Blog Chat with RF Kuang

I started A Cup of Cyanide in Summer 2018, only a couple months after The Poppy War was published and I was so excited to have gotten my hands ona copy after BookCon 2018. And yeah, I was blown away. It’s easy to say that reading that book completely changed my view on Western-published Fantasy. For me, this was the first time seeing Chinese diaspora voices finally being heard and celebrated. It’s success, to me, signaled a shift where I no longer had to rely only on translated Chinese novels for Chinese representation.

Within the past several years, I’ve been delighted to see a huge influx of Chinese voices within Western SFF publishing. Now, more than two years later, I’m so excited to get to take part in The Burning God Blog Tour. Here, we talk Chinese-Diaspora identities, opening up to hearing the stories of our families, balancing our identities against current politics, and grad school applications. Thank you so much to Rebecca for this opportunity!


After saving her nation of Nikan from foreign invaders and battling the evil Empress Su Daji in a brutal civil war, Fang Runin was betrayed by allies and left for dead. 

Despite her losses, Rin hasn’t given up on those for whom she has sacrificed so much—the people of the southern provinces and especially Tikany, the village that is her home. Returning to her roots, Rin meets difficult challenges—and unexpected opportunities. While her new allies in the Southern Coalition leadership are sly and untrustworthy, Rin quickly realizes that the real power in Nikan lies with the millions of common people who thirst for vengeance and revere her as a goddess of salvation. 

Backed by the masses and her Southern Army, Rin will use every weapon to defeat the Dragon Republic, the colonizing Hesperians, and all who threaten the shamanic arts and their practitioners. As her power and influence grows, though, will she be strong enough to resist the Phoenix’s intoxicating voice urging her to burn the world and everything in it? 

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Of Dragons, Feasts, and Murders by Aliette de Bodard

53349060. sy475 Lunar New Year should be a time for familial reunions, ancestor worship, and consumption of an unhealthy amount of candied fruit.

But when dragon prince Thuan brings home his brooding and ruthless husband Asmodeus for the New Year, they find not interminable family gatherings, but a corpse outside their quarters. Asmodeus is thrilled by the murder investigation; Thuan, who gets dragged into the political plotting he’d sworn off when he left, is less enthusiastic.

It’ll take all of Asmodeus’s skill with knives, and all of Thuan’s diplomacy, to navigate this one—as well as the troubled waters of their own relationship….

*****

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review

Review:

I have a new favorite power couple?? Seriously, this novella is a delight to read. Vietnamese-inspired worldbuilding and delicious court intrigue, all driven by a slightly dysfunctional, mostly wholesome power couple. Asmodeus and Thuan have a delightful chemistry together, and while it’s clear that the two could benefit from several rounds of couples counseling, it’s easy to see their devotion and loyalty to each other underneath their bickering. I loved the contrast between Asmodeus’ blunt ‘I’ll murder anyone who gets in my way’ attitude and Thuan’s softer, diplomatic approach, with a side of “Oh no, what did he do this time”. Muder/Diplomacy is just such a good pairing trope.Read More »

The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang

33099588Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as children. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While his sister received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What’s more, he saw the sickness at the heart of his mother’s Protectorate.

A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state. Unwilling to continue to play a pawn in his mother’s twisted schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from his sister Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond he shares with his twin sister?

****

Review:

Have you ever opened a book, read the first two paragraphs, and just been completely immersed in the worldbuilding? The Black Tides of Heaven is that book. Between the worldbuilding and the characters, this book is a must-read.

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The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

36686547Welcome to the Scattered Pearls Belt, a collection of ring habitats and orbitals ruled by exiled human scholars and powerful families, and held together by living mindships who carry people and freight between the stars. In this fluid society, human and mindship avatars mingle in corridors and in function rooms, and physical and virtual realities overlap, the appareance of environments easily modified and adapted to interlocutors or current mood.

A transport ship discharged from military service after a traumatic injury, The Shadow’s Child now ekes out a precarious living as a brewer of mind-altering drugs for the comfort of space-travellers. Meanwhile, abrasive and eccentric scholar Long Chau wants to find a corpse for a scientific study. When Long Chau walks into her office, The Shadow’s Child expects an unpleasant but easy assignment. When the corpse turns out to have been murdered, Long Chau feels compelled to investigate, dragging The Shadow’s Child with her.

As they dig deep into the victim’s past, The Shadow’s Child realises that the investigation points to Long Chau’s own murky past–and, ultimately, to the dark and unbearable void that lies between the stars…

****

Review:

de Bodard delights again in a perhaps the oddest retelling of Sherlock Holmes I’ve yet to encounter. The Tea Master and the Detective was both a fun and trippy reading experience.Read More »

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

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Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.

