THE EMPEROR AND COURT MAGICIAN by Jikun Kathy Sankey

THE EMPEROR AND COURT MAGICIAN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A Chinese empress deals with a troubled son in this debut historical novel.

The year is 601 C.E., and the setting is Sui Dynasty China. One stormy day, in the early hours of the morning, Seer Chen rushes through the dawn streets, seeking a meeting with Empress Dugu. Beneath her robes, she clutches a precious box that occasionally glimmers with a mysterious light. She has kept it safe for years, but it is in danger now and needs a new home. The seer’s visit is fortuitous, as the empress yearns to see her dear friend. The problem is Prince Yang, the heir to the throne and the empress’s son. Yang’s life got off to a charmed start; a kind but savvy child, the young man focused on study and exploration. He surrounded himself with wholesome friends and avoided the perils of the brothel. Kind and just, he seemed to have all the qualities one would want in a ruler. But then one day, out of the blue, everything changed. Now, Yang carouses and drinks; he falls into fits of pique or streaks of violence. It is almost as if he has been replaced by an evil twin. Seer Chen, hearing Dugu’s lament, can’t help but worry that their troubles are connected. Their fateful meeting sparks the plot of this brief but punchy historical novel chock full of palace intrigue and spiritual drama (Chen’s “mind returned to the Prince’s errant behavior, which she had known about, but curiously whenever she would try to see into the situation, her mind would grow fuzzy. It was as if there were a veil over the Prince that shielded him from being seen”). Sankey wastes no time with exposition, dropping her readers straight into a bracing, fast-paced, innovative tale. This enjoyable book is the first installment of an ambitious trilogy that follows a handful of souls through three incarnations. The second volume takes place in early-20th-century Okinawa while the third entry is set in contemporary Malibu, California. The series is a surprising and audacious creative undertaking that is off to a rousing start.

An inventive tale of royal intrigue with accents of mysticism and magic. 

Publisher: Manuscript
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2020