Series: The Gunpowder Chronicles #1
Published by InterMix on 28 November 2014
Reading Challenges: 2015 TBR Pile Reading Challenge
You know that ancient Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times”? Well even though it turns out not to be ancient or even Chinese in origin, it actually applies fairly well to the heroine of our piece Jin Soling. She gets drawn into a murky game of politics as she tries to protect her family.
Soling is the daughter of a disgraced Chief Engineer who became the scapegoat after the Chinese defeat in the First Opium War. After he was executed, she and her family were exiled and left to moulder in the provinces. Her mother’s addiction to opium stretched the family’s finances to breaking point and Soling tries to sell off her father’s prized Japanese puzzle box to keep food on the table. She quickly fall into the hands of the government who want to use her to find the men who were part of her father’s inner circle.
Soling was a fascinating character who tries to maintain her sense of self while subject to the whims of those around her. She has a keen mind and absorbs knowledge whenever she has the opportunity. She’s a trained healer who specialises in acupuncture who is equally comfortable conducting experiments. There’s a hint of a romance with her former betrothed who now works for the Crown Prince but her devotion to her family and own precarious situation overshadows it.
The pace is generally fairly slow apart from some fight scenes giving the heroine lots of opportunity for introspection and time to enjoy the exceptional world building. The steampunk aspect enriched the historical component and never got in the way of the plot. I particularly liked how Lin went to great lengths to tie her novel to real events in history as the Opium Wars and the internal unrest that followed proved to be perfect fodder for a steampunk novel. Lin seems to be setting things up for the next few novels as Soling spends quite a bit of time investigating why opium is so addictive and why so many people are rebelling against the government.
This is an absolute treat of a novel. Don’t try to rush the experience but rather savour it slowly and let the intricate world created by Lin wash over you.