I have a copy of Ken Liu's The Wall of Storms up for grabs, compliments of the folks at Saga Press. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.
Here's the blurb:
In the much-anticipated sequel to the “magnificent fantasy epic” (NPR) Grace of Kings, Emperor Kuni Garu is faced with the invasion of an invincible army in his kingdom and must quickly find a way to defeat the intruders. Kuni Garu, now known as Emperor Ragin, runs the archipelago kingdom of Dara, but struggles to maintain progress while serving the demands of the people and his vision. Then an unexpected invading force from the Lyucu empire in the far distant west comes to the shores of Dara—and chaos results. But Emperor Kuni cannot go and lead his kingdom against the threat himself with his recently healed empire fraying at the seams, so he sends the only people he trusts to be Dara’s savvy and cunning hopes against the invincible invaders: his children, now grown and ready to make their mark on history.
The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "STORMS." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.
Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.
Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.
Good luck to all the participants!
And here's an extract from the book for you to enjoy!
Mother and Daughter
Pan: The Fourth Month in the Ninth Year of the Reign of Four Placid Seas.
“The emperor agrees with me that adding more biography to our curriculum is a good idea,” said Zato Ruthi.
A spring breeze wafted through the instruction hall, bringing with it the fragrance of early-blooming flowers.
“As the sons and daughters of the emperor, it is my hope that the great deeds of important historical figures will inspire you to greater virtue and that the patterns of the past will warn you of pitfalls for the future. I want each of you to spend the next month focusing on a figure of your choice from the recent past. You will study that person’s life in detail and explain his rise and fall, connecting that experience with the broader patterns of history.
“Fara, why don’t we begin with you? Who do you want to study?”
“I want to hear stories about Lady Mira,” said seven-year-old Fara. Three years had passed since the first Grand Examination of the Reign of Four Placid Seas. Though she had lost the baby fat that had once charmed the Lords of Dara, her eyes remained full of mischief and insuppressible delight.
“The Hegemon’s consort?” Ruthi pondered this request and then nodded approvingly. “Lady Mira tried to mitigate the Hegemon’s more volatile tendencies, and in the end she died to demonstrate her faith to her beloved husband. She was a paragon of virtuous womanhood, and a fit choice for a young lady to study. Now, Prince Timu, who is your favorite?”
Timu, now sixteen years of age, knelt up very properly, placed his hands together one behind the other, and slid them up the opposite forearms so that the owing sleeves covered both—this was a formal gesture he had learned from reading old books, as it showed respect for the teacher by not sullying the teacher’s eyes with leftover wax and stray ink on the student’s fingers. He bowed his handsome face.
“Master, I would like to study the deeds of King Jizu.” Phyro rolled his eyes. Fara giggled and covered her mouth.
“Ah.” Ruthi’s eyes glowed with pleasure. “That is an admirable choice. Of all the Tiro kings during the rebellion, Jizu was certainly one of the most virtuous. He loved the people more than life itself, and his sacrifice is rightfully celebrated by poets and wandering story- tellers alike. Designating him as a model for emulation speaks well of your character. What about you, Prince Phyro?”
“I want to hear all about the Hegemon and Queen Gin,” said the stocky twelve-year-old, who had grown much taller and more muscular in the last three years.
Ruthi hesitated. “The Hegemon did have nobility of character—a fact that the emperor recognized in his eulogy; I can understand the appeal. But why Queen Gin?”
“The Hegemon was the greatest warrior of Dara, yet Queen Gin defeated him—what tales of daring must lie behind that fact! Uncle Yemu and Duke Kimo often reminisce about the time they fought with her, but I’m sure there are stories they won’t tell me. Please, Master Ruthi, you have to satisfy my thirst for knowledge!”
Ruthi sighed. “I shall do my best, but you have to do the reading! I may begin by assigning you my essay on her conquest of Rima. . . . Remember, not all the rumors you’ve heard are true.”
Théra and Phyro exchanged knowing smiles. Ruthi turned to the last student. “Princess Théra, what about you?” The fourteen-year-old princess, whose face combined the beauty of her mother with a hint of her father’s impish looks in youth, hesitated only for a moment before replying, “I want to study Princess Kikomi.”
