Title: Song of the Crimson Flower
Author: Julie C. Dao
Series: Rise of the Empress companion
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Romance
Publisher: Philomel Books
Publication date: November 5th, 2019
Will love break the spell? After cruelly rejecting Bao, the poor physician’s apprentice who loves her, Lan, a wealthy nobleman’s daughter, regrets her actions. So when she finds Bao’s prized flute floating in his boat near her house, she takes it into her care, not knowing that his soul has been trapped inside it by an evil witch, who cursed Bao, telling him that only love will set him free. Though Bao now despises her, Lan vows to make amends and help break the spell.
Together, the two travel across the continent, finding themselves in the presence of greatness in the forms of the Great Forest’s Empress Jade and Commander Wei. They journey with Wei, getting tangled in the webs of war, blood magic, and romance along the way. Will Lan and Bao begin to break the spell that’s been placed upon them? Or will they be doomed to live out their lives with black magic running through their veins?
In this fantastical tale of darkness and love, some magical bonds are stronger than blood.
“Soon, she would make Ba and Mama proud, and she would have everything: a lovely, elegant wing of the Huynh’s home, servants to tend to her every wish as a cherished daughter-in-law, and Tam, the handsome young man who wove his love for her into the melody o a flute beneath the moon.”
After completely falling in love with Forest of a Thousand Lanterns two years ago I knew I had to read everything Julie C. Dao publishes, and since this book was a standalone set in the same world as her debut novel, I got even more excited.
It took me a while to get into the story because I was a bit confused at the very beginning by what was happening. It took me a couple of chapters to start to understand everything that was going on, because even though I was a bit familiar with the world, the book started a bit suddenly, but once I kept reading I found the story to be more fast paced and easy to get into.
My main issue with this book was that it was too short. All the actions that took place in Song of the Crimson Flower happened very fast and I feel it didn’t have time to build up anticipation or to make the reader engaged enough in the story to want to keep reading. I feel if the novel was longer and the pacing slower in a way, the reader could have gotten more time to grasp everything and become more connected with the story, but with the way it was done I feel a bit underwhelmed by everything that was going on.
For example, I think the book had so many great subplots that were unexplored, because the story was a bit too focused on the romance. I think the bloodpox thing was a very interesting element to add to the story, but overall was unexplored and frankly a bit forgotten by everything that was going on. There were certain times where nothing was really going on and it felt like the story was dragged, instead of flowing smoothly as I hoped.
“I’m going on an adventure at last, Bà nôi, she thought, looking up at the sky. Just like we always talked about.”
The ending happened a bit fast, and though it was very action-packed and it’s solve the conflict of the story and wrapped up the plot nicely, I would have preferred it to be more slow burn than what it was. Though I have to say that I really enjoyed those last few chapters and think that’s where the essence of the story was the most, so even though I had my issues with the pacing and would have loved to get to know certain things a bit more, the story had its redeemable qualities.
Though I ended up liking these characters, and was so happy to see some cameos from Forest of a Thousand Lanterns in there, the characters felt a bit flat sometimes. It’s true that we know a basic information about them and their motivations and the journey they went through, but there was something missing about them. It took me a while to see any chemistry between the two main characters, and so that made the romance appeared quite forced to me. Though I ended up liking some of their dynamics and interactions and I could totally see a romance happening, I would have liked for them to be more complex.
Overall, I think Song of the Crimson Flower had its good and bad things. I adored Julie C. Dao’s writing and think it was so lushed and beautiful, and even though I had my issues with the length and the pacing of the book, I think it had some elements that I really enjoyed seeing in a book.
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This doesn’t change my opinion whatsoever. All thoughts are my own.
“Tam had not written her the love song.
Tam had not played her such beautiful music.
Tam had not bothered to come and see her.”
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