A Thousand Perfect Things by Kay Kenyon
|Book Name:||A Thousand Perfect Things|
|Publisher(s):||Premier Digital Publishing|
|Formatt:||Paperback / eBook|
|Genre(s):||Fantasy / Alternate History|
|Release Date:||August 27, 2013|
If the idea of a scientific adventure to find a golden lotus delights you, try A Thousand Perfect Things by Kay Kenyon.
This historical fantasy of an alternate 19th century could have been titled The Golden Lotus. The story revolves around this divine flower, which the protagonist’s grandfather claims is more than myth. The aged scientist fights against both senility and incredulity, but Tori believes in his work. She hopes the magical visions granted by the lotus will advance science and secure her place in the male-dominated naturalist society.
Tori has given up on a conventional life. Her own mother has despaired of securing her club-footed daughter a husband. Tori’s prettier sister entertains a captain who seems less prejudiced than most toward Tori’s work. Tori has a fluttering of affection for him but is left behind when the dancing starts.
On a grander stage, two countries are engaging in a deadly dance. The continents themselves are enmeshed like dueling cobras, Anglica against Bharata, science against magic. Anglica has started to colonize Bharata. The latter raises an objection in the form of a thousand-foot cobra elemental of water. The flood snakes its way all the way to the palace, killing hundreds and disrupting the king’s breakfast.
By royal decree, Tori’s father is sent to bolster to colonizing forces. Given the privileges of a general’s daughter, Tori accompanies him over a bridge that connects the two countries. This floating road across the sea is battered by krakens like a yarn amongst kittens.
Once across, the Anglican forces waste no time in revenging themselves for the act of magical terrorism. They relentlessly and without mercy have luncheon with the prince of Bharata and ask maybe if they might renegotiate a trade treaty. Their blood still running hot as tea, they demand that a lone Anglican school be opened in a remote village.
The disconnect between the mildness of the Anglican response and the fierceness of the Bharatan tactics creates an imbalance in the story. Certainly, we know that colonization is no buttered crumpet, that subjugating another culture is not neighborly. Yet I’m fairly certain that Gandhi did not throw off the British yoke infecting their officers with the black plague. A Thousand Perfect Things asks the reader to see both sides of the conflict while only portraying the wrongs of Bharata in a visceral and emotional way.
What the story does provide is a sensation of visuals. Guards with rifles patrol on ostrich mounts. A mongoose chitters in the distance while women dance in colorful saris emblazoned with gold. Tori experiences melon ice, lamb curries, and a haunting spirit that guides her ever closer to the golden lotus.
She is also astonished and allured by Bharata’s views on sexual athletics. Emboldened, she propositions the captain who had caught her sister’s eye. Some adorkable lines are unleashed, such as, “I’ve been thinking about you ever since we looked at that book about amphibians.”
Tori is not alone on her quest for the golden lotus, and juxtaposed to her aspirations for science, Mahindra desires the holy plant to spark a religious uprising. The narrative follows a variety of viewpoints, including the Anglican captain, a hemophiliac Bharatan prince, Tori’s sister, and an uproarious schoolteacher. Mahindra is Bharata’s spiritual advisor, and he gains powers through asceticism. A law forbids self-mortification, but Mahindra will make whatever sacrifice to avenge his two sons who died to the colonizers. He is learning, though, that blood cannot easily wash away blood.
Tori also begins to understand the ramifications of their occupation as violence escalates into epic battle scenes. Cannons boom, spectral elephants stampede, twin tigers prowl, and winged horrors swoop down with fangs as long as “a school marm’s black board pointer.”
Now if you’ll excuse me, I must attend to my own black lotuses. It’s feeding time, you see, and it’d be most foolish to keep them hungry.