Song of the Six Realms

­Feiwel & Friends. Apr. 2024. 400p. Tr $20.99. ISBN 9781250871619.
Gr 9 Up–Xue’s an orphaned yuè-hù, one of the lowest societal ranks in the Kingdom of Qi. Five years ago, her uncle left her at the House of Flowing Water, where playing the qín for patrons is Xue’s only chance at a future. But Xue jumps at the opportunity to leave when the mysterious Duke Meng offers to pay out her contract in exchange for her performing at his reclusive estate for a year. When monstrous attacks force the Duke to reveal he’s one of the divine rulers of the unstable Celestial Realm, Xue offers to help him stop the Six Realms from falling into collapse; that is, if she can manage to stay alive. Inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Lin builds a fantastical gothic story immersed in Chinese mythology and folktales. The first three verses of Xue’s tale slowly build character connections and the world they inhabit. However, the fourth and final verse packs plenty of revelations and action, drawing readers in, as the characters fight the power hungry who crave absolute authority above the welfare of others. The romantic tension between Xue and the Duke does not develop as strongly as anticipated, but still satisfies. Xue’s musicianship is shown through poetic tales woven into the text, aided by lush scenic descriptions that reveal the tone and mood of each song. The author’s note provides historical context. Glossary included.
VERDICT A beautifully detailed Gothic fantasy that explores how ignorance and deceit can crumble a community.

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