Thursday, March 20, 2014

WEDNESDAY REVIEW: To Journey in the Year of the Tiger

H. Leighton Dickson

TO JOURNEY IN THE YEAR OF THE TIGER is the first in a Ground-Breaking Original Series by H. Leighton Dickson. This is a powerful, post-apocalyptic story of lions and tigers, wolves and dragons, embracing and blending the cultures of Dynastic China, Ancient India and Feudal Japan. Half feline, half human, this genetically altered world has evolved in the wake of the fall of human civilization. Fans of Tolkien, Game of Thrones, Redwall or Japanese anime will be entertained in these intelligent and beautifully written pages in a blend of science, fantasy and zoological speculation.
Kirin Wynegarde-Grey is a young lion with a big job – Captain of the Guard in a Kingdom that spans from the mountains of western China to the deserts of the Middle East. When an ancient threat awakens in the West and threatens to overthrow the Empire, he must lead a team that includes his enigmatic brother, a lethal swordswoman and three radically different and mysterious specialists through a world where humans are legend and animals walk like men.
This is the journey of six individuals as they travel beyond the edges of the known Empire, into lands uncharted and wild. It is a journey of magic and mystery, science and swords, romance and intrigue. It is a journey of different perspectives and unexpected kharma and love found in surprising places. It is a journey that takes place five thousand years or so in the future, naturally in the Year of the Tiger.
H. Leighton Dickinson's To Journey in the Year of the Tiger (Tails from the Upper Kingdom) surprised me with how well she delineated each character, making their traits so specific that it was easy to tell who was who from how the character acted and spoke, which was good because the author made the unfortunate choice of giving two of the main characters, both lion-men, names that were almost identical. It made sense because they are brothers, but early on, I was not always able to recall which was being referred to just by name, however, as I said their personalities and duties were so different it always quickly became apparent who was being referred to.
I almost made a big mistake and quit early on in a book I ended up thoroughly enjoying because the multiple earth cultures were seemingly hodgepodged into the cat-human-hybrid empire in which the tail, er, tale takes place. Either back when I read this I didn’t read the blurb (which I doubt because why would I have chanced a new author without even reading the blurb?) or the blurb contains much more information now than it did then.  Regardless, I read on long enough to get excellent hints that there was a very valid and logical reason (see the blurb above) behind this rather than being the amateurish world-building I initially feared.
The characterization and plotting were excellent and the female characters, though secondary, were strong, complex, integral to the plot, and often more intriguing than the protagonists who are themselves excellent characters. They were definitely not just love- interest-for-the-hero.  I only had three issues with this novel. The first was it had some of the unevenness you see in debut novels—nothing major just not the ultra-smoothness of a multi-published novelist. The second issues was that the novel was light on description and thus I don’t recall ever being completely immersed in the world itself like I was with the characters; however since it’s a future earth modeled off of Ancient Asian countries it was easy for me to fill in the blanks.   
The last issue I had was that the ending lacked a firm resolution; however it did cause me to immediately buy (All the books are only $2.99)and blaze through the sequel To Walk in the Way of Lions, which picks up right where To Journey in the Year of the Tiger leaves off. Taken as one book, which is what it felt like, it’s a heckuva of a read, surprisingly deep with an emotionally wrenching conclusion. Also, the female characters’ roles grow in each of the three novels currently out.
While I recommend reading To Journey in the Year of the Tiger, I highly recommend reading To Journey in the Year of the Tiger and To Walk in the Way of Lions as one novel. Having recently finished the third in the series Song in the Year of the Cat I rank Tails from the Upper Kingdom as one of the best Epic series going.
Review by Carlyle Clark

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1 comment:

Karin Rita Gastreich said...

Wow! This sounds like an amazing read, Lyle. Thanks for the review. I'll definitely check it out. Another to add to the reading list. :)