Fiction Reviews

Dark Heavens: Book One Ė White Tiger

(2011) Kylie Chan, Harper Voyager, pbk, £7.99, 569pp, ISBN 978-0-00-734979-1


Aha, cunning folk, these publishers, but even I can see through part of the marketing strategy being used to promote the first in the Dark Heavens trilogy, White Tiger because the cover is predominately white, with darkening storm clouds and a scene of a junk sailing into Hong Kong. Oh, and there are some ribbons of Chinese writing - banners you might call them and some snarling, ghost-like - maybe demonic tigers, and someone wearing some martial arts garb, with the look of a novice. That, in a nutshell sums up White Tiger quite nicely.

Write from what you know is the old advice for would-be writers, and Australian writer Kylie Chan uses her knowledge of living in Hong Kong, with all that entails, and being a practising kung fu-er to come up with something slightly different in the fantasy action-adventure romance stakes.

Mary Poppins this isnít, because this time the magic is on the other foot when Emma Donahoe starts a job as a nanny for a rich Hong Kong businessman who just happens to be a god, nay the actual Dark Lord of the North himself, with a horde of demons out to get him, and his daughter. If Emma is going to do her job properly and look after little Simone she had better bone up on the old martial arts side of things herself and no sooner does her training begin then it looks suspiciously like Emma isnít what she seems, even if she doesnít know what that actually might be in the first place. Although itís going to be handy to have hidden depths as she is about to encounter a weird and wacky collection of gods and goddesses and demi-gods and demons, a few of which might be labelled 'tame'.

On the downside, as the world's self-confessed worst reader in the work, my heart did sink a bit at the thickness of this tome Ė some 569 pages long, not helped with 547 pages of actual text, followed by a glossary, some notes about the mythology referred to within the pages and suggested further reading. All in all, while there are familiar paranormal romance tropes going on with the main characters and their respective situations, and the revelations that are going to unfold; the different setting, and the martial arts influence and the wide range of Chinese mythological characters combined with an obvious in-depth knowledge of Hong Kong and Chinese culture, add up to the start of something that is different from the normal fare, and manages to overcome a slightly clunky writing style in places. The world of the Dark Heavens trilogy might be here to stay if it can emulate the success it has had elsewhere. There is certainly enough to keep potential fans happy, given that the UK readership is playing catch up with this first trilogy, while in Australia, the second trilogy has already been published and Ms Chan is working hard on books seven, eight and nine. Expect even more cunning marketing ploys to follow.

Ian Hunter

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