In a fallen kingdom, one girl carries the key to discovering the secrets of her nation’s past—and unleashing the demons that sleep at its heart. An epic fantasy series inspired by the mythology and folklore of ancient China.
Once, Lan had a different name. Now she goes by the one the Elantian colonizers gave her when they invaded her kingdom, killed her mother, and outlawed her people’s magic. She spends her nights as a songgirl in Haak’gong, a city transformed by the conquerors, and her days scavenging for what she can find of the past. Anything to understand the strange mark burned into her arm by her mother in her last act before she died.
The mark is mysterious—an untranslatable Hin character—and no one but Lan can see it. Until the night a boy appears at her teahouse and saves her life.
Zen is a practitioner—one of the fabled magicians of the Last Kingdom. Their magic was rumored to have been drawn from the demons they communed with. Magic believed to be long lost. Now it must be hidden from the Elantians at all costs.
When Zen comes across Lan, he recognizes what she is: a practitioner with a powerful ability hidden in the mark on her arm. He’s never seen anything like it—but he knows that if there are answers, they lie deep in the pine forests and misty mountains of the Last Kingdom, with an order of practitioning masters planning to overthrow the Elantian regime.
Both Lan and Zen have secrets buried deep within—secrets they must hide from others, and secrets that they themselves have yet to discover. Fate has connected them, but their destiny remains unwritten. Both hold the power to liberate their land. And both hold the power to destroy the world.
Now the battle for the Last Kingdom begins.
I’ve read another series by this author (technically, I haven’t completed it yet) and was ecstatic to learn this is the first book in a new series.
Another author described this book as “devastatingly gorgeous”. She nailed it. With lyrical writing, rich world-building, and fully developed, complex characters, this tale will awe epic fantasy fans. It’s inspired by the mythology and folklore of ancient China, and I was completely enthralled.
Lan’s kingdom was invaded, her people’s magic outlawed, and she witnessed the horrifying death of her mother. As she was dying, her mother burned a strange mark on Lan’s arm, and several years later she still has no idea what it means. Zen is a practitioner, a fabled magician of the Last Kingdom. Upon meeting Lan, he knows she possesses a powerful hidden ability in the mark on her arm. Her best hope of understanding and developing it lies with an order of practitioning masters. Getting her there is dangerous and challenging – Zen’s and Lan’s personalities are like oil and water. He’s more the strong, disciplined, silent type and she’s… not. I laughed over some of their interactions and felt Zen’s exasperation with her. Lan’s first meeting with Dilaya, another strong personality and wonderful supporting character, is one of my favorite scenes. Let’s just say it didn’t go well and leave it at that.
Jaw-dropping twists, shocking choices, and life-threatening situations (so, so many) kept me glued to the pages. Do I really need to say I’ll be at the edge of my seat waiting for the next book? Highly recommend to fantasy, folklore, and mythology fans.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.