Review by Booklist Review
The third volume of Liu's massive epic (after The Wall of Storm, 2016) follows stories among the Dara, the Agon, and the Lyucu; from Théra's journey through the Wall of Storms where she intends to create an alliance with the Agon against the Lyucu, to jockeying for power among the Lyucu thanes, to the solitary plotting of the Empress of Dara. The complex interweaving of lives is front and center, well-seasoned with meddling gods perfectly suited to the scale of the story. Liu devotes more space to the ways people forge relationships and identities, how cross-cultural communication succeeds and fails, and how tradition can be used and abused in politics than to the stereotypical trappings of epic fantasy; there's plenty of action and tense conflict, but it mostly happens on a more human scale--over festival dinners, in business operations, in family interactions. For all that this is the middle of a story, the characters are complex and interesting enough to carry even a reader who doesn't know all the details of the previous volumes, and the foundational conversations about tradition link multiple threads quite effectively.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Hugo and Nebula Award winner Liu's masterful third Dandelion Dynasty fantasy (after The Wall of Storms) returns to a world steeped in myth, philosophy, and East Asian culture with a densely woven story of cultural conflict, political intrigue, and family rivalry. Princess Théra, successor to her infamous father, Kuni Garu, the Emperor of Dara, has turned the throne over to her brother Phyro while she leads troops against the Lyucu beyond the Wall of Storms. But defeating the enemy requires more than just military superiority; next comes the struggle to assimilate, reconciling the distinct Lyucu and Daran cultures. Théra works toward this goal while completely cut off from Phyro and Dara, where still more changes, both social and technological, are underway. Liu's world is lively, fluid, and above all, original, populated with nuanced characters, mighty flying lizards, sentient narwhals, and living books. Wooden submarines, large scale shadow puppet plays, and airships made of bamboo and silk powered by "silkmotic force" add to the dazzling atmospherics as Liu mixes the drama of heroic wuxia battles with twisty intrigues and the characters' ever-shifting priorities, balancing each element to create the epic feel of real history. With a third installment just as mesmerizing as the previous volumes, this series continues to be a wonderful and necessary breath of fresh air in epic fantasy. (Nov.)
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Review by Library Journal Review
Having surrendered her throne to her brother, Princess Théra, Empress Üna of Dara, has crossed the Wall of Storms with 10,000 troops and prepares to do battle with the Lyucu. She and her top associates are ready to try any means possible to prevail, but they may be ignoring the wisdom of the past, and in the end the commoners among them come up with ideas of their own. Third in the multi-award-winning Liu's "Dandelion Dynasty" series; with a 50,000-copy first printing.
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
The penultimate installment of Liu's Dandelion Dynasty quartet--after The Wall of Storms (2016)--continues the grand-scale narrative set in the vast fantasy archipelago of Dara as two factions battle for control of the islands. With the Lyucu invasion and occupation of Dara accomplished--and parties on both sides attempting to maneuver a peaceful path forward--the inhabitants of the islands find life increasingly difficult as Lyucu hard-liners, knowing that massive reinforcements are on the way, push for a world where the warriorlike Lyucu rule supreme and all others are essentially slaves. As the tensions rise, Princess Théra of Dara--daughter of Empress Jia--forsakes the throne to embark on a quest to the Lyucu stronghold of Ukyu-Gondé, trying to find a way to save her country and her subjugated people. But as years pass and Théra falls in love, weds native leader Takval, and has children, the question of what her country is and who her people are becomes complicated. Juggling dozens of main characters and multiple plotlines, Liu manages to keep the momentum brisk and the tension consistently high in this 1,000-plus-page novel. But the real genius here is the fusion of extraordinarily deep worldbuilding with profound (and timely) themes, which include cultural assimilation, identity, intolerance, and more. An extended sequence describing a contest between two popular restaurants battling for bragging rights, for example, is a master class in not only sensory description, but also allegory, as the sequence brilliantly illustrates larger themes explored in the saga--one owner has all the resources while the other must take advantage of ingenuity and innovative thinking to succeed. But ultimately, it's Liu's poetic style that makes this book so memorable: "We are embedded in strands of love and hatred, a web that glows in the sunlight of history, bedecked in pearls of blood and fragments of bone." This is a shelf-bending fantasy masterwork: as good as it gets. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.