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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Fox & Phoenix by Beth Bernobich

I've been slowly reading my way through every Beth Bernobich novel and story, and while FOX & PHOENIX may not be my favorite, it's definitely a book I want to keep on my bookshelf (and not just because it's pretty). Unfortunately, as I write this, it seems to be out of print, but it is still available as an e-book. This novel is ambitious and I think the author took great care to tell her story. It feels like she cares about her characters, because instead of making them perfect, she made them human.

Kai is the narrator of this story, and unlike in the prequel where he helped Princess Lian out of Lóng City, his goal is to bring her back. In the prequel, he was able to convince her father for her to attend University in Phoenix City, but now that the king is dying, Kai needs to personally bring her back home because it seems like the message about the dying king hasn't made it into Lian's hands. Politics is ever present in this story, and as Kai takes the months long journey to Phoenix City, he encounters many set backs sent by enemies inside the Lóng City court. What I like most about Kai is that he's not the perfect protagonist. He doesn't know the answer to everything, and he's not the best at everything. As a magic conjurer's apprentice, he's alright at what he does, but his once best friend Yùn, is better at it. Sure, she studies more and works harder at it, but since they're both being apprenticed by Kai's mother, Kai thinks he can get a free pass for everything. When the time comes where he needs to use his magic and it fails him, Yùn comes to his rescue, making him envious of her talents. Think of Kai as Harry Potter where his general knowledge and courage makes him a good hero, but he wouldn't be anywhere without Yùn who is knowledgeable and dedicated like Hermione. 

One of my favorite characters is Chen, Kai's companion spirit. Every citizen has a companion spirit and they all take different shapes. Chen is a pig, but no matter what his appearance is, he's a reliable companion and Kai's constant friend. His sarcasm and funny replies is what makes him such a great character, and as comic relief, I really missed him when him and many other companions disappeared for some unknown reason. The spirit companions pull through in the end and are reunited with their human at the most convenient time.

Getting to Phoenix City definitely isn't easy, but getting Lian out might turns out to be even more difficult. Phoenix City politics prevents Lian to return to her city, and leaving the Phoenix City court seems almost impossible. With the help of new and old friends, returning Lian to her city might just save her father's life.

In a way, the story is a there and back travel adventure, and that story, on it's own, wouldn't hold up. What saves the book is the wonderful and magical world Beth Bernobich created. The world building is actually what I liked the most about FOX & PHOENIX. The world is rich with cultural detail and political elements that normally wouldn't be expect in young adult books. I find it clever how she replaced our world's modern need for electricity and/or gas with this world's need for magic. Magic flux is a commodity that controls everything from communication devices to transportation, and like our gas and electricity, citizens need to pay taxes and fees in order to use it. Magic is also something that's traded, even to the point where some regions run dry because too much was used up or diverted to the big cities. The ever present Asian culture is also captivating because, while I can't really pin point exactly which country inspired Bernobich, it allows the readers to identify with some elements they might recognize. Despite the Asian influence, the culture and history is without a doubt straight from the mind of a brilliant story teller that I enjoy rediscovering every once in a while.


Tynga is a 32 years old mom of two, from Montreal, working as a lab technician in an hospital specialized in heart disease. In her free time, she enjoys reading all things Paranormal and photography.

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  1. I see you didn't bother reading that fucking stupid Ghost Dragon's Daughter.