Allison's Reviews > Fox and Phoenix

Fox and Phoenix by Beth Bernobich
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liked it
bookshelves: urban-fantasy-alternate-history, middle-grade-ya

I can see why this book got the green light to be published--you don't often see a modern fantasy/steampunk world based in Chinese culture rather than European. The concept alone is enough to get a look, and the story isn't a bad one. The worldbuilding is done fairly well and is the highlight of the book.
The plot is nothing particularly unique and at times delves into predictable. The biggest problem is that it feels like the sequel to a book that doesn't exist rather than the first book in a series. I wasn't far in before I was looking at the back cover, trying to see if I'd accidentally picked up Book 2. The narrator kept referencing a previous adventure that I'd somehow missed. But no, the cover said 'debut.' You get enough exposition to understand the gist of the previous adventure, but it still leaves you very confused well into the book, thinking you missed crucial past developments of character relations. It sort of functions as a 'what happens after happily ever after,' but you, the reader, don't know the original fairy tale and you're only going to get the Cliffs Notes version in bits and pieces as it becomes relevant to the new story. It takes some time to get up to speed; more than it should to not feel uncomfortable.
Also, how old are these kids? They're a former street gang, and I started the book with the impression they're all thirteen or fourteen. But suddenly things turn from childish flirting, stealing kisses, and cold-shoulder-and-bickering-actually-means-I-like-you to "I want to marry you" and without warning we're adults and ready to make these decisions! Sure, they're on a quest to save the world, but that doesn't mean they're suddenly mature enough by the end to get married. I had this same problem with the characters in Palace of Mirrors, with characters switching abruptly from immature bickering preteens to suddenly old enough to marry just because they solved the book's main conflict and saved the kingdom. By the middle of the book, I was really rooting for the main female character to come out as a lesbian because she was so uncomfortable with the main male character trying to steal kisses. It would have been a cool twist instead of the tired "two best friends like each other but aren't sure how to take it to the next level" plotline, which was what we ended up getting.
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Reading Progress

October 10, 2014 – Started Reading
October 10, 2014 – Shelved
October 14, 2014 – Shelved as: urban-fantasy-alternate-history
October 14, 2014 – Finished Reading
September 24, 2015 – Shelved as: middle-grade-ya

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