The Nan Tu - Southern Swallow Book II
by Edward C. Patterson
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As a reviewer for a glbt literature site, I read a lot of gay-themed books. Many of these stories are cut from the same stamp, and I rarely enjoy them. Many are about sexy vampires and shape shifters and such, which doesn't really twirl my skirt. Some deal with true life issues in such a way that touches me deeply, and I cherish those. But every once in a while a book comes along that has a unique voice, a fresh and vibrant set of characters, and has the ability to transport me into another world for an adventure far beyond my limited imagination. I recently experienced a writer who took me on an adventure filled with history and magic and valor found in unexpected places. The author is Edward C. Patterson and the adventure is called the Southern Swallow series. The first book was The Academician, which delighted me with a touching love story. I've now read the second book in the series called The Nan Tu, which is the maturing of that love story into a tale of intrigue, loyalty and honor.
The Nan Tu takes the reader back into ancient China during the Sung dynasty, when the Emperor was considered the "Son of Heaven" and vast armies trembled at his every whim. Out of this rich history comes the journey of a few men who try to remold an empire out of the destruction and chaos left by warring hoards from the north, all the while being hunted by blood-thirsty bandits and The Jackal, who leads an army bent on their destruction.
One man, Li K'ai-men, must utilize the magic power of the Jade Owl to form an alliance between five men that will form a supernatural force to battle the enemy. Another man, Emperor Koa, must assume the responsibilities of The Son of Heaven, and somehow stay one step ahead of assassins and traitors long enough to form a stable government. A third, Fu Lin-t'o, the ever-faithful lover of Li K'ai-men, is challenged with keeping the Emperor's court out of harms way. And, of course, K'u Ko-ling, Li K'ai-men's rather clownish manservant, who has matured and become a key player in protecting the realm. There are rich descriptions of all the characters, each one bigger than life and easy to imagine.
This is a story about loyalty, duty and honor. Loyalty (and love) from scholar to his emperor, from servant to master, from lovers to each other, and from all to country and ancestors.
As with The Academician, this story is a vivid, imaginative, and often humorous romp through a pivotal point in Chinese history. Book II blossoms into a tense tale of intrigue, court politics, treachery and war. The plot is much more complex that the first book, and more interesting. It kept me up several nights, not wanting to put it down.
The narrator starts and finishes each chapter with his 1st person point of view, but the bulk of the story is told in 3rd person. I found these POV switches to be seamless, and greatly added to developing the depths of the main characters. This is a character driven story, and Patterson skillfully presents these characters with even greater depth than the first book, with an excellent blend of tragedy and humor.
Because of the many different characters and locations, any reader would be greatly confused without first reading The Academician. Much like Lord of the Rings, this is one continuous story that spans several volumes, and needs to be read in order. It is not an easy read. There are so many important characters always appearing and reappearing, and so many different locations, that one needs to concentrate to keep it all in order.
The one issue I had with his book is that, because there is more story to come, it felt like the ending was flat. I was left with a feeling of incompleteness, and somewhat miffed that I must wait for another installment or two to finish the story.
The author's consummate skill at crafting prose and his well-researched details kept me fully engaged until the last page. I would recommend this read to anyone who enjoys multifaceted characters, humor, and a well-crafted story.
amazing sequel and companion to Jade Owl Series
The Nan Tu is an
amazing second book in the Southern Swallow books.
It is narrated by the crusty K'u Ko-Ling, servant to the Grand Tutor and one of the forces of the Jade Owl series, Li L'ai-men.
Li has to be apart from his wife and children and his heartsong lover Fu, to ensure the balance of power occurs.
Li also has that little Jade Owl that hoots and gives power and the first of the China Hands is created.
Li is the person who created the paintings that form a gateway between worlds that figure in this and the other series.
The battle scenes, the storms, the bandits they all endure, and the violence they encounter is astounding.
Li keeps the relics
and chooses the others of the China Hands.
As a fledgling writer, I admire and learn from the quality of writers like Edward C. Patterson.
I read this book on Kindle, however, will also buy this in paperback.
Patterson's epic story is amazing on Kindle, but want to easily reference actions on paperback.
This is a masterful book and I cannot wait for the next installment of the present day China Hands as well as the original -
Explore 12th Century
China in this Historical Fantasy Fiction Novel! April 13, 2010
12th Century China - Once the forgotten and spoiled youngest son in the royal family, prince Kao suddenly finds himself an unlikely emperor after his father and siblings are captured by the Jurchen. Now Li K'ai-men having been the grand tutor to this young prince, is now the emperor's most trusted advisor. Not only must he protect the warrants given him by his master Han Lin but he must also find a way to maintain a Chinese royal dynasty. Through the great Nan Tu - or Southern Migration - the dynasty's seat of power moves across the country and eventually out to sea staying one step ahead of the advancing northern invaders.
In this Book 2 of the Southern Swallow Series, Edward C Patterson takes the reader once again to ancient China and the historical events which split a great country into two dynasties. By infusing the fictional elements first introduced in The Jade Owl (Volume 1), Patterson weaves together the fantasy plotline of the Chi' Tang legend, the warrants of ancient relics, and one of China's most interesting historical events. Li must advise his young and frequently self doubting son of heaven through a mine field of political unrest, familial betrayal and power plays, invasions, mutiny, and conspiracies. But Li occasionally finds that more than just advice is needed; sometimes the power of the Chi' Tang is required to preserve the empire. Yielding such power without usurping the emperor and his people proves to be a delicate balancing act.
In and of themselves, the cascade of historical events or the fantasy story of the Jade Owl legacy are engaging reads. But Patterson's trademark character study and development further shine in this offering. Certainly the struggles faced by an at times unwilling emperor as well as the challenges Li' K'ai-men faces to advice his leader while maintaining his warrants and being apart from his family and true love are wonderful journeys into the human condition. My favorite character, however, once is K'u Ko-ling. Ko-ling is Li's servant and "son of a cowcumber farmer from Gui-lin". Similar to The Academician, Patterson uses this character to introduce and close each chapter. He is disrespectful, dour, self-deprecating, but cunning, clever, invaluable, hysterically funny, and loyal to his master and in what he believes. In many ways Ko-ling is an unlikely hero, somewhat like the character played by Dustin Hoffman in the 1992 movie of the same name.
Those who enjoyed The Academician - Southern Swallow - Book I will enjoy this chapter of the tale as well. The Southern Swallow Series provides the back story of the relics that are front in center in the Jade Owl series. The key difference between the two series is The Jade Owl relies much more on the fantasy elements to drive the story, while The Southern Swallow Series is steeped in 12th century Chinese history. Overall, The Nan Tu is an engaging and educational addition to Patterson's vast collection of works.