cover image Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea

Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea

Rita Chang-Eppig. Bloomsbury, $28.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-63973-037-7

Chang-Eppig debuts with a rollicking 19th-century adventure on the South China Sea. During a botched raid on a Portuguese merchant ship, pirate Cheng Yat, captain of the Red Banner Fleet, is killed by sailors who “had come prepared for war.” In the aftermath, his wife, Shek Yeung, fears for her standing among her fellow outlaws. Cheung Po, Yat’s adopted son, is the fleet’s legal heir, and Yeung worries Po may take the opportunity to wrest control away from her. She convinces Po to marry her and agrees to bear him a son, believing their alliance is the only way to ensure the fleet’s survival. Meanwhile, rumors circulate that the emperor has brought in a specialist to extinguish the threat of piracy. What follows is a bold and bloody showdown between the government and the pirate queen. The prose is lyrical (“Typhoons and cannonballs cared nothing for the complicated little folded cranes of feeling that beat their wings in the heart”) and the plot is clever and serpentine, exploring questions of power, violence, gender, and fate. This is not to be missed. (June)