Phoenix Down – Catherine Weaver

*I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.*

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Phoenix Down is the sequel to Gold Dust, by the author Catherine Weaver, and set in the real and also mythical Island of California.

Blurb: Alex is just settling in to a relaxing Spring Break when a leprechaun appears at her door and tells her to run. And she doesn’t stop running: from the police, the FBI, angry griffins, a powerful wizard, and her teachers – who happen to be Amazon warriors. ‘Detention’ has a far more serious meaning if all your teachers carry spears across their backs and know how to use them! Her Buddha-quoting grandmother and the leprechauns seem to have a plan to get her out of her mess, but the more she follows it, the worse things seem to get. The down of the phoenix just might help, but then again, if she uses it wrong she could rip apart the very fabric of existence.

This second trip into the life of the ‘ordinary girl’ Alex Lee and her magical adventures was even more action-packed than the first:  she pops between worlds, forms a band, and starts Amazon warrior-school all on her way to saving her dad this time.  Again, instead of the more traditional peril of death, this time it is the corrupted forces of law and order that are persecuting the Lee family (last time it was Corporate Business).  This is an interesting dip into light politics for children’s novels, although we also have a more traditional antagonist in the form of Herman Mendez:  rich, powerful and out to rule the world mwuahahahaha.  (It is not clear yet whether his brother Gabriel is also Evil, or just rather clueless and completely self-absorbed in his search for power via knowledge).

This is a factor of Catherine Weaver’s characters that also featured in her previous novel:  whilst the ‘baddies’ are definitely morally dubious there is no violence, just deception and power games; conversely the ‘goodies’ motivations are often clouded by self-interest, greed, jealousy (see Ian especially for the latter in this novel, which features a touch more romantic development!).

It was nice to see more of Alex’s Obaachan (grandmother), and I thought the addition of neighbour Roger, the Trekkie, was a fun touch.  It was good to see grumpy Stan back as well, and being his usual pleasant company.

Altogether a great children’s series, especially for young girl readers, who get to see a strong female lead (although I am with Azura in wishing she would stop fainting…more Miso soup required!).  If you are looking for a modern children’s adventure story in a similar style to Enid Blyton (The Faraway Tree, or The Famous Five) then Gold Dust and Phoenix Down are just what you need!

“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth: not going all the way, and not starting.” – ‘Obaachan’, Catherine Weaver, Phoenix Down

For more from Catherine Weaver and the Island of California, check out her website:

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