Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon Ai Ling was a scholarly girl who mostly stayed properly home with her mother. Then, her father gives her a jade pendant before leaving for a month at the emperor’s palace. Months later, their family finances dwindling, Ai Ling decides that it’s time to go find her father. It’s not easy for a girl of marriageable age to travel alone in China, but Ai Ling finds herself facing one demon after another, recognizing them from the book that she’d thought her father forbade only because the stories were so frightening for a young girl. Early on, she is rescued by the handsome and exotic Chen Yong. He’s travelling in search of his real parentage, a secret even from his adoptive parents. They start travelling together, and are joined on the way by Chen Yong’s adoptive brother, the openly flirtatious Li Rong. Their straightforward journey to the palace takes unexpected turns as mountain paths lead them to strange lands mentioned only in the classical texts that Ai Ling and Chen Yong have read. Eventually, they are given a deeper quest by the Goddess of Records. Ai Ling is a delightful and sympathetic heroine. Though she finds the courage she needs to fight off the demons attacking her, she also never develops Amazing Martial Arts Prowess, instead finding her own magical abilities. She also has a refreshingly large appetite, which gives plenty of opportunity for vivid descriptions of the food. This was a delightful adventure with a Buffy meets Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
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