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re­leased 10 JaN­Uary 496 pages | Pa­per­back/ebook

Au­thor Mimi yu Pub­lisher Gol­lancz

In al­most every way, this is your stan­dard genre fan­tasy: youth­ful lead char­ac­ters, a con­tested throne, sub­ju­gated king­doms, peo­ple with su­per­nat­u­ral abil­i­ties. There’s the usual ten­ta­tive ro­mance and po­lit­i­cal shuf­flings, an un­trust­wor­thy re­li­gious type and, of course, a prophecy.

What sets The Girl King apart from its kin is its Asian-in­spired set­ting. Most genre fan­tasy draws on a Euro­pean id­iom, with non-Euro­pean in­flu­ences used for na­tions and peo­ple away from the main ac­tion. Here, Asian (Chi­nese, specif­i­cally) cul­ture and his­tory is a cen­tral in­spi­ra­tion, fil­ter­ing through in ev­ery­thing from royal dress and court cus­toms to the struc­ture of so­ci­ety.

That said, this is not a Chi­nese fan­tasy in the wuxia mould; there’s far less elab­o­rately de­scribed fight­ing, and the set­ting is Chi­ne­se­in­flu­enced but doesn’t di­rectly draw on a par­tic­u­lar dy­nasty or his­tor­i­cal set­ting. Don’t pick this up ex­pect­ing yet an­other vari­a­tion on Ro­mance Of

The Three King­doms, ei­ther. This is not a his­tory les­son with some magic bolted on. Mimi Yu has cre­ated a unique world of her own, with a very clear fan­tasy el­e­ment, and her book is all the more en­joy­able for it. It’s fun, and mostly un­re­mark­able – but as Asian read­ers are largely un­der­served by genre fan­tasy as a whole, its one point of dis­tinc­tion is a cru­cial one. Miriam McDon­ald

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