Sunday, February 1, 2015

Currently Reading: Dark Heavens Trilogy

image by Alejandro esCamilla via unsplash

So school started again (yikes!) and was generally a bit of a shock to the system.

But one good thing: access to the school library again. AND... a whole lot of brand sparkly never before read books.

Including (drumroll!) the last two books in Kylie Chan's Dark Heavens Trilogy. I read White Tiger last year. It was sufficiently intruiging for me to be excited when I saw the new ones had arrived. And then I absorbed both Red Phoenix and Blue Dragon in one weekend.

I don't usually speculate much about authors' private lives. But as I read these novels - in which the heroine is an Australian living in Hong Kong - I got the feeling that the author may have been an Australian, well, living in Hong Kong. And having checked out Kylie Chan's biographical notes, I find that I was right. Which is always cool. Besides which, it just tells you how chatty and "real" the background to these novels really is. Kylie also shares some other biographical details with her heroine, but I will leave those for you to find out. No spoilers!

Other than that, the covers (I feel) say it all: Immortals, Martial Arts, Gods and Demons. Yep, sounds good.

So the heroine, Emma Donahoe, wins a prize for having a cool surname and also being one of the few heroines of regular girl appearance, i.e. not looking like a super-model. She starts working as a live in nanny for Simone, the daughter of a wealthy and mysterious Chinese "businessman". Simone also has a well dressed black American bodyguard called Leo and a lot of wealthy and mysterious "aunts" and "uncles" who appear and disappear at irregular intervals, bringing mysterious danger in their wake. Hah, like this "cover" is going to last long!

She finds out (obviously) that she is entirely surrounded by immortals, Martial Arts, gods and demons. Told you the covers were relevant. And she also finds out that even though she looks like a regular young woman, her insides are far more... complicated. And awesomely kick-a#$.

But of course the demons are out to get her, Simone, John, Leo and everyone else in their fledgling family. And of course there is a lot of romance lying in wait around the mysterious corners of Hong Kong's illustrious streets.

The prose reads super simply, to the extent that it was almost jarring for the first fifty or so pages. But the wealth of detail pulled through, and left me utterly absorbed in the story world. A massive cast of characters can be difficult to keep track of, but since I read most of the trilogy in one weekend it wasn't too problematic. And the characters are so very colourful that I think you'd remember them even over a longer period.

This is an idealized romantic adventure. Don't expect gritty realism. But do expect a lot of fun and not too much emotional trauma, even in the dark scenes. Which is a win from my point of view. It is also refreshing to experience a fantasy world steeped in non-Western tradition. Just for a change.

The only thing I found disappointing was the ending, which is not an ending. Come on, Mrs Chan! Just give us closure and move on! But I find that there are a further two trilogies using the same character set-up. 

This happens to be a pet hate of mine: I would rather discover a new world, new characters and new problems. But since Dark Heavens was so much fun, I might be persuaded to give the new trilogies the benefit of the doubt. Just this once.

yours martially