THE GIRL KING
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