Review: Silver Phoenix – A spectacular visual adventure

silver_phoenixSeventeen year old Ai Ling discovers a new gift on the day that her arranged marriage falls apart. She can enter another being’s spirit and hear their thoughts. In the aftermath of the scandal, her father disappears on a journey to the Palace of Fragrant Dreams.

As Ai Ling sets out on a journey to find her father and bring him home,  she meets up with two brothers, Chen Yong and Li Rong. Chen Yong is of mixed blood, part Xian and part foreigner, and he’s on a quest of his own to discover the history of his parents, kept secret all these years. The three travel together, encountering demons and mystical creatures, while Ai Ling’s powers grow. With each new obstacle, it becomes clearer and clearer that there are powerful forces working against them and that somehow, Ai Ling and Chen Yong’s fates have been twined together by events that happened before they were born.

Silver Phoenix is a spectacularly vivid journey. The Kingdom of Xia parallels medieval China where the lines of the spirit world have become blurred. Ms. Pon’s descriptions are colorful and imaginative. Her characters hitch a ride on a dragon and fly to the land of the Immortals where she pulls from Chinese mythology and iconography to create a view of the heavens never seen before. The demons are suitable grotesque and originally depicted.

In the tradition of Asian heroic fiction, the villians and allies that Ai Ling meets along the way are complex beings. No one is truly good, no one is truly evil. The arch villian Zhong Ye has a touch of humanity that cannot be denied. The seemingly benign Immortals lead the heros into disaster.

What starts out as a fun, fanciful journey through Xia, full of exotic food and magical adventure, evolves by the end into a rich emotional exploration of the depths of honor, spiritual debt, and destiny. I can see where the bittersweet nature of the story at times may be unsettling to Western readers who are used to happy endings, but I found it refreshing that once Ai Ling is back in her home, we truly get a sense of her growth through the epic journey we have experienced with her and feel her yearning for the adventures yet to come. Cindy Pon and Silver Phoenix do justice to the wuxia tradition.

To find the book on Amazon, go here.

Visit Cindy Pon’s page. There’s a release contest and a lucky winner will receive an original Cindy Pon brush painting as well as a signed copy of the book.

Review: "Listen With Your Heart" is a beautiful romance


“Listen With Your Heart” is a new release by Golden Heart® winner, Barbara Scott.

In Chicago, late 1800s, Morgan Gable grows up surrounded by the life of the theatre. As a young girl, she is touched by Irish singer Daniel Connolly’s performance after a brief encounter where he emerges as her knight in shining armor. Throughout time, amidst her father’s downward spiral and her mother’s continued absence, her childhood crush develops into something much deeper.

Daniel Connolly is the sort of man who loves completely and with all his heart — even when he knows he’s given his heart to the wrong woman. Caught in a tragic marriage to a woman who does not return his devotion, his soul is torn apart when she dies suddenly in a fire, one of many sparked by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

Daniel’s friends scheme to exorcise the ghost of his ex-wife Helene. Unfortunately, they’ve employed Camilla Browne, a charlatan with a projection box. Camilla has tricked Morgan’s father into her servitude and presents Morgan in disguise as the manifestation of Helene. Morgan destroys the projection box and spoils Camilla’s plans. In the aftermath, Daniel arranges to marry Morgan, both in an attempt to banish the memory of his dead wife as well as to avoid being deported back to Ireland.

Listen With Your Heart incorporates many fascinating historical details – the Chicago Fire, the projection box, likely some form of a Magic Lantern used for “spirit summoning”, and the Fenians — a secretive Irish Brotherhood with underworld connotations. All of these elements provide a fascinating backdrop for the love story between Daniel and Morgan. At times, you almost wish there was more time to explore some of the plot points. Daniel’s son from his past marriage is deaf and his education and relationship with Daniel and his growing acceptance of Morgan provide some very endearing moments, yet this subplot is abandoned by the end of the story to follow up on another subplot involving Helene’s involvement with the Fenians.

Aside from some rough spots at the beginning as the story transitions from Daniel and Morgan’s past to their reunion and arranged marriage, the romance between them is beautifully rendered. Daniel is a tortured hero who treats Morgan with heartbreaking tenderness despite his lingering memories of Helene. Morgan is a strong, believable heroine who is able to harbor an unrequited love without appearing weak and pining. Ms. Scott does an incredibly wonderful job of creating Daniel and Morgan as real people with wounds and with rich pasts that color their every action.

The story is strongest at its center where the romance flourishes. The subplots take a backseat and it is more than enough to watch Daniel and Morgan learn about one another, navigate around each other’s vulnerabilities and burrow deep into each other’s hearts — as they burrow deep into yours.

Listen With Your Heart is a very special romance. You will care for these characters and their deeply emotional journey and you can’t help but fall in love with them.

Listen With Your Heart is available from Desert Breeze Publishing. Buy it here!