“She knew her own worth. She would seize her destiny with all the strength and spirit within her, and bend them all to her will: every man kneeling and every woman overshadowed.”
I've read the advanced reader copy of this book, and since the book was published a while ago (better late than never, right?) I don't know if anything was changed in the final copy, although from where I'm standing not much would have needed to be changed at all.
This is probably my favorite ARC I've ever read, and I honestly cannot believe that this was a debut. Julie Dao writes with a refined and skillful hand and I cannot wait for what her next books will bring.
Also, kudos to her editing team because this advanced copy was the cleanest, most grammatically correct book I've ever received. I can just tell how much love and dedication to detail this book received and it definitely payed off - I am so freaking impressed with it!
“For that is the way of the world, Guma’s voice echoed. Some are given a rope to the moon, and others claw up the sky.”
The story follows Xifeng, a beautiful and suffering woman, who believes in destiny more than anything in the world. She believes she's destined for more and is prepared to see it through. Xifeng is not your typical protagonist, because she is the opposite of that. She is beautiful and she knows it, and uses it to her benefit in every opportunity she can. She's selfish and vain and she won't let anything stand in her way.
Do you like her and the path she takes? No. But you also can't tear your eyes away from the pages because you just have to know how her story will play out.
“Xifeng tilted her face, a pale moon in the evening of the water. She felt like a goddess in the shimmering light. She was a poem come to life, each vein was a lyric.”
This is branded as Asian retelling of Snow White, but the story is so intricate and indigenous that you don't see the references to the original narrative until they are right in front of your face.
The writing was absolutely beautiful, for the most part, there were few times when it felt very stiff - as if the flow was somehow broken and words just stumbled around till they found the rhythm again. If you're not into high fantasy and descriptive writing, I admit that it might be too much in places, but if you are - then you're in for a treat. Quite brutal, but delicious treat.
“She was a monster, a bride of the darkness, and she rose to face her destiny as though it were the blood-red sunrise of a new day.”
At some moments it did feel as if Xifeng just couldn't make up her mind, and I know it was meant as a portrayal of her fighting the good and evil inside of her, but sometimes it just came out as wishy-washy. But I loved the strength of her, and I loved how she refused to belong to any man - Xifeng is quite the feminist!
My goal this year was to read more books in Asian setting and this book just reminded me why I made that goal - because I love the setting so much. The imagery, the legends and the customs - it's all so intricate and almost magical to me.
Julie C. Dao got a new fan with just one book because I cannot wait for the second one. We got a glimpse of what's to come, and most importantly who to come on the scene, and I am already so intrigued.
Freelance BETA reader.