The Art of Prophecy by Wesley Chu

It has been foretold: A child will rise to defeat the Eternal Khan, a cruel immortal god-king, and save the kingdom.

The hero: Jian, who has been raised since birth in luxury and splendor, celebrated before he has won a single battle.

But the prophecy was wrong.

Because when Taishi, the greatest war artist of her generation, arrives to evaluate the prophesied hero, she finds a spoiled brat unprepared to face his destiny.

But the only force more powerful than fate is Taishi herself. Possessed of an iron will, a sharp tongue—and an unexpectedly soft heart—Taishi will find a way to forge Jian into the weapon and leader he needs to be in order to fulfill his legend.

What follows is a journey more wondrous than any prophecy can foresee: a story of master and student, assassin and revolutionary, of fallen gods and broken prophecies, and of a war between kingdoms, and love and friendship between deadly rivals.

*****

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Review:

This is yet another book I requested for the cover art alone. Look at the way the hair flows, the highlights of gold and red! I’ve yet to uncover the artists’ name (put the name of the cover artist in your book descriptions publishers!), but it kind of looks like a Tran Nguyen piece with how the face is shaded? Cover aside, The Art of Prophecy is a solid start to an epic fantasy series inspired by wuxia, ancient China, with hints of steampunk.

The Art of Prophecy begins with one of the most well-worn paths in epic fantasy. A Chosen One is propesized to defeat the Great Evil™ and bring peace throughout the land. Except in this book, said Chosen One was discovered as a young boy and trained up to defeat the evil, only to have his potential squandered due to corruption and squabbling between schools of martial arts. Also the Great Evil™ died in a bar fight (kinda) in Chapter 2. What we get instead is a really creative riff off this well known premise, with mass dillusionment amongst the general populace who’ve spend a decade+ worshipping this supposed Chosen One, a government officials scrambling for power now that they no longer must unite to help defeat the Great Evil™, and a “Chosen One” so spoiled he’s incapable of basic life skills, or even fighting really.

Enter Taishi, a middle-aged woman who was put in charge of auditing the Chosen One, Jian’s, progress and finds his skills so utterly lacking she’s forced to take things into her own hands. Taishi was probably my favorite character of the cast. Her brash ‘seen it all’ attitude belies a soft spot as she has to save Jian’s life over and over again while trying to whip him into shape. And naturally, in this world of the Lunar Court (for wuxia readers, think jianghu), she’s also one of the top masters in the War Arts (martial arts). For book one, she’s been more or less the unstoppable master, able to defeat any enemy in her way, but there’s a lot of angsty backstory being teased for future books that I can’t wait for.

Speaking of female characters, one of the ways The Art of Prophecy stands out is that aside from Jian, all of the major POV characters in this book are female, which is so refreshing to see in epic fantasy. To round out the cast, we have Salimade, a high ranking member of the Khanate (the Great Evil™), who’s dealing with the repercussions of the death of her Khan. In many ways, Salimade and Taishi act as foils, both powerful older women having to deal with the younger generation’s messes. We also have Qisami, a flamboyant, snarky assassin and my least favorite character for reasons just listed. I cheered for her death but sadly it didn’t happen.

The worldbuilding in this book is heavily inspired by Chinese wuxia, with some twists. Qi is referred to as Jing (why change this lol), and the Khanate, likely inspired by the mongols, make these cool steampunk-esque moving cities that traverse the Grass Sea instead of riding horses. The steampunk element is one of the coolest aspects (how do they run? magic? steam engines?) and it’s definitely one I hope gets explored more as conflict between the Khanate and the Zuhn ramp up again.

If I had one negative for this book, it would be that I found the dialogue a little too modern for an alt-history book. Jian’s language is quite bratty (understandably so) but even the other characters, especially Taishi, dip just enough into modern slang to bother me. Granted, the tone of this book is relatively light for the topic and the humor shines through so I can understand the stylistic choice, but it’s not my personal preference.

Overall, I rate this book a 4/5. I loved the cast of older women, found the premise really fun, and the story, especially the fight scenes, extremely engaging.


r/Fantasy 2022-23 Bingo Squares:

  • Historical SFF (Hard Mode)
  • Cool Weapon
  • Published in 2022
  • BIPOC author

Publication Date: 9 August 2022
Publisher: Del Ray 
Format: eBook, ARC
Pages: 528
Word Count: ~180,000
ISBN: 0593237633
Buy It Here: Amazon | Google Books | Barnes and Nobles | Goodreads

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