STRIKE THE ZITHER (KINGDOM OF THREE, 1), by Joan He, Roaring Brook Press, Oct. 25, 2022, Hardcover, $18.99 (young adult, ages 14 and up)
A war strategist infiltrates enemy camp to help her warlordess secure the empire in Strike the Zither, a new fantasy series by Joan He.
The year is 414 of the Xin Dynasty, and chaos abounds. A puppet empress is on the throne. The realm has fractured into three factions and three warlordesses hoping to claim the continent for themselves.
But Zephyr knows it’s no contest.
Orphaned at a young age, Zephyr took control of her fate by becoming the best strategist of the land and serving under Xin Ren, a warlordess whose loyalty to the empress is double-edged―while Ren’s honor draws Zephyr to her cause, it also jeopardizes their survival in a war where one must betray or be betrayed. When Zephyr is forced to infiltrate an enemy camp to keep Ren’s followers from being slaughtered, she encounters the enigmatic Crow, an opposing strategist who is finally her match. But there are more enemies than one ― and not all of them are human. —Synopsis provided by Roaring Brook Press
Strike the Zither is a reimagining of the Chinese classic tale of the Three Kingdoms. (You can learn more about the Three Kingdoms from the Library of Congress). Both of the stories feature military battles, political plots and power struggles in three states that emerge from a failing dynasty.
Though the premise is the same, make no mistake, Strike the Zither is unique. At the center of the story is Zephyr a morally grey character who’s willing to risk everything to achieve her goals. Author Joan He is to be commended for creating a character that isn’t likeable but is compelling enough to hook the reader.
The first half of Strike the Zither is full of politics, strategy and some battles. And then comes the huge plot twist. It’s so big that it changes everything you thought you knew and makes you look back through a different lens. This twist is such a big change that some will find it masterful and some will find it a distraction.
That said, Strike the Zither is still worth picking up. He’s a masterful storyteller who immerses readers through atmospheric prose. Her pacing is strong, though the book isn’t a particularly fast read. If nothing else, I recommend at least checking Strike the Zither out from the library.
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