This week I’m reviewing the books I’ve made it to from my Top 10 2015 Releases I Didn’t Get to post.
Serpentine by Cindy Pon. Month9Books, 2015
Skybright has never known any life but that of servant companion to the noble Zhen Ni. Zhen Ni views Skybright more as a sister than a servant, but Skybright can never forget that she’ll be Zhen Ni’s servant forever, never allowed to, say, marry and start her own household. As the story opens, Skybright is climbing up a tree at Zhen Ni’s request, to see over the wall of the local monastery. There she spies a handsome young man not wearing a monk’s robe, though he’s participating in their exercises. Things change between the girls when a young lady, Lan, comes to visit, but this must be pushed to the side as Skybright starts seeing ghosts wandering around, shortly followed by demons. And Skybright soon learns that there’s rather horrifying more to herself and her past than she’s ever known. Can she keep her secret from Zhen Ni and keep her safe from the demons?
I haven’t seen this book being talked about nearly as much as it deserves! This is just a delightful balance of a great twist on the teen-with-hidden-powers trope with a kicky plot and great characters. The friendship between Skybright and Zhen Ni is beautifully done, with Lan and Zhen Ni’s Nanny Bai playing good supporting roles. I was afraid of instalove with the way Kai Sen and Skybright first met, but their relationship develops slowly enough and with enough focus on interest in each other as people that these fears proved ungrounded. The villain, a demon by the name of Stone who knows more of Skybright’s past than she does herself, is that combination of sexy and dangerous most commonly reserved for villainesses – I quite enjoyed seeing that trope turned around. All in all, this is deeply satisfying reading.
The ending is shockingly abrupt. I had to take a quick break from writing this to make sure that I wouldn’t have to wait another five years to find out what happens next. Happiness! Book 2, Sacrifice, is scheduled to come out in September.
In the meantime, go back to Cindy Pon’s Silver Phoenix and Fury of the Phoenix if you haven’t already read them, or try Malinda Lo’s Huntress. Cindy Pon also had a great What’s the Big Idea post about Serpentine on John Scalzi’s blog.
Here are the other books from the books-I-missed post that I’ve reviewed already: