At its best, Willrich’s beautifully written debut paints a vivid, richly imagined world populated by delightfully memorable characters; at its worst, it serves as a disturbing case study in Orientalism. Persimmon Gaunt and Imago Bone, an adventure-seeking couple, are on the run from the Night’s Auditors, assassins who leave their victims in a vegetative state, and an arkendrake, a fire-breathing Western dragon. They flee to the wuxia-inspired Qiangguo, an empire bounded by the Heavenwalls and suffocating under its strict adherence to tradition and convention. There, aided by resourceful Swan priestess Eshe, rebellious young bandit Next-One-A-Boy, and Wulin warrior and mother Lightning Bug, they encounter murderous bandits, imperial officials, transspatial dislocation scrolls, and an unexpected prophesied destiny for them and their unborn child. This fantastical quest story contains witty narration, well-drawn characters, and a fast-moving plot, but its portrayal of Qiangguo as stagnating in isolation and desperately in need of outside saviors will put off some readers, especially those familiar with Chinese history and culture. Agent: Joe Monti, Barry Goldblatt Literary Agency. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/08/2013 Release date: 09/01/2013 Genre: Fiction
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