Thursday, 30 July 2009

Review: Silver Phoenix (Cindy Pon)

What's this, you say? Didn't Ruth do a post on this same book a few weeks ago? Why yes, yes she did. But writing a sub-par book review annoys her about as much as talking about herself in the third person.

So that's quite enough of both, and I'd like to comment more properly on Silver Phoenix.

In a lot of ways I found this book a very interesting read, as I could identify my own writing to some extent with the book's writing, and as I read it I mentally started making minor adjustments to the writing style. I think that's what makes it so difficult for me to review this book — because I keep thinking of it as a writer rather than a reader.

I enjoyed this book. I didn't get right into the first chapter or two, but once I was in I was in! Sometimes it can be difficult to identify or even like the heroine or hero, especially if it's written by someone with little writing experience. No such problem here: I fell right in with the heroine, even if I have to admit to preferring the hero's sidekick to the actual hero.

Silver Phoenix follows Ai Ling, a girl living in traditional ancient China, who goes on a quest to rescue her captive father. Along the way she has to fight demons upon demons, learn to control minds, and meet goddesses, a race of three-eyed men, and the odd poison-spitting fish or two.

The background of China was well set up, and nothing about it jarred — other than Ai Ling's willingness to buck tradition after only a cursory attempt to conform. I think a girl raised in those traditions would have been much more docile — but that girl wouldn't have been nearly as interesting a character as Ai Ling.

Toward the middle of the novel, although I wasn't tempted to put the book down, it seemed to slow a little to me; things were happening that didn't seem relevant or necessary to the plot. But that was quickly passed over, and we headed into the final action scenes, complete with a good build-up of tension.

I found the climax somewhat... anti-climactic.

But I really want to find out what happens to the main characters next. For a lot of books — for example, John Grisham books — once I've finished them and found out how the plot ends, I don't care about the characters any more. My favourite authors — such as Juliet Marillier — make me care about the characters enough that I want to keep reading on for the characters' sakes. Not because the plot is unresolved, but because I just want to keep reading about the character.

Although author Cindy Pon does leave some plot points unresolved, the cunning witch! That is, the plot is neatly tied up; but the characters still have journeys to take, issues to try and straighten out for themselves; and I loved the fact that the ending wasn't textbook.

The ending, in fact, perfectly paved the way for the combined sequel/prequel she's writing (a difficult feat!): a book I can't wait to order.

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