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Serpentine
Cover of Serpentine
Serpentine
by Cindy Pon
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Inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology, this sweeping fantasy is set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns 16, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell. When her plight can no longer be denied, Skybright learns that despite a dark destiny, she must struggle to retain her sense of self – even as she falls in love for the first time.

Inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology, this sweeping fantasy is set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns 16, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell. When her plight can no longer be denied, Skybright learns that despite a dark destiny, she must struggle to retain her sense of self – even as she falls in love for the first time.

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Languages:-
Copies-
  • Available:
    2
  • Library copies:
    2
Levels-
  • ATOS:
    6.1
  • Lexile:
  • Interest Level:
    UG
  • Text Difficulty:
    4 - 5

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About the Author-
  • Cindy Pon is a writer and a longtime student of Chinese brush painting. She is the author of Fury and the Phoenix and Silver Phoenix, which was named one of Booklist's Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth, and one of 2009's best Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror by VOYA. She lives in Southern California.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 31, 2015
    Returning to the world of Silver Phoenix (2009), Pon adeptly weaves together fantasy elements and Chinese traditions and folklore in this coming-of-age fantasy. Growing up in Yuan Manor has been good for Skybright, a foundling orphan who was taken in by a wealthy family. Though her role is that of a handmaid to daughter Zhen Ni, the two girls have been best friends since birth. When a seer arrives from the capital, Skybright's future proves to be as murky as her past, with Madame Lo "unable to see her clearly." Soon after, Skybright is shocked one night when she transforms (temporarily) into a serpent demon, "a thick serpent coil snak behind her, where her legs should have been." With a war between the demons looming, Skybright learns to embrace her demon side, striking a balance between her newfound duties as leader and the normalcy of her previous life. Action, secrets, love, and a search for identity combine in a powerful tale about what ensues when the underworld and the real world collide. Ages 12–up. Agent: Bill Contardi, Brandt & Hochman.

  • Kirkus

    July 15, 2015
    Pon returns to Xia, a realm inspired by Chinese folklore and introduced in Silver Phoenix (2009), for the first in a duology. Abandoned at birth, Skybright feels lucky to be handmaid to the wealthy, vivacious Zhen Ni, who for 16 years has treated her more as beloved sister than servant. Yet Sky, already bitter with jealousy over her mistress's new companion and passionately enamored of the charming monk-in-training Kai Sen, hides a dreadful secret: at night, she transforms into a demon, half human, half monstrous crimson serpent. As Sky learns more about her extraordinary origins from the enigmatic immortal Stone, she realizes that the breach between the underworld and the land of the living endangers everything she holds dear. The economical narrative conjures an entire world, drenched in color and texture and scent, rich in evocative mythology and heady action, and filled with vivid characters. Skybright makes a refreshing heroine, both fiercely loyal and eminently practical, ready to exploit her supernatural powers while insisting on her inherent humanity. Her steamy, nigh-instantaneous (and eventually consummated) romance with Kai Sen still appears intimate and tender, even as her unwilling attraction to Stone suggests a classic love triangle. But the dominant theme remains her deep friendship with Zhen Ni, with all its complications of class, amorous entanglements, and imminent demon invasion. A fast-paced and engrossing read for anyone weary of the same old hackneyed storylines. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from July 1, 2015

    Gr 9 Up-Skybright never knew her parents. She was raised by an affluent Chinese family who took her into their home to be a handmaid to their daughter, Zhen Ni. The two grew up as close as sisters, best friends and confidants who shared everything. Skybright loves her mistress, but as both girls grow up, changes start to occur. While Zhen Ni finds love in a new friendship, Skybright discovers a new side of herself, one filled with darkness. She fights to balance her duties, the love she has for another, and this evil within herself. Skybright struggles to maintain her true self, as well as to hide what she is becoming from her closest friend. The teen doesn't know who she is anymore. Is she a servant, a friend, a lover, or a demon? Could she be all of these things, or must she choose one? This coming-of-age story takes readers on a fantastical journey through friendship and Chinese mythology. YA fans will love Pon's storytelling ability and the immersion into a world filled with love, danger, and fantasy. VERDICT Readers will be begging for a sequel to find out what happens to these intriguing characters.-Jessica Strefling, US Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit Library

    Copyright 2015 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kristin Cashore, author, Bitterblue "Serpentine is unique and surprising, with a beautifully-drawn fantasy world that sucked me right in! I love Skybright's transformative power, and how she learns to take charge of it."
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    Month9Books, LLC
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