Ruthi frowned. “Théra, Kikomi chose to betray the rebellion out of her foolish devotion to Kindo Marana, Marshal of Xana. She played upon the affections of the Hegemon and the Hegemon’s uncle, seducing both with her wiles. She was fickle of character and unwise in her actions—a most unsuitable choice.”
Théra’s eyes ashed. She took a deep breath. “I respectfully disagree, Master. I believe Kikomi was misunderstood, and I intend to rehabilitate her name.”
“Oh? How do you mean?”
“The charge that she was motivated by love for Kindo Marana is based only upon the words she uttered before her death. There is no hint in any of the records of Kindo Marana that such a romance existed between the two.”
“We know that she took him to bed after the fall of Arulugi—this was attested in the trusted memoirs of palace of officials in Amu.”
Théra shook her head. “She was his captive by then. Her actions might have been an attempt to seduce him to save Amu. Müning fell but wasn’t sacked, which suggests she accomplished the same feat as Jizu: a deal with the conqueror to save the city.”
“Then what of her manipulation of the Hegemon and Phin Zyndu?”
“Could the ploy not have been the price exacted from her by Marana in exchange for sparing Amu? Marana was known to press every advantage to divide and conquer his enemies.”
“But she proclaimed her love for Marana even unto death!”
“She had to! If her plot were revealed, the Hegemon would have sought vengeance upon Amu. Her dying words could be an attempt to divert the Hegemon’s rage toward Marana.”
“This is a bold theory . . . but . . .”
“It’s no bolder than the ploy of Tututika, who during the Diaspora Wars played a similar game of seduction to save Amu from the wrath of Iluthan’s armies.”
“But you’re talking about a goddess—”
“Who is also the patron of Amu. She would have served as a natural inspiration for the princess.”
“You have no evidence—”
“I have read everything I could find concerning Kikomi not written by scholars and historians: memoirs by her adoptive family as well as by mere acquaintances; everything she wrote and was said to have written; gossip, legend, and lore. Practically all these sources agree that she was devoted to her people and ambitious, and I found her essays to be full of insights on the nature of power and the path of history. Her character simply does not match that of the foolish caricature drawn by court historians.”
“Yet history is full of examples of women who have done worse for love—”
Théra shook her head. “That’s just it, Master. If Kikomi were a man, would you have been so convinced that she betrayed her people for a misguided romance?”
“Men can certainly fall prey to the same disease. Indeed, Phin Zyndu was entrapped by Kikomi’s feminine wiles.”
“But you also speak of Phin Zyndu’s bravery and long-suffering preparation for vengeance, and the Hegemon’s courtship of Kikomi is but a single episode in the storytellers’ expansive repertoire based on his life. On the other hand, the women of history are defined by the men they loved. We never hear anything about Lady Mira except that she killed herself out of love for the Hegemon—Fara, did you know that Lady Mira’s art was once desired by all the nobles of Çaruza?— and we never talk about Kikomi except as a seductress blinded by love, though she was one of the most important leaders of the rebel- lion. Talent can wear a dress as well as a robe. Why the discrepancy?”
“Hmmm . . .” Zato Ruthi was at a loss for words.
“You see the patterns you expect to see, Master, and I believe Kikomi took advantage of that tendency—not just in you, but in the soldiers who rushed into Phin Zyndu’s bedroom. To accomplish her goals, she chose to sacrifice her own good name.”
“That is an act of great courage and wisdom to attribute to a woman. . . .”
“Master, you once misjudged a woman’s ability to fight a war, and you lost your throne. I say this not as an insult, but as a reminder that the lessons of history are not always easy to see. I can never prove to the satisfaction of all that my theory is right, but I choose to believe my version because it’s more interesting.”
She sat back in mipa rari, fully expecting to be berated by her teacher for bringing up a painful episode in his life.
After a long silence, Ruthi bowed down to Théra. Surprised, Théra bowed back.
“The proudest moment in a teacher’s life,” said Ruthi, “is when he learns something new from his student.”