Fox and Phoenix Beth Bernobich
The king is dying and the princess isn't responding to her messages. The Ghost Dragon King sends Kai and Yun to the heart of the Phoenix Empire to bring the princess home from university. But there are forces that don't want Kai and Yun to reach the princess, and, once they do, forces that won't let her leave.
Magic + steampunk + court intrigue + a Chinese fantasy setting = OH YES.
The set up to this story is one that you'll love or hate, depending. Basically, it reads like a sequel, but it's not. Kai and his friends met the Princess a year ago, when they helped her find her heart's desire. It sounded like a basic fairy tale set-up, doing impossible tasks to win her hand, but her heart's desire was to study politics before taking the throne. No one got her hand, the street gang was rewarded handsomely and the princess got to go to college. Win win. But... this is the story about what happens next. The money has changed Kai and his friends. They used it to escape the streets, but their group has drifted and things have shifted and changed. For Kai, it seemed easier then.
I LOVED this. I've often wanted a story about what happens next or what about the other people caught up in some epic battle, not the hero? I like how we jumped in, between big adventures. But, I can see that some people might really hate the same thing.
I liked how it was magical steampunk. The technology felt like futuristic steampunk, but magic was what it ran on, plus standard fantasy magic. And spirit animals.
Oh yes, and China. That's always a major plus in my book. I do like China.
And the cover is awesome.
I will say it took me awhile to get into it. The first 100 pages were a bit slow, but I'll admit that might have been my mood when I read it. After that though, I had a hard time putting it down. Very fun.
UPDATE: Beth Bernobich emailed me to let me know there IS actually a prequel. It was a short story in the out-of-print anthology Magic in the Mirrorstone. Luckily for us, she put it up on Smashwords for FREE. Be sure to check it out!
Book Provided by... my local library
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