After receiving this book as a birthday present from my sister and two of my niblings, I was really interested in reading it. The cover looked absolutely beautiful and the blurb immediately caught my attention.
I really liked the setting of this book. It felt like there was a lot of Chinese culture used (at least, I assume it’s Chinese, as that’s the sense I get reading the book), which sort of made me think of Firefly, where people used Chinese as easily as they used English. But I found it particularly interesting to see how important the hospitality/tea ceremony was, even in interactions that were fraught with tension…such as Rice Fish’s interactions with her son, Hồ.
Speaking of Hồ, I had some very mixed feelings about him. On the one hand, I thought that his actions were causing him to cross the line into being a truly villainous character. His alliance with one of the main antagnoists only served to make me see him even more as one of the bad guys, especially when it was clear some of the pirates weren’t willing to honour the deal they’d made to offer protection to those who’d paid for it. However, as the book went on, Hồ seemed less like a villain and more like someone who’d seen a relationship between his mothers that was, for all intents and purposes, only a marriage in name.
Speaking of the Red Scholar, while she didn’t actually appear in the book, having been killed before the events of it, her shadow seemed to fall over everything. And what I saw of her, I really disliked. It didn’t truly seem like she’d ever cared for Rice Fish, just using the mindship for her own ends and caring little for the fact that their actions and lack of relationship had a negative impact on Hồ.
I really liked the concept of the mindships, although I would have liked a bit more information about them. For instance, how did they have siblings? I would have liked to see more of Crow’s Words in this book. Compared to a lot of the other characters like Tám, Cám and even Tiên), he was very much more of an enigma and that only made me more interested in him.
Some of the politics in this book were very confusing, but I really appreciated the fact that Rice Fish did have dreams and ideals. They might not have been entirely realistic, but they did add an extra layer to her character and made her feel more real as I was reading the book.
On the whole, I did enjoy this book a lot. There was a great slow burn with the romance and the visuals of the characters, particularly Rice Fish, were really well-written. I’m definitely interested in reading more books by this author, and from the same world as this one, in the future.