Thanks to Netgalley and Tor Books for giving the opportunity to read and review this novel.
This book is something you needed but could not find. The plot is a novelty, and the characters are even more unique than any other Asian-inspired fiction that I have ever read before. When I heard about the book, I was very attracted to it because of what it promised, and I have to say that even though it took some time for me to really connect with the story, I am pleased.
The story is divided into three parts, each of them covering a span of quite some years, and it is set in ancient China while it was ruled under the power of the Mongols. The story is about a girl who is destined to nothingness who finds a way to change her fate by taking her brother’s identity, Zhu Chongba. Little did she knew that the instant she decided to become him, she was also starting her own way to greatness.
Zhu will face many difficult situations that will lead him to discover that he has the power to change his own fate, he will understand that he is the only one responsible for achieving greatness and becoming powerful. This ambitiousness is something that I have rarely see on any other character before, neither male nor female, and it is what I like the most about Zhu because even though he is not the typical flawless hero, this trait makes him even more real.
The character design seems to be perfectly worked out, I enjoyed reading all of their own perspectives and getting to know them and their secret fears and motivations. It is palpable how much effort the author has put behind the development of each of the characters, shaping them up to their best. My personal favorites are general Ouyang and Lord Wang.
However, there were some parts of the story that I felt kind of loose, or that needed a bit more clarification for the reader. For example, the ability to see the ghosts, or how the mandate of Heaven works out, and why there are many types of them. I was able to understand some of the theory behind it, but I feel that it could have been described a bit better.
Also, I personally would have enjoyed seeing how Zhu’s training was. He does not even know how to hold a sword properly, and all the same passes and survives the training at one of the most feared training pitches? I know that his fate and destiny are of great help but considering his circumstances, it would have been good to have at least a glimpse of how he managed to overcome this situation.
Before, I mentioned that the story is really a good one and this is not just because you can tell how much effort was put behind to build it up, but also because of the topics that are covered throughout the whole book. Besides the typical problems that arise as a consequence of the war (famine, poverty, vandalism, etc), we are also exposed to Zhu’s journey towards acceptance and discovery of who he actually is.
It is palpable how much research was done, especially for the creation and development of the characters, which I consider to be the strongest point in favor of the novel. I loved being able to experience a bit of the feeling of reading some wuxia or xianxia literature while reading this book, which I really ended up enjoying. I hope that you can also accompany Zhu on his way to greatness.