Cindy Pon's Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia was a really good book. A great book, even. But its sequel, Fury of the Phoenix is breathtaking (and no, I'm not exaggerating in the slightest). While Silver introduced us to the inimitable Ai Ling, Fury continues her journey, as well as giving us the back story behind the evil Zhong Ye and Ai Ling's previous incarnation, the titular Silver Phoenix.Without giving too much away, Pon gives us a character that was the very personification of evil, inexplicably craving the company of Silver Phoenix -- in any incarnation -- for centuries in Zhong Ye. Yet in Fury, she reveals depths to the character, layer by layer, and inch by inch. We meet him as a conniving eunuch, desperate to win the favor of the emperor any way he can, starting with his castration. We can see the blind ambition that would have led to the monster Ai Ling killed at the end of Silver Phoenix. But what we could never have understood without Pon's masterful storytelling, is how he could have ever claimed to love Silver Phoenix, the maid to one of the emperor's concubine's.Ai Ling has followed Chen Yong on a ship bound for what may be the home of Chen Yong's birth father. She is heartbroken at the news of his betrothal, determined to keep him safe after having a vision that he was in danger, and horrified at her temporary dabbling in black magic to try to bring Chen Yong's adopted brother back to life. As the story unravels, taking twist after surprising twist, more of Zhong Ye's relationship with Silver Phoenix is revealed as Ai Ling's own secret she's been keeping from Chen Yong comes between them. The book's climactic scene is simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting, and I sobbed as I read, something usually reserved for tragic movie deaths.A few scenes of a fairly grisly nature make this not recommended for younger YA readers, but I'm still reeling at how absolutely amazing this book is ... and dying to know what might come next for these characters.