care about and a story I want to read on about.

I also think the author is really sweet, both from her blog and from the fact that she was nice enough to send me a signed bookplate and bookmark with her art on it. It may be an inexpensive gesture, but it's a really nice one.

And regardless of bookplates and bookmarks, I'll certainly be buying the sequel to Silver Phoenix as soon as it's been released.

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