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Friday, September 16, 2022

Book review: The Art of Prophecy by Wesley Chu

 


Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

AUTHOR INFO: Wesley Chu is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of twelve published novels, including Time Salvager, The Rise of Io, and The Walking Dead: Typhoon. He won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. His debut, The Lives of Tao, won the Young Adult Library Services Association Alex Award. Chu is an accomplished martial artist and a former member of the Screen Actors Guild. He has acted in film and television, worked as a model and stuntman, and summited Kilimanjaro. He currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife, Paula, and two boys, Hunter and River.

REVIEW: The Art of Prophecy blew my mind. Its delicious blend of wuxia, epic fantasy, and drama works on every level. Excellent characterization makes the story memorable and impossible to put down. It’s at once pulpy and profound, and it never forgets to have fun. 

The story opens with Ling Taishi, one of the greatest war masters of her generation, meeting Jian, the Chosen One who’s prophesied to defeat the Eternal Khan, the immortal god-king of the Katuia hordes. She’s not impressed. The boy is spoiled, arrogant, and not ready for the challenge. Just when she decides to train him, unexpected events prove the prophecy was a sham, and the boy’s existence becomes a political problem. That’s all you need to know - a more in-depth synopsis would only spoil part of the fun. 

The narrative follows four POV characters - Jian and three fascinating female warriors, each the Master of a different War Art. Ling Taishi sides with Jian, and she may be my favorite female character ever. One-armed, aging, and hot-tempered, she’s still a brilliant warrior, and she owns this book with her personality, skill, and heart. Taishi is a formidable warrior and a skilled Windwhisper able to fly on air currents or use them to strike opponents or carry her voice. Each of her fight scenes is a thing of beauty.

Jian starts as a delusional and entitled brat, but he’s a good kid inside, and his coming-of-age arc proves it with humor and a knack for drama. Two remaining POV characters, Salminde and psychopathic shadow assassin Qisami want Jian dead, one for ideological, the second for monetary reasons. As a Shadowkill, Qisami can dive in and out of shadows. How would I describe her? Unhinged. There’s something of Harley Quinn and Deadpool in her. Salminde, on the other hand, has the coolest weapon ever - the so-called Tongue, a hybrid of a rope dart and spear. I wouldn’t call her the story’s protagonist, but it’s hard not to see her side of things.

The fantasy world depicted in The Art of Prophecy is vivid and fascinating. Based on familiar and expected, it adds unique worldbuilding (from the setting and the creatures that inhabit it to the weapons and techniques used by War Masters). Take the Grass Sea and its harsh ecosystem, for example. An endless plain of indestructible plants, each as tall as a tree. Katuia children inhabiting the area practice blade jumping, which is as exhilarating as dangerous because of the risk of the fall or being eaten by the whale-birds or other creatures.   

Chu’s smooth prose and effortless, often sharp and humorous, dialogue make The Art of Prophecy easy to read. While the story explores darker themes and death occurs on the page, it always balances darker moments with levity and brilliant character interaction.

As you probably guessed, I loved The Art of Prophecy. It’s excellent entertainment for fans of wuxia, martial arts, and deeply personal stakes. Highly recommended.



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