Li Ming is a disgraced swordsman searching for the man who killed his family. Shu Yan is a runaway serving girl from the pleasure houses. When she hires the swordsman to take her to her hometown, she sets off a chain of events that could topple the Southern Kingdom.
This novella promised action, epic settings, and a wuxia hero I couldn’t help but become endeared to. And…drum-roll please…it definitely delivered.
To be honest, I had no idea what wuxia meant when I first stumbled across this story. But thanks to the author’s very helpful website (check it out here!) I learned everything I needed. And, turns out, I already knew a healthy chunk about the wuxia genre–I just didn’t know the name of it. According to the author’s website, “wuxia is a genre of Chinese fiction that features itinerant warriors of extreme (almost supernatural) martial arts skill in ancient China.”
Turns out, I’m a fan of wuxia! And I didn’t even know it.
JF Lee definitely knows his niche though, as seen in his writing. You’re immediately drawn into the aesthetic, complete with sprawling, mist-covered landscapes and run-down villages populated with war-weary survivors. The characters are engaging, the conflict ends satisfyingly, and the tension amps up as the hero and villain dance around meeting. The only thing I would have preferred was more of an interaction between Li Ming (the swordsman) and Shu Yan (the runaway). Those interactions are glossed over in the story, and by the end of it, we can see the result of all that time spent together, without the effort put in. I would have enjoyed watching them getting to learn about one another, seeing them interact so as to better understand their characters and their relationship. As this is an introductory novella, I’m sincerely hoping the first full-length book will cover that more, because I did find the characters fun and interesting.
If you’re a fan of the genre, I’d definitely recommend this teaser. And yes, it’s absolutely a teaser. As a novella, it’s a short-read (I finished mine in less than an hour), so don’t go looking to be entertained for hours on end when you download your free copy of this story. However, it’s a wonderful appetizer to what I’m sure will be a phenomenal first course when Sword of Sorrow Blade of Joy is released. 4.5 out of 5 stars!