‘Song Of Silver, Flame Like Night’ by Amélie Wen Zhao – Book Review
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There exist Young Adult novels released every day, and sometimes the genre is overwhelmed by tired cliches and repeated tropes. The Chosen One Who doesn’t realize that they are special? The forbidden love triangle or romantic love interest? The enchanting McGuffin with the secret key? A threat that no hero can defeat? The majority of these books seem to be based on a variety of these concepts, and after a while, they tend to merge into one another, with little to distinguish them.
The Song Of Silver, Flame Like Night will begin in 2023 with an enjoyable YA adventure one that takes many of the aforementioned clichés, yet combines them with a new Chinese mythology. The result is a captivating book, with fantastic worldbuilding, charming characters, and a solid magic system.
This strong character is best illustrated by the brave Lan who is the novel’s protagonist. Lan resides in Haak’gong. It is a previously inhabited Hin City that was invaded by Elantian colonizers as young. This is why Lan has to work and pay off an obligation to work in one of the nearby teahouses. But she’s haunted by thoughts of the past as well as the secrets of her mother and a peculiar marking that was carved into her arm 12 months (cycles) back.
It’s not long before Lan meets Zen the Zen, a practitioner (fabled magician) from The Last Kingdom. Zen recognizes the marks on Lan’s arm and takes her away for an adventure she’ll forget. The two are pursued by Elantian soldiers, and with the ever-present threat of conflict, Lan and Zen start to unravel the mysteries of their history, with Zen being able to reveal some shocking facts about his own.
As the book develops as it progresses, we’re introduced to a variety of characters and each has different goals and agendas that eventually come together in an explosive and thrilling final scene. I won’t reveal the details here, but suffice it to say that everything in the book is well-paced and you’ll want to know what happens next as the epilogue comes to an end.
The magical system and worldbuilding create the illusion of an actual, lively land. It’s also helpful that a lot of what’s made here is a throwback to the era of Imperialism that functions as a mix between fantasy as well as Chinese history. If you’ve ever seen the Korean drama Alchemy of Souls or watched the latest fantasy Chinese drama of late there are a lot of similarities.
The protagonists that comprise Lan and Zen keep you interested even in the event that things become repetitive, but. Both have distinct motives and goals as well as clear and distinct characters throughout. It is helpful that the story is bouncing back and forth between both characters at all times taking in events from both perspectives, and observing the feelings they have about each other as well as the world around them.
The fun prose makes this book entertaining and you can tell that the story is written for teens. Although there are some powerful and interesting dark themes, however, they’re not delved into with any kind of visceral brutality or nail-biting intensity. Also, there’s little to say other than the occasional curse word or two but only in intense periods of tension. However, nicknames such as “Horse facial” are used more often, with a humorous effect.
This is actually in line with the plot since the story’s focus is on magic and the boy is Song of Silver, Flame Like Night performs on this front. The explanation of qi use along with those four gods of demon Gods and the various Seals and the limitations of magic are all logical and is effortlessly into the world. Too often, these kinds of stories present magic systems that have massive flaws, and you’ll have to wonder what the source of the tension is. But not this time because the creator Amelie Zhao succeeded in strengthening Lan but also keep her in a vulnerable position throughout the story this is not a simple task.
Song of Silver, Flame Like Night remains true to the standard YA beats that you’ve been used to from a novel of this type you’ll certainly get the sensation of Deja vu as you read in the first few chapters, particularly toward the beginning and middle. If you get beyond the halfway mark, however, Zhao takes the story in a new direction and leaves everything left open for the sequel to come. By the time you’ve finished that final page, you’ll be counting the chapters until the next will be released!
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