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NetGalley Review: Song of Silver, Flame Like Night by Amelie Wen Zhao

Hey all, Sam here.

I’m excited to finally be getting back to posting, and I have quite a backlog of reviews to catch up on. Some of them are NetGalley reviews, and some are just books that I read just because. For now I’m going to do what is realistic for me, which is one review a week. But if I can get enough reviews prepped up, then I may try to increase my posting schedule.

So here we are. I’m glad to be able to say that I have a couple reviews coming in the next couple weeks that are for not-yet-released books, books that I was fortunate enough to read early thanks to the publishers and NetGalley. I am so thankful that I can get approved for books on NetGalley, and so glad that I have a platform where I can talk about books and have some people read and enjoy what I do. I feel lucky to be able to do this, and I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to keep doing this for a long while.

Okay, I have more announcements to make, but I’ll save that for later, so let’s just go ahead and jump into this review.

In a fallen kingdom, one girl carries the key to discovering the secrets of her nation’s past—and unleashing the demons that sleep at its heart. An epic fantasy series inspired by the mythology and folklore of ancient China.

Once, Lan had a different name. Now she goes by the one the Elantian colonizers gave her when they invaded her kingdom, killed her mother, and outlawed her people’s magic. She spends her nights as a songgirl in Haak’gong, a city transformed by the conquerors, and her days scavenging for what she can find of the past. Anything to understand the strange mark burned into her arm by her mother in her last act before she died.

The mark is mysterious—an untranslatable Hin character—and no one but Lan can see it. Until the night a boy appears at her teahouse and saves her life.

Zen is a practitioner—one of the fabled magicians of the Last Kingdom. Their magic was rumored to have been drawn from the demons they communed with. Magic believed to be long lost. Now it must be hidden from the Elantians at all costs.

When Zen comes across Lan, he recognizes what she is: a practitioner with a powerful ability hidden in the mark on her arm. He’s never seen anything like it—but he knows that if there are answers, they lie deep in the pine forests and misty mountains of the Last Kingdom, with an order of practitioning masters planning to overthrow the Elantian regime.

Both Lan and Zen have secrets buried deep within—secrets they must hide from others, and secrets that they themselves have yet to discover. Fate has connected them, but their destiny remains unwritten. Both hold the power to liberate their land. And both hold the power to destroy the world.

Now the battle for the Last Kingdom begins.

My Thoughts

Rating: 4.5 stars

I read this book pretty quickly, while stuck in a van for a day and a half driving to a convention and then back home. Actually I read quite a few books during the drive, which was awesome. It felt nice to be reading. That has been a reoccurring theme with me this year…I don’t read for a while, or I struggle to read for a while, and then I’ll just have basically a couple days where I read like a dozen books…and then it’s back to a slump again. Honestly it has been quite frustrating.

Anyway, this book was absolutely not a slog. I was intrigued by the world and the magic and the characters. And the more I got to know the characters, and the deeper I got into the story, the more drawn in I became. I wanted to know more. I needed to keep reading. Honestly I had to dig for the charging cord for my NOOK because it was about to die and I wanted to keep reading.

The only reason I knocked this story down a half-star is because there were some elements that were a bit too predictable, and honestly because I wanted to see more time spent with even more worldbuilding. Now, obviously, there was a good amount of world building and magic system exploration, and Lan learning to use her magical abilities, but I wanted more. But I’m someone who really really enjoys those sorts of things, getting deep into the world and the history and the magic and the lore.

But I can absolutely say that I thoroughly enjoy the fact that we are getting more fantasy books with their roots in Asian and African myths and lore and culture. Not to say that there isn’t a richness from the European or American focused fantasies BUT there is this wonderful different building of worlds with the depth and breadth of new content, and I am absolutely here for it.

Song of Silver, Flame Like Night gives us a world based on Chinese myth and lore, that also features peoples who have been beaten down and suppressed by colonizers, and I feel like we need more of that. We get a magic martial art system, which I find fascinating. We get a different set up of worldview and outlook and seeing where cultures intersect or clash or blend together. It’s stories like this that make me want to do more research into more world history that I don’t know about…you know, because the American school system picks and chooses what it thinks is relevant for students to focus on. I did get to learn a bunch of new things when I went to college, and honestly, I like continuing my education and broadening my understanding even now.

I did like the development of the relationship between Lan and Zen, as traveling companions, as practitioners of magic, and okay, yes, as romantic partners. Man, was all of that a roller coaster ride of an experience. There would be ups and then there would be downs, and then as the story neared the climax and final conflicts, it got pretty breakneck and twisty-turny. Again, not to say that the twists and turns were surprises or anything. Some were surprises, but others were fairly predictable.

But that doesn’t matter so much to me. I don’t mind if I can see a plot twist coming, or if I can predict a secret or truth coming to light that will change the game for the characters. As long as the story is executed well, and the characters are true to themselves, then I am perfectly happy with a story.

Honestly, I’m already excited for the sequel. And that is the downside of getting to read a book early…the wait for the next book is even longer. Oh well, I guess. There’s plenty of other books around to distract me until then.

Song of Silver, Flame Like Night will be out on January 3rd.


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