Monday, April 20, 2009

Book Review, Author Interview and Giveaway: Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

When Ai Ling’s father doesn’t return after a visit to the Emperor’s palace, she sets out on a quest to rescue him. Along the way she meets Chen Yong, a young man on a quest of his own. Together they face demons and beings they thought only existed in myth, and Ai Ling must make the most of her burgeoning powers to keep them both alive.

I’ll be honest – I’m never that excited about fantasy novels where the characters set out on a quest. I just usually find the journey so tedious and get impatient for the protagonists to finally arrive at their destination and engage in the final battle or whatever. For me to enjoy a fantasy quest, not only do the stations of the journey have to be exciting, I also have to be able to connect with the characters, and really care about their ultimate fate.

So I’m happy to report that SILVER PHOENIX fulfilled my strict requirements. For one, Ai Ling’s journey is infused with so much inventiveness that the scenes feel fresh and the mythical beings really come alive. Also, not only is Ai Ling a great character – not perfect by any means, but smart, loyal and totally kick-butt – but she also develops a complex and realistic relationship with the mysterious Chen Yong. The villains were worthy adversaries and the threat of death and failure felt very real.

Best of all? SILVER PHOENIX will be out in a little over a week on April 28th. Oh and I have a great interview with Author Cindy Pon and a fun giveaway. Read on!

Your novel is set in the fantasy kingdom of Xia which has a lot ofsimilarities with ancient China. Are your fantasy creatures, such as the three-breasted Life Seeker who stays young by "bedding a mortal ona daily basis", based on Chinese myth or are they purely your own creation?
as with many fantasy novels, i used actual folklore AND my own imagination when writing SILVER PHOENIX. in this case, the three-breasted concubine was something of my own creation. but the idea of being seduced by the otherworldly (usually the human man by the female "creature") is quite a common theme in chinese folkore.

If you could actually do anything that happens in your novel (riding a dragon, visiting the garden of the immortals, reading people's minds, etc.), what would it be?
hmm. wow. good question. it would have to be riding on a dragon. =)

How did you choose character names? Do all the names mean something in Chinese?
i speak mandarin. at a conversational level only. the names were very very difficult. they needed to be fairly pronounceable to non-chinese speakers but at the same time still make some sense in mandarin. (at least, in my mind.) ai ling (which is based on the characters "love" and "forest"--sounding a lot like "eileen") was originally named xiao yu (little jade). but xiao is difficult to pronounce (think "she-yow"spoke quickly) and jade is fairly common and overused. so i changed her name after a few drafts!

Your characters always seem to be enjoying sumptuous meals. Do you like to cook? Have you actually eaten "beef tongue"?
i'm an awful cook. my mom is a fantastic chinese cook, but i just never was interested enough to learn. i love to eat tho, and this is translated into the story. also, eating and meals mean bonding, family celebration as well as friendship in the chinese culture. it made sense for me to include food in the novel. and actually, tho some of the dishes are made up in the book, beef tongue is a common cold cut. and i do like it a lot. pig ears on the other hand...

Ai Ling practices Chinese calligraphy and so do you. In fact, you have a children's picture book coming out at incorporates brush stroke art. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
yes, my editor from greenwillow books also offered a children's picture book contract! it will feature my chinese brush paintings and i'm so excited to learn about the process. i didn't know much about writing a novel but i've been writing fiction since i was a teenager. but i really went into the picture book creation process with a clean slate. the mind set is very different. i knew a little about it from reading books to my bubs, but not much beyond that. i believe the picture book will be released by greenwillow in 2011.

Thanks Cindy! Cindy wants to offer 5 of her handmade lotus painting bookmarks (pictured) to readers of my blog. The first 5 people to leave a comment saying they want one will win!

Visit Cindy's website at http://cindypon.com/

Also check out the contest at Reviewer X to win an ARC of SILVER PHOENIX. But hurry - it is only open until this Wednesday the 22nd!

19 comments:

Violet said...

This book looks really great. With a cover like this no one can help not being attracted to it.
I would love to ride a dragon too? Wouldn't that be amazing? I'll make sure to check out of this book is available in India.

Could Cindy mail the bookmark internationally? If yes, do count me in, it's beautiful.

Jenn said...

Thank you for the review! I definately want to get this book soon!

of course I want a bookmark! Only if its okay that I live in Canada though.

Reverie said...

I WANT!!! :)

thanks cindy and a wonderful interview lenore

Liyana said...

I want one!

Lenore said...

I assume Cindy will send internationally since she did not specify US only. But I'll double check!

Liyana said...

Oh yeah, I'm an international reader. Forgot to state that. Thanks Lenore! Great review and interview as always. I agree with the part about reaching at their destination, everything always builds up until the exact moment they reach it.

Diana Dang said...

I would love one too! =)) From Canada. >w<

Silvia said...

This book seems a really entertaining fantasy story. I can't wait to read it and know what happens to Ai Ling.

cindy said...

thanks so much for reading and reviewing, lenore. i'm very happy you enjoyed my debut. and YES! i will send universially to the first five commenters. =D just email me your addy!! pon.cindy@gmail.com

Marie said...

Great interview. I know what she means about liking to eat more than liking to cook! My ethnic cooking (Irish) isn't exactly delicious so I have been super un-motivated to learn that!

Khy said...

Both Cindy and this book are fabulous. :D

Liviania said...

I'm sad I'm not in time to claim a bookmark. I'm excited about this one, being a Chinese history geek.

Jen said...

The cover is mesmerizing! I love magic, epic, questy-type books!

Donna said...

OMG, attacked of the awards! Come get yours!

Linda J said...

Dang, no fair. Couldn't check your blog until tonight. Oh well...

Amy said...

This is not really the kind of book I would normally pick up, but for some reason this one is kind of appealing.

Lenore said...

Violet, Jenn, Vania, Liyana, and Diana should send an e-mail to Cindy to claim their bookmarks!

pon.cindy@gmail.com

Steph said...

That's a great interview. That's interesting, the concubine is Cindy's creation. I thought that bit was clever! I also love Cindy's brush art and I'm so excited about her forthcoming picture book!

(Thanks for linking to my contest.)

Steph

Sassy CC said...

I enjoy fantasy with individual on quest but to know that it passed your requirements (as a known fantasy individual) makes me think that this would be a brilliant read- it helps that it is a kick-butt smart loyal female heroine.
The interview was nice with nice insights to the author (wanted to ride a dragon being one)

Seahn
#2 extra entry