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Reviews of Strike the Zither by Joan He

Strike the Zither

Kingdom of Three #1

by Joan He

Strike the Zither by Joan He X
Strike the Zither by Joan He
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2022, 368 pages

    Paperback:
    Mar 2024, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jordan Lynch
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About this Book

Book Summary

A dazzling new fantasy from New York Times and Indie bestselling author Joan He, Strike the Zither is a powerful, inventive, and sweeping fantasy that reimagines the Chinese classic tale of the Three Kingdoms.

The year is 414 of the Xin Dynasty, and chaos abounds. A puppet empress is on the throne. The realm has fractured into three factions and three warlordesses hoping to claim the continent for themselves.

But Zephyr knows it's no contest.

Orphaned at a young age, Zephyr took control of her fate by becoming the best strategist of the land and serving under Xin Ren, a warlordess whose loyalty to the empress is double-edged―while Ren's honor draws Zephyr to her cause, it also jeopardizes their survival in a war where one must betray or be betrayed. When Zephyr is forced to infiltrate an enemy camp to keep Ren's followers from being slaughtered, she encounters the enigmatic Crow, an opposing strategist who is finally her match. But there are more enemies than one―and not all of them are human.

SOMETHING FROM NOTHING

Some say the heavens dictate the rise and fall of empires.

Clearly, those peasants have never met me.

My abilities as a strategist have earned me many sobriquets, from the Dragon's Shadow to the Tactician of Thistlegate. Rising Zephyr is my personal favorite. "Zephyr" will do, if you please.

"Peacock!"

Unless you're Lotus. Then it's too much to ask for.

I struggle to steer my mare around; horses don't appreciate genius.

Neither does Lotus. "Hey, Peacock!" she hollers over the creaking wagons, crying babies, and cracking whips. She urges her stallion up along the other side until we're somewhat eye to eye, the heads of people and oxen coursing between us. "They're catching up!"

Consider me unsurprised. Miasma, prime ministress of the Xin Empire in name, acting empress in reality, was bound to close in on our soldiers and peasants, who now—thanks to Lotus—realize they're about to die. A child bursts into tears, an auntie trips, a young couple spurs their mule...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Strike the Zither is a historical fantasy filled with action and intrigue, humans and gods, loyalty and honor. Although it reimagines a classic Chinese novel, Zither can be read and enjoyed regardless of a reader's knowledge of the source material, and the list of characters and artwork included at the beginning of the book will serve as a helpful guide to the expansive world Joan He has recreated. Fans of Asian literature will appreciate the nods to Chinese mythology and culture, while those who thrill at depictions of warfare and action will appreciate Zephyr's tactical abilities, the shifting alliances and the well-written battle sequences...continued

Full Review (627 words)

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(Reviewed by Jordan Lynch).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Military stratagems, qi-infused zither duets, and divine interference come together in this tightly crafted reimagining of the Chinese classic Three Kingdoms. Themes of fate and identity appear throughout, tightening around Zephyr, who must weigh duty against heart as the stakes continue to rise. A riveting series opener.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
A skilled strategist infiltrates an enemy camp in service to a warlord in this expansive fantasy series opener from He...The protagonist's clever narration and boundless ambition, coupled with He's powerful, action-packed prose, quick pacing, anticipatory atmosphere, and immersive worldbuilding, exemplify the origins of the source material while developing a distinct and evocative adventure.

Author Blurb Hannah Whitten, New York Times-bestselling author of For the Wolf
Filled with twists and turns, Strike the Zither is a meticulously plotted, supremely satisfying story that explores identity, legacy, and loyalty in unexpected ways. This is Joan He's best yet.

Author Blurb Margaret Owen, author of The Merciful Crow series and Little Thieves
Joan He takes no prisoners, and Strike the Zither is her latest triumph. An intricate, expansive epic that poses difficult questions and eschews easy answers, this book is as ambitious as its scheming, ruthless cast―and just like its narrator, delivers above and beyond.

Author Blurb Olivie Blake, author of The Atlas Six
Strike the Zither is a page-turner, full of unexpected twists, with an expansive, intricate world of sisterhood and subterfuge. He's smooth, economical style is the perfect vehicle for this gripping political fantasy, marrying cat-and-mouse intrigue with a tenderness and emotional depth that heightens the stakes of every new reveal. A standout work from a remarkable author.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Romance of the Three Kingdoms

Strike the Zither tells the story of Zephyr, a brilliant strategist working to help warlordess Xin Ren gain the throne of the realm. As she outsmarts foes human and supernatural alike, Zephyr must acknowledge her fate and decide how far she's willing to go to see Ren on the throne. Zither is a tale of strong females fighting for their place in the empire and a brilliant reimagining of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, a classic Chinese novel that glorifies China's Three Kingdoms period.

covers of various translations of Romance of the Three Kingdoms

The Three Kingdoms period (220-280 CE) began after the Han Dynasty fell to natural disasters and rebellion. Afterwards, the nation divided into the titular three kingdoms—Wei, Shu and Wu—each led by vicious warlords seeking to ...

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