Had she lived when the power of music could still summon typhoons and rout armies, perhaps Cathay’s imperial court would see the awkward, gangly princess as more than a singing fool. With alliances to build and ambitious lords to placate, they care more about her marriage prospects than her unique abilities.
Only the handsome Prince Hardeep, a foreign martial mystic, recognizes her potential. Convinced Kaiya will rediscover the legendary but perilous art of invoking magic through music, he suggests her voice, not her marriage, might better serve the realm.
When members of the emperor’s elite spy clan– Kaiya’s childhood friend and his half-elf sidekick (or maybe he’s her sidekick?)– discover mere discontent boiling over into full-scale rebellion, Kaiya must choose. Obediently wedding the depraved ringleader means giving up her music. Confronting him with the growing power of her voice could kill her.
The wonderfully opulent oriental setting of this fresh fantasy novel is brought vividly to life with lush detail and imagery, and magic that is exquisitely subtle and intricately woven into the fabric of the world. Great job for a debut work.
Kaiya is an awkward adolescent princess, on the verge of womanhood. The only girl child in the Royal Family, she is much loved by her father, the Emperor, who wishes to find her a suitable husband to make her happy. Unfortunately events increasingly dictate that she may have to be married off for political gains rather than pleasure.
Music is Kaiya’s passion, and in years gone by she might have been feted for her talent, as it once imparted the awesome ability to sing dragons out of the sky, and vanquish enemies. Sadly, that magical gift has (apparently) been lost, and though Kaiya longs to revive it, time is running short before she may be forced to give up music altogether if her new husband so decrees.
And then comes Prince Hardeep, prince of a beleaguered land, lover of music, and martial art adept. His mission is to seek aid from the Emperor for his people, but the political situation is complex, and although his plight gains Kaiya’s support, his requests will go unattended.
Kaiya is an exquisitely drawn character – naive yet morally strong and tenacious. The other view point characters, Kaiya’s childhood friend Tian, who was banished years ago and is now a spy, and his half elf comrade, Jie, who wishes Tian would notice that she is female, are equally well presented. The story rattles along at a nicely balanced pace, with twists and turns, battles and consequences, betrayals and lighter moments for relief. The ending is exciting and satisfying, and yet open at the same time, leading skilfully on to the rest of the series.
I did find Kaiya’s incredibly frequent changes of mind a touch over the top, and if they were supposed to be down to magical influence, it didn’t quite come over clearly enough. There were also some proof reading errors – largely missing words – not enough to be a huge problem, but just sufficient to be notable. And if it had been me, I would have used a different title, probably something like ‘The Magic of Music’, or ‘Musical Magic’, as I wouldn’t find the current title enough of a hook if I were browsing.
Definitely recommended for all lovers of fantasy, particularly those who like a setting other than the standard medieval Europe, and although the characters are young, there is plenty, but plenty, of intrigue and action for adults, and a shocking twist at the end to throw new light on where the next book will take us. I look forward to finding out.
About the Author:
A Chinese Medicine Doctor and Martial Artist by trade, JC Kang would have never started writing fantasy stories save for two fluke coincidences.
In the Christmas of 2010, while cleaning out childhood junk from his mom’s house, he came across his old Dungeons and Dragons campaign world. Before relegating the binder of maps and notes to the trash where it belonged, he decided to peek back and see what his 13-year old self had created.
He couldn’t help but laugh at the silly ideas that had crossed his teenage brain. Rivers flowed uphill. Empires produced resources out of thin air. However, a few interesting premises had potential.
For the next six days, he redesigned his world, taking into account things he’d learned over the last 25 years. Advanced stuff like gravity, evolution, and supply and demand.
On the seventh day, he rested. Looking at his glorious creation, he was hit by the realization that he’d never play D&D again.
A month later, the second event occurred: three weeks of major snowstorms. Stuck indoors for days at a time, he used his skills as a professional technical writer and pumped out a 120k word novel set in this world… only to find out that fiction writing and technical writing were two different beasts.
He set off to study the craft, and learned advanced ideas like characterization, point of view and tension. After revising the first book, he wrote a prequel. After the prequel, he wrote a sequel. And finally, he wrote the prequel to the prequel: the Dragon Scale Lute.