The Art of Prophecy
- Author: Wesley Chu
- Genre: Fantasy
- Publication Date: August 9, 2022
- Publisher: Del Rey
- Series: The War Arts Saga #1
Thank you to NetGalley and Del Rey for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
CONTENT WARNING: violence, death, blood, slavery, grief
An epic fantasy ode to martial arts and magic—the story of a spoiled hero, an exacting grandmaster, and an immortal god-king from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Lives of Tao.
It has been foretold: A child will rise to defeat the Eternal Khan, a cruel immortal god-king, and save the kingdom.
The hero: Jian, who has been raised since birth in luxury and splendor, celebrated before he has won a single battle.
But the prophecy was wrong.
Because when Taishi, the greatest war artist of her generation, arrives to evaluate the prophesied hero, she finds a spoiled brat unprepared to face his destiny.
But the only force more powerful than fate is Taishi herself. Possessed of an iron will, a sharp tongue—and an unexpectedly soft heart—Taishi will find a way to forge Jian into the weapon and leader he needs to be in order to fulfill his legend.
What follows is a journey more wondrous than any prophecy can foresee: a story of master and student, assassin and revolutionary, of fallen gods and broken prophecies, and of a war between kingdoms, and love and friendship between deadly rivals.
The chosen one trope is an incredibly popular one in fantasy, and this book offered a fresh take on a common theme. I was excited to see where the author was going to take it, and the combination of martial arts and magic was one that I’ve enjoyed in the past (see my rave reviews of The Green Bone Saga by Fonda Lee if you don’t believe me), so I had very high hopes for this book. Maybe my hopes were too high, because I just didn’t love this book anywhere near as much as I wanted to.
The writing is humorous at times, with some intriguing banter between the characters. The emphasis on martial arts brought to mind what I would have expected from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, if I had actually watched the movie, which alas, I have not. I don’t have much of an understanding of martial arts, but the story relied heavily on incorporating martial arts, known as war arts, combined with magic. However, it ultimately wasn’t enough to carry the entire book.
The world-building was interesting and unique, but I had a hard time fully grasping how the magic system worked. It revolves around using something called “jing,” but it seemed like everyone was able to use it differently, and there didn’t seem to be limits on how it was able to be used, or how often, or how much. There seemed to be some crossover between fantasy and some small elements of sci-fi in how the cities worked on the Grass Sea, which was more interesting, and I liked seeing how they worked, although I would have liked learning more about it.
This was, or at least it felt like, an exceptionally long book. Which normally isn’t an issue for me, since I eat long books for breakfast. But this one dragged. Like, a lot. I think that this was due to two main reasons: first, because there were long periods where the story was just slow paced. Second, because I had a really hard time investing myself into the story. There were various POV characters, and of them all, only 2 really showed any amount of growth, and that occurred very slowly. For one of them, it only happened towards the last quarter of the book. I found myself not really caring too much about the characters or the story, and it’s really hard to want to pick up a slow-paced book if you aren’t really invested. Honestly, the story didn’t feel like it was moving forward. Finally, when I reached the end, it felt anticlimactic.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 2
Categories: Book Review