Author: Amelie Wen Zhao
In a fallen kingdom, one girl carries the key to discovering the secrets of her nation’s past—and unleashing the demons that sleep at its heart. An epic fantasy series inspired by the mythology and folklore of ancient China.
Once, Lan had a different name. Now she goes by the one the Elantian colonizers gave her when they invaded her kingdom, killed her mother, and outlawed her people’s magic. She spends her nights as a songgirl in Haak’gong, a city transformed by the conquerors, and her days scavenging for what she can find of the past. Anything to understand the strange mark burned into her arm by her mother in her last act before she died.
The mark is mysterious—an untranslatable Hin character—and no one but Lan can see it. Until the night a boy appears at her teahouse and saves her life.
Zen is a practitioner—one of the fabled magicians of the Last Kingdom. Their magic was rumored to have been drawn from the demons they communed with. Magic believed to be long lost. Now it must be hidden from the Elantians at all costs.
When Zen comes across Lan, he recognizes what she is: a practitioner with a powerful ability hidden in the mark on her arm. He’s never seen anything like it—but he knows that if there are answers, they lie deep in the pine forests and misty mountains of the Last Kingdom, with an order of practitioning masters planning to overthrow the Elantian regime.
Both Lan and Zen have secrets buried deep within—secrets they must hide from others, and secrets that they themselves have yet to discover. Fate has connected them, but their destiny remains unwritten. Both hold the power to liberate their land. And both hold the power to destroy the world.
Now the battle for the Last Kingdom begins.
Song of Silver, Flame Like Night is the first novel in a duology of the same name that immerses the reader in Chinese mythology and folklore. The book begins with a chronology of the history of the world, which set the tone and scene for the reader. It is lyrical in the writing which makes it feel like a movie, so it was easy to picture it in my imagination. The Elantians have taken over the Last Kingdom and there are the legends of the four Demon Gods (Silver Dragon, Crimson Phoenix, Black Tortoise, and Azure Tiger) who loom in the background.
Lan is an orphan who works at a teahouse where she is trying to make sense of her mother’s death and the mysterious mark on her arm. She eventually meets another orphan named Zen who is a descendant of one of the ninety-nine clans from the original Last Kingdom. Lan and Zen are great protagonists as they may make some terrible choices at times, but the reader can understand them given their backstories. The two characters share great chemistry from the moment the two characters met. The two characters go through a lot in this story and their journeys are very complex.
There are some exposition moments and very detailed information written on the page where it does, at times, throw off the pacing. The terminology, while interesting and enjoyable, can make the reader feel a little bogged down, especially if they aren’t familiar with it. There are some predictable elements that come with stories of this genre, but there were also some nice and unexpected twists and turns. There was an enjoyable balance, which is something I look for in this genre. A lot of details are weaved into the story and characters, so it is overwhelming at times, but also has comforting and familiar genre elements. There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered and I greatly look forward to discovering them in the sequel!
**I give a special thank you to Netgalley and Delacorte Press for the opportunity to read this novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**