The water outlaws

S. L. Huang

Book - 2023

"Lin Chong is an expert arms instructor, training the Emperor's soldiers in sword and truncheon, battle axe and spear, lance and crossbow. Unlike bolder friends who flirt with challenging the unequal hierarchies and values of Imperial society, she believes in keeping her head down and doing her job. Until a powerful man with a vendetta rips that carefully-built life away. Disgraced, tattooed as a criminal, and on the run from an Imperial Marshall who will stop at nothing to see her dea...d, Lin Chong is recruited by the Bandits of Liangshan. Mountain outlaws on the margins of society, the Liangshan Bandits proclaim a belief in justice--for women, for the downtrodden, for progressive thinkers a corrupt Empire would imprison or destroy. They're also murderers, thieves, smugglers, and cutthroats. Apart, they love like demons and fight like tigers. Together, they could bring down an empire"--

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1st Floor New Shelf SCIENCE FICTION/Huang, S. L. (NEW SHELF) Due Oct 5, 2023
Fantasy fiction
Action and adventure fiction
Epic fiction
Queer fiction
New York : TorDotCom, Tor Publishing Group 2023.
First edition
Physical Description
xi, 484 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Main Author
S. L. Huang (author)
Review by Booklist Review

Lin Chong is an arms instructor with plenty to prove as a rare woman within the empire's military system, but she has faith in the order of things--until a single bitter man rips the world out from under her, branding her a criminal and sending her on the run. She is forced into the refuge of Liangshan, a group of female bandits determined to carry out some much-needed justice against the corrupt, greedy officials of the empire. As rebellious intellectual Lu Junyi works under the Grand Chancellor to create a dangerous weapon that could level cities, the Liangshan dare the empire to challenge their stronghold. Huang's new epic fantasy moves at a breakneck, adrenaline-filled pace that makes it difficult to put down, and the convincing, broad cast of characters powers the plot forward amidst cunning turns of strategy and shocking, dark twists. The chronology can bend a bit in execution, but only because Huang is determined to give us only the juiciest bits of discovery and the grimiest, most thrilling battles and skip the filler in between. Fans of Iron Widow (2021), by Xiran Jay Zhao, and She Who Became the Sun (2021), by Shelley Parker-Chan, will eat up this new adventure about justified anger and fierce female warriors.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In this addictive queer, feminist epic fantasy, Huang (Burning Roses) brilliantly retells the 14th-century Chinese classic Water Margin for a 21st-century audience. Arms instructor Lin Chong is proud to be one of the few women in the Song Empire's bureaucracy, but after she fights off sexual assault from the more politically powerful Marshal Gao Qiu, she is arrested, declared a traitor, and nearly beaten to death before she reaches prison. Luckily, she's saved by delightful scene-stealer Lu Da, the Flower Monk. Lu Da shares a god's tooth (a magical stone that imbues the user with power) with Lin Chong and takes her to the Liangshan bandits, a group of women and queer people who have "fallen off the edges of society," and who set out "to aid and protect" others like themselves--even if that means taking on the empire itself. By cycling through perspectives, Huang brings a large and varied ensemble cast to vibrant life, skillfully including queer identities in a way that feels historically and mythically resonant (bandit Chao Gai, for example, "rides the sixteen winds," an idiom for "people who changed the gender they lived as, for a time or permanently"). The author's background as a Hollywood stunt performer enriches the kinetic action sequences, which are both easy to follow and thrilling to read. This wuxia eat-the-rich tale is a knockout. (Aug.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

As an expert arms instructor for the Imperial Guard, Lin Chong served the Empire of Song, devoted to training the soldiers in all sorts of weapons, and kept herself away from politics and hierarchies. However, when she denies an Imperial Marshal, Lin Chong is arrested, tattooed as a criminal, and sent away to an "accidental" death. Her escape takes her into a nest of outlaws, the Bandits of Liangshan, many of whom are women looking for a life beyond the usual gender and class inequities. While the group proclaims to mete out justice, Lin Chong is unsure of either their true motives or their deadly methods. As the Marshal pursues Lin Chong, he also looks to create a way for his soldiers to claim the powers of a god--and it may be that only a band of those with dubious goals can outwit and overcome the empire's sinister deeds. Strong worldbuilding, fast action, and exciting, detailed battle scenes from multiple points of view create a fully immersive story. VERDICT Huang (Critical Point) skillfully recreates an old Chinese tale into a gender-bent and queer novel, to showcase how the fringes of society can rise up against unjust rules and actions.--Kristi Chadwick

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