Monday, May 4, 2009

Book Review of The Academician – Southern Swallow – Book I

The Academician – Southern Swallow – Book I
By Edward C. Patterson
(PUBLISHER: CreateSpace, March 4, 2009, $11.99)

Reviewed by Alan Chin

Edward Patterson takes the reader deep into ancient China, during the Sung dynasty, when the Emperor was considered the “Son of Heaven” and vast armies trembled at his every whim. Out of this rich history comes the riveting journey of one man, Li K’ai-men, that begins at his graduation from an academy where he studied under a venerable master, to his rein over a province ruined by the previous corrupt administrators, to his appointment as Grand Tutor to the ninth son of the Emperor in the capital city of K’ai-feng. When warring hoards from the north threaten the safety of the realm, Li K’ai-men must use his sharp intelligence and a bit of magic to take extraordinary measures to save his life, his family, and liege lord. Li K’ai-men’s journey, which includes a rather touching relationship with his male lover, Fu Lin-t’o, is told through the eyes of K’u Ko-ling, Li K’ai-men’s rather clownish manservant who was the son of a cowcumber farmer.

Edward Patterson stretches his considerable talents in this daring novel that mixes history with fantasy. This story is a vivid, imaginative, and often humorous romp through a pivotal point in Chinese history. It has surprising power, with images that grab hold of you and don’t let go. In the midst of this fanciful tale, Patterson creates a heartwarming gay love story. The love interest is not the main plot, however, but rather a tantalizing spice spread over the plot.
The author uses a technique that I have seen only once before. The narrator starts and finishes each chapter with his 1st person point of view, but the bulk of the story is told in 3rd person. I found these POV switches to be seamless, and greatly added to developing the depths of the main characters. This is a character driven story, and Patterson skillfully allows us see these characters to their core.
I had only two problems with this story. The first problem was that because there were a host of minor characters, and the Chinese names were somewhat confusing, I had some trouble telling them apart. The second issue was that this is the first novel in a series, which means that it sets the stage for much more story to come. I was left with a feeling of incompleteness, and somewhat miffed that I must wait for another installment or two to finish the story. The plot is complex, which combines with his consummate skill at crafting prose and his well-researched details to keep the reader fully engaged until the last page. I would recommend this read to anyone who enjoys multifaceted characters, humor, and a well-crafted story.


Spartan20 said...

Hi, Alan,
As background, I'm a fellow Zumayan, though a very quite one.

I found this post interesting from a couple of perspectives. First, my first novel is set in Korea, though in modern times. Secondly, I was impressed by anyone with the courage to review for fellow authors. It's a service that we need, for sure, but, I'd be afraid that I get a real klunker, then, what do you do??? Yikes! Maybe you could write a post, or series of posts, on the art of reviewing.
Best Regards, Galen.

Elle Parker said...

Nice review - I always appreciate the balanced ones that actually give an opinion of what works and what doesn't, rather than little more than a rehash of the plot.

The book sounds interesting, and I'm a sucker for good characters.

Elle Parker

Karen Walker said...

Hi Alan,
This is an excellent review. Having received one really good one and one scathing one, I appreciate your approach to critiquing. Oh, and thanks for letting me know I had word verification on - I had no idea. No one else had mentioned it.

Karen W.

AlanChinWriter said...

Hi Galen,

Nice to see another Zumayan here. It is difficult reviewing for writers I know. Generally if I get a story I have major problems with, I don't review it. That happened just last week. This very nice woman sent me an erotica piece that I had issues with, not the least of which was that I dislike erotica. So I sent her a note back outlining my issues in the most supportive way I could. Most authors won’t press you to post the review if it’s not glowing.
Glad you like the review,

AlanChinWriter said...

Thanks Karen,

I also know what it's like to get a scathing review. Almost all of the reviews for my novel, Island Song, have been 5 stars, but I got one from a friend that had me fuming. I would never do that to a friend, or an enemy for that matter.


Karen Brees said...

Excellent review, Alan. I liked the "tantalizing spice" comment and also your attention to the different approach to pov. Nice work.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Interesting review, Alan. The unique POV approach is intriguing. POV the one aspect of writing that seems to give new writers the most trouble. You mention this books is the first in a series. Is it also the author's first book?


Jina Bacarr said...

Wonderful post and review, Alan. I can totally feel your passion for this story and your respect for the writer's talent. Very cool.

I just finished writing a book about Japan about a Victorian heiress who travels to Tokio (spelled that way in 1873) with an abusive husband and falls in love with a handsome samurai--and his squire lover. It was both fascinating and challenging to weave the story of this menage in a culture where the samurai warrior often took a male lover.

Looking forward to more posts.

Anonymous said...

Seamless shifts in POV shifts is a rare thing in literature, so this author must be an exceptional talent in that regard. Nice review, Alan. :)

Marvin D Wilson

K. A. Laity said...

This sounds like an intriguing novel wrought with a good deal of skill. Your review gave me a good impression of the kind of read it would be. Well done!


Alexis Grant said...

Solid content -- that'll make me come back to your blog again. One suggestion: Make more paragraph breaks. It's easier on my eyes and helps keep my attention longer :)

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