One of my favorite things in the world to do is to read a new book, doubly so when it’s from a new author. Or at least an author that I haven’t heard of before, as Beth Bernobich certainly isn’t new to the world of writing.
And it shows in her first YA novel Fox and Phoenix, coming out October 13th.
Fox and Phoenix takes place in a world like China, only with more magic, less giant walls, and spirit animals accompanying those who live there. Add in a dash of fairy tale, romance, some court intrigue, a dying King and a missing Princess, and you have the beginnings of a story that grabs you from the first sentence and doesn’t let go until the end.
It starts off introducing the characters Kai, Mami, and Yun, first seen in a short story Bernobich wrote as a prelude to this novel. Mami owns a magic shop in Long City (which, as an aside, means “Dragon City”. I knew those lessons in Chinese would come in handy some time!), and recieves words that the King has fallen ill. When the court tries to get a hold of the Princess, currently studying at the university in the neighboring Phoenix kingdom, they receive no answer time and again.
As things go more out of control, Kai finds himself taking a cross country journey to the Phoenix Kingdom with just a cranky, re-animated Griffon and his friend Yun as companions. Of course, it never goes easily, and the trio find themselves fending off assassin attacks, missing magic, and missing spirit animals that had been with them since birth.
And when they get to Phoenix City, their troubles are just beginning.
While this book is billed for those in 6th grade and above there is cursing in it, but nothing stronger than the occasional “damn” when Kai is feeling exceptionally emotional and overwhelmed. My knee-jerk reaction on reading it was to not let my younger sister who is in 6th grade read it. And then I remembered what I was reading at her age and decided I was likely being over protective, especially since I would recommend it to anyone else.
My one complaint is that the ending seems to tie up all the loose ends in quick succession, making it somewhat hard to see what had happened the first time I read it. I feel as though a bit more time at the ending and explaining what had happened would not have gone amiss and would have made the book better all in all.
It is clear that Bernobich has done her research into Chinese culture enough to integrate it into this world of hers, which makes it come more alive with every passing phrase. Words in Chinese that might not clearly be known by readers (such as the Griffon’s name) are explained within the story itself, really immersing the reader in a fully fleshed out world.
I highly, highly suggest you read this book when it comes out.
Visit the Author here: http://www.beth-bernobich.com/
Interesting addendum not really pertaining to the book, but still a cool thing I wanted to share: Apparently Beth Bernobich attended the Universität Heidelberg in Germany. I will fully admit to a squee when I read that and I wonder if she and I had any of the same professors from when I was there in 2010. Some of them looked to have been around since the end of WWII…