Reading Silver Phoenix made me realize something: I don't like journey fantasy. You know, as in 'heroes venture from place to place facing various characters, situations, and dangers along the way'? It always feels disjointed, especially when you know the characters you're meeting in this one chapter are never going to appear again. I much prefer books with complex, interwoven plots and large casts of secondary characters that I can actually get to know--something you don't really see in "Adventure of the Day" style books.
That was probably my biggest issue with Silver Phoenix. I just didn't care. There were only three major characters who got more than a few chapters' worth of screen time, and out of those, I only liked one. The protagonist, Ai Ling, was rather unmemorable. (Though I do appreciate a girl who unashamedly likes food.) Her love interest was broody and dull. And the third one (aka the one I actually liked)? He dies. Too early. Even the major villains hardly made an appearance, and when they did they were defeated far too easily.
The bland adventure and characters were even more of a disappointment, considering the richness and beauty of the worldbuilding. Silver Phoenix is a Chinese-inspired world, and full of intriguing mythical creatures. I just wish it had all come together better (as opposed to "Hey, I wonder which monster we're going to fight today?)