This why, through one thing and another, I ended up reading Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon without having read the first book, Silver Phoenix. Krispy read Silver Phoenix a couple of years ago and had moderate feelings toward it (which I think became lukewarmer with the passage of time), so I didn't read it and just had Krispy summarize everything. She was interested in the sequel but when our library didn't pick it up right away, she forgot about it.
Then, recently, what with all the Stormdancer brouhaha about research and cultural appropriation hitting the 'net, Krispy and I have been talking about diversity in YA and cultural (mis)representation and appropriation, particularly of Asian-based fantasy--reminding us of Silver Phoenix and hey, did our library ever get the sequel? (Note: Not that the research stuff has anything to do with Silver Phoenix. It just got us thinking about Asian-inspired YA fantasy.)
Then Krispy came across a review of Fury of the Phoenix that describes how the Chinese-based characters cross the ocean to what the blogger called generic!Whitelandia since the country is so colorless--and yet despite the apparent time period, the (Caucasian-based) women of this western land enjoy more equality, empowerment, rights, and sexual freedom than anywhere in the real world today.
Naturally this piqued our curiosity anew. Krispy wanted to read Fury since she was curious as to what happened, but was a bit reluctant to pick it up because she's got a ton of other books on her plate and reading Fury seemed like an exercise in pointless masochism.
Which latter is just my style!
|Krispy and I hate this cover, btw.|
There is nothing Asian about it, from the girl to her costume to the dagger.
Let's just say that the plot was very slow for one storyline (the first half of the book is essentially 8+ weeks of sailing with nothing happening except a random pirate attack and random a magic monster attack in an unsuccessful attempt to make things exciting) and got slower and slower in the other storyline (which is humanizing backstory on the villain from the first book). The two storylines don't really mesh or intertwine, and in the end they're jammed together in a conclusion that doesn't entirely make sense. And generic!Whitelandia was everything I'd dreaded and more. Also, there was a very disturbing lolwtfbbq plot point with regards to the fact that the backstoried villain is a eunuch.
But see! Together, Krispy and I got through the Kingdom of Xia duology together! By acting as a buffer and gauging each other's taste in books, we managed to find a happy medium that satisfied our mutual curiosity with minimum effort. Schneizeleffort extended to book reading, baby!
Have you had a cooperative reading effort before?
P.S. Schneizeleffort always wins the day.
P.P.S. We're planning a post on the concerns raised by Stormdancer and its worldbuilding and research. So we will link up to all the relevant posts in that later post. However, if you're dreadfully curious about the brouhaha mentioned above, here are a few links to fill you in.
- Part 3 of our friend Wistfully Linda's Ponderings on YA Asian Fantasies: Green-Eyed Asian Love Interest (this post got Krispy started thinking cultural appropriation & world building)
- Kayla + Cyna's scathing review of Stormdancer, which addresses its world-building flaws among other things. (Our true inkling that something might be troubling with this book. Also Warning for strong language.)
- Karen Healey's & others' reactions to: Jay Kristoff on Japan as steampunk cultural touchstone