Dark Heavens – Kylie Chan

Posted: September 1, 2013 in Review, urban fantasy
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dark heavansNow this really is a brick; 900+ pages, 6cm thick, and weighing in at nearly a kilo. But then it is an entire trilogy in one volume (and these days, if the physical size is too much, there’s always the e-book). Chan gives us urban fantasy with an oriental twist, what you might call Fu Fantasy.

The cover is somewhat misleading because the central character is actually an Australian woman, working as an early childhood teacher in Hong Kong. She quits working for the kindergarten and becomes a full-time nanny when the woman running the kindergartens begins asking too many questions about the father of the child she’s been looking after. Of course, he is far more than just another wealthy Chinese businessman. He’s a turtle… and he’s the Lord of the Northern Heavens.

It’s true that Chinese mythology lends itself to this kind of treatment, and has been doing so for centuries in the traditional wuxia – what you might call martial arts fairy tales. This book is then the literary equivalent of fusion cuisine, the blending of western urban fantasy with modern wuxia – sort of Nalini Singh meets Jet Li. Now, there are plenty of critics who deride fusion cuisine, and I’m sure that Kylie Chan’s work has its detractors, but it’s quite evident that she’s researched both the background and the setting. Her writing is still somewhat in need of a good editing; “White Tiger” was her first book and it shows.

Be warned that some people will find our heroine irritating; too slow to figure out what’s going on, and too quick in developing her skills. I found it to be a lightweight and entertaining trilogy, with lots of high-kicking chi-flinging martial arts battles. Perhaps too many… it got a bit samey after a while. The bad guys are primarily the demons of Chinese myth, the kind that dissolve into black goo when thumped hard enough. Which is a pleasant change from vampires and zombies.

The largely unresolved sexual tension is for once given some rationale for its lack of resolution. And truth is, I looked at the size of the volume, and initially decided I’d read it as three separate novels. But I got to the end of book one, and just kept going… and that is as good a recommendation as any. Oh… and there is another trilogy published, and it seems one coming after that.

Harper Voyager

Supplied by Harper Collins New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

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