One thing I discovered as my son was growing up was anime and manga. I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and at first, I wasn’t a big fan, either. But I grew to love them. A friend of mine, Michelle Timian, started a book challenge this year, and this is one of the books that is on her list. I am adding this to my own list to read!
To the Sky Kingdom by Tang Qi
Sometimes it’s really hard to find the perfect book. Especially if you (like me!) enjoy the challenge of picking your next read based on upcoming events. Christmas books during the holidays? Sweet! Horror during Halloween? What can be better! Ummm…even this week, when the Chinese New Year celebrations continue across the world and Valentine’s Day coincide? Actually, it can not only be done, but it can be an enriching, “peach blossom” experience with Tang Qi’s To the Sky Kingdom.
To the Sky Kingdom, originally published in China as “Three Lives, Three Worlds, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms”, is a xian xia book, which is a fantasy genre that features Chinese mythology, gods, goddesses and immortals. To say it’s popular would be an understatement. It’s been made into a manga, found here, a movie, which is available at Amazon, and a 58-episode TV series with billions of viewers…but despite all this, it was impossible to find a copy of the book that launched a rapid fan base in the US.
Unfortunately, most translated works that find their way in American book stores fall into similar vein. They are of a literary bent and focus on the worst of the other culture, which only encourages a feeling of superiority over “others”. Popular fiction, genre fiction…books that embrace the best parts of different countries and beliefs are mainly ignored.
Thank goodness for Amazon. Since 2010, Amazon Publishing’s imprint, AmazonCrossing, has been getting popular fiction from around the globe translated and readily available for English-reading audiences. It’s because of this imprint that I was able to indulge in To the Sky Kingdom.
Bai Qian, a 140,00-year goddess, is a perfect female protagonist. Her one true love is drinking wine, she’s constantly trying to escape uncomfortable social situations, and she can’t help but speak exactly what’s on her mind. Her bluntness gets her into trouble with the traditional, etiquette-crazy Sky Kingdom, where she is betrothed to the heir and future Emperor, Ye Hua. Having never met Ye Hua and still pinning for the Master she apprenticed with, the God of War Mo Yuan, Bai Qian goes through great lengths to keep Ye Hua at arm’s length. The story gets more complicated as Bai Qian’s old loves and past lives appear and tangle the love triangle into deeper and more ridiculous consequences. The story is truly funny, filled with twists, turns, action scenes and lots of “peach blossom feelings”.
The best advice I took before undergoing the nonlinear To the Sky Kingdom (the scene in the prologue doesn’t get explained and expanded upon until page 270, but it really sets the entire story up, so it’s impossible to skip) is to give the aforementioned tv series Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms a look. Although tackling 58 45-minute episodes might be a bit daunting, it lays out the storyline in linear fashion (the book’s plot jumps around between those three lives of Bai Qian), introducing the major characters and making the novel easier to digest. Thankfully, they can be found on YouTube…even better, they are all subtitled. Ten Miles of Peach Blossom, Episode One