****

Review:

Another one of the ‘novella that’s been sitting in my Kindle forever and I’m finally pulling it out for a bingo card’ books, I found Binti thoroughly enjoyable. Binti, a brilliant if impulsive 16-year-old is the first of her people to leave her planet and attend the famed Oomza University. On the way, her ship gets attacked by some sapient…tentacle monster(?). Still not totally sure what the Meduse are but their tentacle-y description is very cool. Maybe they’re jellyfish?

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Ninth Step Station by Malka Ann Older, Fran Wilde, Jacqueline Koyanagi, Curtis C. Chen

42416669. sy475 A local cop. A US Peacekeeper. A divided Tokyo.

Years of disaster and conflict have left Tokyo split between great powers.

In the city of drone-enforced borders, bodymod black markets, and desperate resistance movements, US peacekeeper Emma Higashi is assigned to partner with Tokyo Metropolitan Police Detective Miyako Koreda.

Together, they must race to solve a series of murders that test their relationship and threaten to overturn the balance of global power. And amid the chaos, they each need to decide what they are willing to do for peace.

****

Review:

My second serial from Serial Box and I absolutely loved it! Ninth Step Station starts from the traditional police drama ‘”You’re getting a new partner.” “I don’t need a partner.” “Too bad you’re getting one anyway.”‘ scenario, and absolutely kills it. Emma and Miyako have amazing chemistry together and the two of them together (rocky relationship and all), really hold the story together. The culture clash between the two (Emma being the brash American and Miyako the more tempered Japanese) gets thoroughly explored and I loved how fleshed out each character became. Side characters like the other officers and officials at Ninth Step Station, officers Waverly and Santiago on the American side, and the various politicians get nicely fleshed out as well.

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The Deep by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes

42201962Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu.

Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface, escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities—and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.

Yetu will learn more than she ever expected to about her own past—and about the future of her people. If they are all to survive, they’ll need to reclaim the memories, reclaim their identity—and own who they really are.

***

Review:

The Deep tells a harrowing tale of a society of mermaids, the Wajinru, and centers around their Historian, Yetu. Because of the trauma of their origin, the Wajinru are forgetful creatures, unaware of their past and history. One member of their society is designated to keep the memories of their people, retell those memories when the mermaids start feeling existential.

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The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin, Translated by Ken Liu

20518872The Three-Body Problem is the first chance for English-speaking readers to experience this multiple award winning phenomenon from China’s most beloved science fiction author, Liu Cixin.

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.

****

Review:

The Three-Body Problem has been a book on my To-Read shelf for years. A highly acclaimed, Chinese Sci-Fi novel that caught the eye of even President Obama. That checks a lot of boxes for me. Having finally read the book, I come out with mixed opinions. On one hand, the worldbuilding and the science are both phenomenally written. On the other, the characters come off as flat and wooden, as if merely going through motions instead of actually interacting with the world.

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In the Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard

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Publication Date: 16 October 2018
Publisher: JABerwocky Literary Agency
Format: eBook, ARC

Pages: 145
ASIN: B07H43M4KT

Summary: 

In a ruined, devastated world, where the earth is poisoned and beings of nightmares roam the land…

A woman, betrayed, terrified, sold into indenture to pay her village’s debts and struggling to survive in a spirit world.

A dragon, among the last of her kind, cold and aloof but desperately trying to make a difference.

When failed scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons walking the earth, she expects to be tortured or killed for Vu Côn’s amusement.

But Vu Côn, it turns out, has a use for Yên: she needs a scholar to tutor her two unruly children. She takes Yên back to her home, a vast, vertiginous palace-prison where every door can lead to death. Vu Côn seems stern and unbending, but as the days pass Yên comes to see her kinder and caring side. She finds herself dangerously attracted to the dragon who is her master and jailer. In the end, Yên will have to decide where her own happiness lies—and whether it will survive the revelation of Vu Côn’s dark, unspeakable secrets…

*****

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a review

Review:

I’m not entirely certain how this happened, but I somehow managed to receive this book on the morning of a job interview, then finish it less than twelve hours later. This book was so good. In the Vanishers’ Palace does an amazing job combining science-y but still-definitely-magic magic with fascinatingly rich worldbuilding and some of the most compelling characters I’ve read this year. Despite the cover, this book was surprisingly dark. Even though de Bodard markets this book as a dark sapphic Beauty and the Beast retelling ft. dragons, this book still went places I did not expect.
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