Phoenix (The Five Ancestors: Out of the Ashes #1)

Title: Phoenix

Author: Jeff Stone

Phoenix’s life is exciting, but in normal ways. Mountain biking. Competing in races. Training in kung-fu with his grandfather. But when a disaster leaves his grandfather’s life on the line, Phoenix finds himself racing the clock to find a mysterious substance known as dragon bone. Only it appears he isn’t the only one after what little remains in the world . . .

This is connected to the Five Ancestors series, but only loosely. Although there are some nods to the original story, this one takes place in modern day, and has plenty of time in Indiana and Texas as well as China. Like the other books, though, there’s some well-written kung fu alongside solid characters.

I like biking myself, and it was a lot of fun to read such a loving depiction of the sport, but the story is good not to assume too much outside knowledge. Everything complex gets explained.

I was also impressed with how the story handled Ryan. One thing I appreciate about these books is how they show the spectrum of good and evil: there is a clear villain, to be sure, and then people like Ryan who are caught in the middle. Ryan’s criticism of Phoenix is dead on, and it’s easy to see how the awkwardness of Ryan’s father’s death led others to shun him.

The only thing that puzzled me had more to do with the previous series. Long was supposed to receive money from the Emperor to rebuild the temple, but it appears the ruins are the same as they ever were (or did they get re-destroyed? It was hard to tell). Long said he would explain, but never got a chance, so it will be interesting to see if the rest of this series delves deeper into what happened between then and now.

Overall this is a very solid read. It’s easy to get into even if you have no knowledge of the previous series (though this may make you want to pick that one up). I rate this book Recommended.

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