Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.
Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she engages the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death… because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.
Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?
In this shimmering Chinese-inspired fantasy, debut author Joan He introduces a determined and vulnerable young heroine struggling to do right in a world brimming with deception.
Four stars because it felt a little slow at times and I knew from the start who to trust and who not to trust. Four stars because I will absolutely be reading the sequel and am in fact really excited about where this one left off and promised to go. I loved the characters having complex motivations, and few if any are who they seem to be on the surface.
Recommended: yes For a generational story of understanding, for a look at recent historical Chinese eras, for a story that pierces your heart and makes you want only the best for the characters, for a blend of romance and survival and coming-of-age.
Summary Mini Pao lives with her sister and parents in a pre-war Shanghai divided among foreign occupiers and Chinese citizens, a city known as the “Paris of the East” with its contrast of vibrant night life and repressive social mores. Already considered an old maid at twenty-three, Mini boldly rejects the path set out for her as she struggles to provide for her family and reckons with her desire for romance and autonomy. Mini’s story of love, betrayal, and determination unfolds in the Western-style cafes, open-air markets, and jazz-soaked nightclubs of Shanghai—the same city where, decades later, her granddaughter Ting embarks on her own journey toward independence.
Ting Lee has grown up behind an iron curtain in a time of scarcity, humility, and forced-sameness in accordance with the strictures of Chairman Mao’s cultural revolution. As a result, Ting’s imagination burns with curiosity about fashion, America, and most of all, her long-lost grandmother Mini’s glamorous past and mysterious present. As her thirst for knowledge about the world beyond 1970s Shanghai grows, Ting is driven to uncover her family’s tragic past and face the difficult truth of what the future holds for her if she remains in China.
I did my first cover roulette post a while ago for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and it was so fun I wanted to do another! Luckily I found another popular book that has had many different editions made, and I wondered…
What other awesome covers have I missed?
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan just had it’s 30 year anniversary in 2019. In her preface to the 30th anniversary edition, Tan says that she expected her little collection of stories to disappear off shelves by six months after publication, as most debut books do. And, well… now she’s writing a 30 year anniversary preface for yet another re-publication. Pretty awesome.
I’m also finally picking this book up. It’s one of those “been meaning to for years” books that I’ve been interested in, but just never got around to. Well, now I’m around to it! Which made it feel like the perfect pick to check out some of the many covers it’s had from 30+ years of popularity.
The Cover I Know
In my college library basement, I stumbled on the “Amy Tan” section. Loved the gorgeous simple covers, already knew I’d probably love her works. Finally reading it now. ^.^
2016 Russian: A Takeover / Merge
I adore this cover interpretation. The Chinese dragon wrapping around the Statue of Liberty, such an American symbol. I love the way it shows the cultures blending, as the fire from the torch becomes like the dragon’s fire, and I just absolutely love it entirely.