Reading Level: Young Adult
Size: 368 pages
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release Date: February 1, 2011
Stand Alone or Series: 1st book in the Beyond the Kingdom of Xia series
Source: Borrowed from Library
Rating: 3/5 stars
This is the first book in Beyond the Kingdom of Xia duology by Pon. The second book, Fury of the Phoenix, has already been released. I have not heard about any additional books after that one. This was a decent read, but a bit simplistic in writing style.
Ai Lang is the daughter of a couple of parents who married for love; her father is a well learned professor. He is forced to go on a journey to the palace and leaves Ai Lang a special necklace that is supposed to protect her. When her father doesn’t return for many months Ai Lang decides to leave her mother and journey on her own to the palace. Along the road she meets Chen Yong and finds that the road is plagued by many demons.
I enjoyed the story but found the writing to be a bit simplistic and the dialogue between characters a bit clunky and awkward sounding. This made it very hard to engage with the characters because they just come off as awkward and simplistic.
Ai Lang comes off as too timid and naive but occasionally, uncharacteristically, she does something brash and bold. The main hero of the story, Chen Yong, comes off as a colossal jerk…he constantly has boyish fits of anger and is at best dismissive to Ai Lang. Needless to say I had a lot of trouble connecting and engaging with these characters.
When Ai Lang is nearly raped Chen Yong stomps off in a boyish fit and blames her for causing a scene. Ugh…really…it was the epitome of what is wrong with the society portrayed in this novel.
There is a lot of emphasis put on women as male property and as sexual objects to males. Not my favorite type of society to read about, in fact I was a bit surprised by the emphasis on sex in this book. There aren’t any explicit sex acts described, but there is a lot of discussion about it.
The book is an okay read, but I just found everything about it to be okay. Nothing really blew me away. The story was fairly predictable. The magic system not all that well explained. Some parts of the story where the characters journey beyond Xia are fairly ambiguous as well.
On a side note Pon evidently likes her food a lot because there are a lot of detailed descriptions about what the characters eat in this book. Seriously they stop to eat a lot and by the end of the book I felt like I knew more about what food the characters liked to eat than the characters themselves.
Overall an okay read but not great. The writing style was too simplistic, the characters hard to engage with, and the story predictable. I usually love these type of adventure fantasy stories, but this one left me feeling cold. Looking back at this review there just wasn’t a lot I actually enjoyed about this book. At this point I don’t plan on reading Fury of the Phoenix…I have the book but will just pass it on to someone who wants to read it more than I do.