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Songs of Insurrection by JC Kang

Songs of Insurrection by JC Kang
4.25
Book Name: Songs of Insurrection
Author: JC Kang
Publisher(s): Self-Published
Formatt: Paperback / Ebook
Genre(s): Fantasy
Release Date: November 14, 2016

Spoiler Warning: This review contains spoilers. Read with caution if you have yet to finish the book.

A path to glory blazed with the dying heart of an imperial princess.

JC Kang’s Songs of Insurrection (originally The Dragon Scale Lute) is a wonderful, feministic narrative of a woman trying to find her own voice. It follows the exploits of spies who uncover a political plot to destroy a nation, with a good deal of worldbuilding and detail that immerses you in the story Kang has created.

Princess Kaiya of Cathay has a beautiful singing voice, but is only used for her abilities to perform for diplomats. She’s self-conscious about her appearance and feels the pressure of fulfilling the role as the daughter of Emperor Tianzi, with marriage being its highest component. Kaiya loves music and finds strength within it, but she feels she can never escape her future of being nothing more than a bride. Kaiya desires more for her life, and that’s when Prince Hardeep of Ankira comes in, to shake her world and give her hope for a better future.

However, before we jump into relationships, at the cornerstone of SoI is a legend of music saving a nation. Avarax, a dragon who threatened the wellbeing of the nation, is silenced by a legendary lute called the Dragon Scale, which is made from his scales and able to subdue him. In fact, there’s a collection of musical instruments that can use Dragon Songs to quiet a threat or even rout an army.

If a Dragon Song was the only way to convince Father and the lords to do the right thing, so be it.

In the north, the nation of Ankira, is struggling in a thirty-year war with Madura, and has come to Cathay to ask for help. However, the nation of Madura is determined to use Ankira for their own, malicious ends.

“The Kingdom of Madura occupies almost all of Ankira, in part because of their twice-renewed trade agreement with Cathay. For almost thirty years, you have sold them firepowder. Now, our soldiers are weary and our coffers depleted. The agreement expires soon. We ask—no, beg—that you not renew it.”

The prince is trying to work-out a new trade agreement that would cease Cathay’s alliance with the malicious Madura, but his true objective is in locating the lute and using it to save his homeland. Kaiya is swept-up in this quest and given a nice nudge in that direction by the drop-dead gorgeous Hardeep.

The prince appears to be nothing more than a guy using his good looks for wooing the musically talented princess, but he’s trained in Ayuri Paladin arts, in which he’s able to influence others by planting suggestions into people’s minds. This leaves Kaiya questioning whether or not she should be so enamored with someone who could simply be using her for their own good. This question of morality is a strong thread throughout the narrative, and adds the tension needed to keep the pace steady and the relationship between the two interesting.

Prince Hardeep was just a man. A handsome one, for sure, but she’d met many other good-looking men without wilting into a starry-eyed fool. Steeling herself against whatever magic Prince Hardeep had used to beguile her, she stepped over the threshold.

Meanwhile, there are two spies investigating the production of firepowder that is potentially being used against the vulnerable Ankira. Zheng Tian, an eighteen-year-old Moquan spy (and childhood friend of Kaiya) and Jie, a female half-elf who isn’t afraid to do whatever is necessary to discover the plot of Madura, are keen on their mission, even if it threatens their very life.

While I wasn’t too invested in Jie’s journey to uncovering Madura’s plot of secretly shipping-in firepower to destroy Ankira, I loved seeing the premature blossoming of Kaiya as a strong, female lead. She starts as meek and unsure of herself, but with the help from the gorgeous Hardeep, she begins to come into her own as a powerful, woman who could save a nation with her musical talents. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy reading how Jie used her own female attributes to uncover the plot to destroy Ankira, but I felt Kaiya’s character was stronger.

Overall, Kang’s first installment in The Dragon Songs Saga is a wonderful Asian fantasy with plenty of action, dynamic characters, a good dollop of romance, mystical worldbuilding and wonderous lore. I felt enraptured by Kaiya’s story and her quest to help the handsome prince in saving his homeland. While it had a slow beginning, the pace quickened half-way through the narrative. And, by the end of the story, one should be eager to see how Kaiya and Prince Hardeep save their homes through the power of music.

If you want to begin reading Asian fantasy, look no further than Kang’s novels. He’s definitely a strong force in the subgenre.

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