Aug 31, 2011

Book Review - Heaven to Wudang by Kylie Chan

It is with some embarrassment that I admit that while I had seen Kylie Chan’s books many times before I had always assumed that she was American for some reason and that her books were YA.
Kudos goes to Rowena Cory Daniells and her series of interviews of female fantasy writers (here) for correcting of the first of those misunderstandings and Kylie Chan for the second.

Heaven to Wudang was a review copy sent to me by the publisher.  Unfortunately it’s the third book in a trilogy (or sixth if you count her Dark Heaves Series).  But as regular readers will know I’ve never let chronological order get in the way of reviewing.

So the beginning of Heaven to Wudang was a little rough.  Book series sometimes develop their own nomenclature, or conventions, shorthand for oft repeated actions, situations etc., and I found this with Heaven to Wudang initially.  Fortunately I have  background in martial arts, and watching Honk Kong cinema. My reading-fu is strong.
The Synopsis

“Human and demon, heaven and hell battle for the fate of the world in this fabulous bestselling series ... The demons that could control stones and elementals have been defeated, but the most powerful of Simon Wong′s associates still remains to create almost undetectable copies of humans and Shen. This demon allies with Kitty Kwok to prepare a torturous trap for Emma and Simone from which they may never return. Wudang Mountain is enveloped by dark foreboding as Xuan Wu begins to reappear -- sometimes human, sometimes turtle, but always without memory. Emma and Simone are in a race against time as they try to rescue Xuan Wu ... before the demons capture him.”
HarperCollins Australia

Relationships and Issues
The strength of Chan’s writing I found to be in her character development, that even though this book was tying up lose ends and rounding of story arcs it was the characters and my emotional connection to them that pulled me through. 

Chan’s also to be commended for being willing to include the topics of gay marriage, gender swapping and HIV all in one tale, without making the book a vehicle for author voice.
If there was one thing that did drop me from the story it  was the cultural cringe I experienced when Emma used the ubiquitous ‘mate’, but I got over it.

Splendid Vistas both Beautiful and Gruesome
One thing you get when you mix ancient and expansive culture with the paranormal/mystical is the chance to play with some truly magnificent scenes.  There is one depiction of the Dragon’s realm that features a giant sentient tree that the inhabitants live in, that struck me as particularly imaginative and well described. 

There’s also a point at which the characters discover a demonic meat market where the meat turns out to be human, that I think hit the tone spot on.  Gruesome without making me want to lose my lunch.

Chan delivers a happy mix of mysticism, romance, and action. Not to mention some nice pop culture references. I’ll happily go back and read the start of the series.

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