Reasons for Inclusion: Chinese-inspired setting and magic system.
When Celine dies, she’s reborn as a baby in a fictional world. But she’s not the hero of this story, she’s the villain, Shann. While training in elemental magic at Sue Sierra, she has to use her knowledge of the story and her own wits to avoid suffering Shann’s defeat by the hero of the book. But will her dedication to her quest lead her down the same dark path?
The Chinese-inspired magic system of the book was very interesting. The Immortals can live for centuries and possess powers based on one or more of the five elements (water, wood, earth, metal, fire) or “mutated” forms of them. Unlike in a lot of other works, here the most powerful people are those who specialize in only one or two elements. Having potential for all five is seen as the worst situation to begin from.
The world is very reminiscent of wuxia martial arts movies. There are distinct ranks of power, which a student advances through by increasing their internal strength, or by eating special “pellets.” Novices seek to be trained by selective master immortals, fighting each other in duels to earn the right to ask to be taught. They spend years in seclusion meditating or studying in order to advance ranks. Shann goes on several quests to find magical items. People travel on flying swords and canoes, magic apparatuses “choose” one master to bond with, currency comes in the form of energy-infused ling stones, and spells called fu are sold as pieces of paper than activate when needed.
I really liked the idea of Shann as the antagonist fighting her destiny. She remembers bits and pieces from the Book of Immortals, and uses this to her advantage. But it isn’t so easy to rewrite the book. As she makes gains, her actions get more and more questionable. Will avoiding being the villain make her one after all?
On the negative side, I did find the action a little contrived sometimes and some of the writing immature, especially in the “real world” scenes.
This book by an WOC indie author had a lot of imagination in it that’ll definitely appeal to fans of Eastern mythology and martial arts movies.
(Review copy from Netgalley)