I’m usually not drawn to the historical fantasy genre (with the exception of Chinese wuxia novels) but the title of this book had me intrigued. I guess I was just curious to find out what kind of Chinese mythology the American author was so enamored with as to come up with a whole series based on it (this is book #2).
From the start, I was wrapped up in the intricate plot and gradually became charmed by the upright Daoist heroine Xian Li-lin. The plot did branch out into numerous extraneous but interesting tangents, but in the end the snarled web of threads eventually became disentangled in a satisfying denouement.
The general impression I got from reading was a blend of vampire film, Disney cartoon and wuxia action flick.
The one thing I was most amazed about was the author’s intimate knowledge of Chinese religious and traditional beliefs, myths and customs. What touched a chord with me was the sensitive and respectful way he handled the cultural details that were not native to him. His thorough research of late 1800’s San Francisco Chinatown also shone through.
My favorite quote from the book: “I don’t see how you can expect me to honor your people’s ways while you’re expressing scorn for mine, Mrs. Wei.”
Overall, it was an entertaining read. I’m giving it 4.3 stars.