Wow. This book blew me away. And I had gone into it thinking I probably wouldn't enjoy it that much.
One aspect I really loved was how well Grant was a...moreWow. This book blew me away. And I had gone into it thinking I probably wouldn't enjoy it that much.
One aspect I really loved was how well Grant was able to make the teenagers/kids really act their ages. Sure, there were lots of moments I wished they would act older, that they wouldn't be such *kids* but that was one of the best done elements of the book. No adult ideas on how kids should act, these where kids dealing with a crisis.
I did wonder though, why 15 was the cut off for an "adult". Seems like 16 or 18 would have made more sense. Maybe we'll find that out as the books go on.(less)
Silver Phoenix is an exquisite Asian fairytale, something I’ve been hoping for for some time. Of course, my knowledge of ancient China is pretty limit...moreSilver Phoenix is an exquisite Asian fairytale, something I’ve been hoping for for some time. Of course, my knowledge of ancient China is pretty limited, but it felt very authentic to me, and we can chalk up any problems to the fact that this is fantasy, and not exactly China. I especially loved how Pon stayed true to restrictions and prejudices toward girls, but worked around them in a way that didn’t make me go "But.. but… one girl is not going to change the gender prejudices of a whole nation!!!!!" It was great to see a fairytale style story that is very distinctly set in a non-western country, and one that doesn’t feel like it was just transplanted there without regard for all the little nuanced differences that come between western and eastern societies.
Another element I found well done was the topic of sex. The book opens on Ai Ling pretty much getting a sex ed lesson from her mother, about her duties as a wife, and throughout the book the topic of sex and purity is artfully and realistically woven into the story. Of course that makes me hesitate to say it’s appropriate for kids under 13, without knowing the kid, but I must commend the author on her good usage of the subject. I’m tired of books that use sex as purely a "look, kids, we’ve got smut!" or where girls are constantly threatened with rape ’cause they are girls in a male dominated society. The issues of sex, rape, and purity, though, were of great importance in earlier societies, so I also dislike it when authors glaze over them or pretend "oh, let’s have a medieval society, except everybody is openly promiscuous and the guy totally won’t care if he doesn’t know if he’s the father of the kid." Those kind of social changes take a lot more background history modification. But I’m digressing, and my grand debate about women’s roles in older societies can be left for a different day.
My least favorite thing about the book? The ending. Darn those open endings that need a sequel! It’s always been a pet peeve of mine when I get towards the end of the book and start realizing "wait a sec…. the author wants me to hang around for a sequel before she wraps things up, doesn’t she???" (Un?)fortunately, this was an excellent book and I will be eagerly awaiting the sequel to see how things turn out, especially with the unspoken promise of getting to see some other countries in this world. I’m not sure how to feel about the fact that the author told me on Goodreads that the book would have ended there even if there hadn’t been a sequel coming, but I probably would have felt a tad let down. I like my fiction to have what I consider happy endings. Life has enough ambiguity for me.
This book enticed me by the cover. I love the intricate illustrations along the edge and the use of gold to attract my eye. Unfortunately, the cover l...moreThis book enticed me by the cover. I love the intricate illustrations along the edge and the use of gold to attract my eye. Unfortunately, the cover let me down and the book was not nearly so complex and enticing.
Hoffman paints a beautiful picture and stunning portrait of medieval Italy. For the history and setting, I would recommend the book. The plot however, fell short of what I was expecting. The book is sold as a murder mystery, yet I always felt the mystery took a backseat to the setting and the final ending did not feel very well set-up. Hoffman took great efforts to make sure that no one seemed an obvious villain, yet that simply made me not believe that the final killer could have really done it. The motive was also relatively weak.(less)