Four treasures of the sky Jenny Tinghui Zhang Penguin Random House Reviewed by Daryl Crimp RRP $37

Following the mysterious disappearance of her parents, Daiyu’s grandmother cast the child adrift to live life as a boy, hopefully survive, and return when she knows the time to be right.

The 12-year-old, who bears the name of a tragic folk heroine, arrived in the Chinese city of Zhifu where fate delivered her to the hands of a Ccalligraphy master, who not only teaches her the skills of the ancient Chinese art but a philosophy that will shape her life.

Fate and the apparent curse of her name intervened again; kidnapped, she is smuggled to America buried in a coal scuttle and has to reinvent herself if she is to survive entombment in a San Francisco brothel.

Set against a backdrop of late nineteenth century anti Chinese sentiment in America, this historical fiction is a poignant and compelling read. It’s a bittersweet tale of loss, love, longing and injustice; bigotry, hate and malice. In this sweeping tale, Zhang conjures up a cast of characters that exude vulnerability, warmth, compassion and menace, against the stark reality of one of America’s worst buried secrets.

It’s a double-barrel read: the awful reality of history set against a fictional storyline with an engaging narrative that is rich in metaphor and steeped with culture. The story turns the full circle, but not in the way you would think.

Book of Night Holly Black

Penguin Random House Reviewed by A P Crimp R.R.P $37.00

Holly Black’s debut into the New Adult genre, Book of Night, was one of 2022’s most anticipated releases. However, after reading her young adult trilogy The Cruel Prince, the ending of which was a complete let down, I was in no rush to read this one. I can only say I wish I had read it sooner. Set in a world where our shadows can be harnessed for magical purpose Book of Night follows Charlie, an ex-con trying to escape her past, as she is forced into one final job to protect her family. She must find and steal the infamous Book of Blights, but it is not as straightforward as she initially thought when her past, present, and what she wants for her future become intertwined.

Set in an urban fantasy version of Berkshire, England, the charm of this book lies in the unique system of magic and how it blends with the everyday. From celebrities to businesses and popular culture, each new explanation and concept draws and holds your attention, and with each new piece of information a bigger picture begins to unfold.

Book of Night is unlike Black’s earlier works so if you read this book expecting and wanting it to be like them, you will probably find it difficult to finish. There is little romance, and the relationships come preestablished. However, if you are like me and go in with zero or less expectation you might be pleasantly surprised by the environment, the magic, and the mystery.

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