I picked up Cindy Pon's debut having no idea what to expect, but I'd heard great things about it and the summary sounded promising. I am so glad that I did: Silver Phoenix had a stunning blend of magic, romance, humor, and action!At first I had a bit of trouble keeping all the characters straight. I'm one of those readers that, until I really get to "know" a character, doesn't really pay all that much attention to names. For example, at the beginning of the book I will not know the main character' name unless it is a name that I come across a lot in everyday life, etc... so Ai Ling wasn't really a name that stuck in my head well. Then add to the mix that all of the characters had traditional Chinese names: I was confused every time I tried to pick out a character by name. It wasn't until I really started to get sense of each character's personality and goals that the names really stuck.The magical and mythological themes in the novel were really interesting. It seemed like many of the myths and creatures were or easily could be rooted in real Chinese mythology. I really liked how the monsters not only provided a source of action, but also revealed traits and truths about the characters as they battled.I was pleasantly surprised by the messages of girl power I found in this book. Ai Ling was a strong female lead who, against a myriad of pressures, sets out to save her father. The fact that she wants to marry for love and has her parents as a model couple to look to for inspiration and strength was refreshing. I loved that her parents had a healthy relationship. I definitely don't have a problem with stories that feature single parents, etc, but it was nice to see happy family in novel.The romantic element of Silver Phoenix was well balanced with the rest of the novel. I liked that it wasn't really a main focus, but it was mixed into to various scenes. I have to say, the note that the story ended on romantically leaves me anxious for the next book!