Quick Reviews: Shadow Heart and A Thousand Li

Saturday , 4, May 2019 1 Comment

Irma wishes to be the perfect girl: chaste, feminine, and generous. But when a giant monster stomps through her hometown, her plans crumbled right along with the stores and apartments.

In the chaos of acrid smoke and panicked civilians, the private military company Shadow Heart snatched her friend out of the crowd and took her captive.

Now Irma must pilot the Grand Valkyur, a mechanical titan of steel more powerful than any weapon made by human hands. With a brilliant sword that could cut any matter and gleaming armor that could withstand any weapon, the Valkyur challenges all who dare to fight it.

But piloting the Valkyur means using violence — and to Irma, violence is men’s work.How can she rescue her friend without betraying the feminine elegance she prides herself on?

The second novel from the #AGundam4Us circle of mecha enthusiasts, Rawle Nyanzi’s Shining Tomorrow: Shadow Heart embrace the giant robot vs. kaiju monster traditions of Ultraman. But where that past few years of big kaiju anthologies have treated these heroes with a double-helping of camp, Shadow Heart instead plays the heroic struggle straight. This alternative history future, similar to The Man in the High Castle but with Japanese hegemony instead of German, provides a backdrop for the deadly intrigue that sets the main character Irma on the path to becoming the masked heroine Shoujo Red. But before Irma can settle the clashes threatening to sweep the world into another war, she must first resolve the conflict between the constraining demands of a prim schoolgirl and the needs of a larger-than-life warrior. While the action easily fits the grand expectations of the genre, the star of this novel is the almost alien Japanese-American hybrid society, complete with the rigid expectations for Irma and the rest of society.

Long Wu Ying never expected to join a Sect or become a real cultivator. His days were spent studying, planting rice on the family farm and spending time with his friends. Fate, however, has different plans for Wu Ying and when the army arrives at his village, he and many other members of the village are conscripted. Given the opportunity to join the Verdant Green Waters Sect, Wu Ying must decide between his pedestrian, common life and the exciting, blood soaked life of a cultivator.

Join Wu Ying as he takes his first step on his Thousand Li journey to become an immortal cultivator.

Chinese xianxia fantasy continues make inroads into English audiences with Tao Wong’s A Thousand Li: The First Step. Like many series before it, A Thousand Li follows the life of a young boy into manhood as he struggles to master the intricacies of chi cultivation, the internal martial arts, and the world around him. Tao Wong brings some Western sensibilities to the genre that make this fantasy more accessible to Western readers unfamiliar with the legends around Chinese internal martial arts. The growth in cultivation levels, and thus in hero Long Wu Ying’s magical and martial abilities, are tied to concrete achievements, such as clearing chi meridians, instead of random increases in levels of chi. This sense of accomplishment carries over into Wu Ying’s personality and story arc. Many xianxia fantasies are power fantasies, with arrogant heroes effortlessly surpassing the conflicts in their path through natural talent. Wu Ying starts as a disgraced peasant of above-average ability, and is repeatedly thrown into perils where he must either adapt and overcome or die. This gives him a sense of accomplishment and humility that many of his peers lack. Wu Ying’s adventures through the Chinese magical academy make for an excellent introduction to the xianxia genre.

Finally, a bit of news. This weekend, Richard Fox is offering a sale on his award-winning Terran Armor Corps series, the sequel to The Ember War. The Terran Armor Corps follows Roland Shaw from armored soldier recruit to his fate in the hottest fires of the desperate defense of Earth. Along the way, he not only learns how to fight, but why,, in the grand tradition of Heinlein and Ringo. Through Monday, May 6th, the price for each eBook of the six novel series has been cut to $0.99. This is an excellent opportunity for milSF fans to purchase one of the leading milSF series of the decade for less than the price of a paperback.

“I am Armor. I am Fury. I Will not Fail.”

One Comment
  • Tao Wong says:

    Thank you for the review. I hadn’t realised you had done this.

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