Book of the Year 2013 (see all)
Reading fantasy novels (and reading a lot of them!) sets a certain tone in your mind. We expect creatures like dragons, goblins and dwarves, our novels are plagued with mythical and mysterious creatures that tend to drift across universes. When I started reading Dreaming Of Zhou Gong I had no idea what to expect: what I got was an ancient Chinese tale of revenge, ancient prophecies, emperors, love and adventure.
The story revolves around Hudan, of the mysterious Wu (after some research I discovered that the Wu were believed to be shamans in ancient China and moved around the country barely visible in society). Living on the sacred mountain of Li Shan, the Wu have been living in isolation for decades, while the Shang emperor and his enchantress have ruled the land. The emperor is a cruel and harsh ruler who has treated the villagers horribly, while the Ji brothers are holding onto an ancient prophecy that has predicted the fall of the Shang emperor, but first they have to seek out the Wu.
The brothers join forces and head out to the mountain with beautiful, enigmatic Hudan and her sister as they begin a powerful journey of love and adventure. As if planning an attack an evil emperor was not enough, a terrible and dark curse has plagued the rulers of the land for generations. The Songs of the Sky have been visiting Hudan in her dreams with a plan to destroy the curse, but Hudan cannot see if they can be trusted.
There is so much to say about this book, the setting is truly original and invites the reader straight into the world without needing much explanation. This is one of the first fantasy books in a while to reignite my imagination and take me to a completely different place. I was almost wanting a film adaptation to happen just to see how it would look on screen.
The characters are very mysterious, not all of their cards are put on the table straight away and this only adds to the mystery and wonder of this enchanting story. It is quite a large novel and the plot was engaging enough to be one of those books that you just can't put down.
Harding should be praised for bringing something original and organic to the fantasy genre, and taking a chance on an ancient Chinese backdrop more than pays off. If you are tired of reading the same generic fantasy stuff, then this is the book for you. I got so much joy out of reading this and has become a favourite of mine in the genre.
Review by Alaisdair Dewar
9/10 from 1 reviews
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