Thursday, 11 August 2022

Inclusion and Diversity: A Rant

I have been struggling about whether to write about this but the anger and the bitterness are taking up too much space in my head, so maybe if it's written down in some form or other it will go away and leave me alone. For now. 

General life advice: never read the comments. Never, ever read the comments.

Even if they're on a post in a Facebook group that is, ostensibly, meant for...discussion. But what you don't read won't hurt you. And what you don't see won't send you into incandescent rage.

ANYWAY, this post is basically a response to a specific thread in a specific group, but I figured it's also a somewhat writing-related post which may (or may not, whatever) be helpful to people trying to navigate this whole thing around inclusion and diversity in fiction. I have been stewing over this since 29 July, so it's obviously not something I am about to just let go. I do not want to actually respond in the thread lest I BLOW UP AND RAGE QUIT. (I kind of like the other stuff that happens in the group so I'm trying not to rage quit at this point. Also, the admins and the founders have been kind and diplomatic and civil so I may just end up blocking a couple of people instead.) I also do not have the mental energy for arguing; my preferred method for dealing with confrontation is to walk. away. 

(But I am also passive-aggressive, hence this post.)

Note: It's been more than a week since I started writing this, the thread is quiet but reading it still leads to mild annoyance, so I suppose I will just finish the post. 


This whole kerfuffle started because someone had the audacity to say that adaptations to literature that make it more inclusive are a good thing

Which is, apparently, NOT the thing to say because all fantasy canon is holy and cannot be changed. (/s in case you weren't sure.)

Now, I'm not a very good fangirl. I find a lot of fannish things a little over the top and a bit too cultish at times. Example: I like LOTR but don't ask me to quote paragraphs for you. I'll probably never dress up like a hobbit, though we do joke that Penangites eat like hobbits. I do agree with many of the (other) comments that some recent adaptations *cough* The Hobbit *cough* were badly done because none of the additions made narrative sense. Yet...the most I'd do in response is go re-read the book and just never watch the movies ever again. I'm not a huge movie/series person anyway, so I'm probably not even going to watch The Thing they are obliquely complaining about. I'd also rather people write new stories with diverse characters and settings rather than remake old ones which are gender/race bent (sometimes the changes work, sometimes it's just...but why?) which is what many of them are pushing for. 

So, if I agree with so many of their talking points, why am I so bugged by the whole conversation? Because of the sense of entitlement and the overall tone of complaint that implies that Changing Anything In A Story By Adding Diversity Is A Personal Affront And An Attack On Me. 

I was going to post a bunch of quotes verbatim and address them, but for the sake of length and privacy, I'll just summarise their main points.

Changing the race of my favourite character steals something from me. Also, it's always a one-way thing; shows with predominantly POC characters are never rewritten to include/feature white people. 

I can't even begin to address the entitlement on this one. It's all "me! me! me!" here. How dare anyone make a story that's not meant for me?! How dare you make a story about someone else and not include someone like me?! /s 

There are many things in this world that are not made specifically for you, and that's okay! The original show still exists. You can go rewatch the original show and ignore the new one. Also, the point of this whole inclusion and diversity drive is to include people who have been historically erased from fiction (whether in books or on-screen), so reversing it to include MORE of the people who have millions of shows that reflect them...does not serve any purpose at all. 


We can learn to identify with themes in a story even if the characters don't look like us. 

Which is true! However, the commenter doubled down along the lines of "if I as a White Man can identify and learn from stories of other cultures, then POC don't need characters to look like them". Kudos for doing what we have always done. This totally ignores the fact that for many, many years, centuries even, everyone reading in English, of whatever race and ethnicity, has had to learn to identify with the White person and learn from their culture, so maybe it's time that we do not have to? That maybe, for once, it's nice to see a story we already love have people in it that look like us? To be fair, this was already addressed in the thread. It's just still annoying. 


Trying to make something that is for everybody cuts out diversity because some things just aren't relatable to some people.

First, nobody is trying to make something that is for everybody. They're just looking at a thing and going "hey look, the real world has a bunch of people with different skin colours living in the same place, plus a whole lot of people from different countries around the world enjoy this thing, so maybe this fantasy world should also have a bunch of different-looking people living in the same place". And if that makes a wider, more diverse pool of fans happy, that's what they want, isn't it? More people all around the world watching a show or reading a thing (and giving them more money)?

Second, I do not understand how that "cuts down the diversity". If the thing isn't relatable to you, just don't consume it. It doesn't mean that people should stop making it. I think that's a thing everyone else has already learnt. 


Making someone have a different skin color or gender doesn't make it more inclusive. My (white) sub-culture is rarely depicted well, yet I don't need a white woman to show up to enjoy the story. 

Great for you. If that's the case, then why are you so upset that someone Not White gets to be included in a story? I mean, we're not saying that we don't enjoy those stories either. In fact I'd say that sometimes we enjoy it so much that we (a general, inclusive we) would like to make adaptations of the thing so that other people who look like us can enjoy it even more!

But I'd like to reiterate that someone representing rural or homeschool culture wrong (which is a choice in most cases and something that you can change by say moving to a city or joining a public school) is different from someone representing your race with bad stereotypes (which is something you cannot change at all even if you moved across the world and had plastic surgery or skin grafts or whatever).

At any rate, I suppose this is a great segue into Personal Story Time. 


When I was a kid, we used to have these colouring books. I don't remember if they were princesses or fairies or whatever, but well, pretty girls in pretty dresses. And I was looking back at them one day (before throwing them out) and realised that the majority of the girls I coloured had blue eyes and blond hair. Which is weird because I'm 100% ethnically Chinese, living in Malaysia which is in Southeast Asia, an area that has a very minuscule percentage of blue-eyed, blond-haired people. 

When I started writing, I would hardly ever describe my characters. I'd use very vague, ambiguous urban settings so that they could be set in any large city around the world. Everyone would have an English name. I don't know exactly why. Part of it was this feeling of not wanting to set it somewhere local because it was...weird (shameful, maybe?) and boring. But I also didn't know where to set those stories - I didn't know enough about some random place in some foreign country to set it there (this was before the Internet was a Thing). Okay, I know why I did the name thing: it's easier to search a baby book for an English name than to create Chinese names, especially since I don't know Chinese.

Later on, I realised another thing. I could write short stories with Asian people in real life settings, but every time I started writing a fantasy story, almost all my characters would end up white or white-ish. Why? Because all the fantasy books I read growing up featured very eurocentric settings and characters. Fantasy was obviously a White People thing, Chinese people could not feature in them. It wasn't that I consciously thought this out - it was just there. In the back of my mind. Affecting all my creative decisions. I wrote about that in this guest post - how I had to deliberately make a shift in my head to base Amok in a Southeast Asian setting, instead of that "white default".

There was a related comment on the thread (that I can't find anymore) which stated something to the effect that if there are 6 white people in the show and one of them is changed to another race, but all of them think the same, that's still not diversity because they all...think the same. 

...and I'm like, I'm not sure you're even talking about the same thing that the rest of us are talking about anymore. (But maybe I'm misremembering it.)

But to kid me, if there were 5 white people and 1 Chinese person in a fantasy show or book, I would probably have had an earlier epiphany about my creative choices, even if it was just colouring that princess with brown eyes and black hair.

(I have thoughts about what diversity is, plus how second- & third-generation immigrants are usually closer to the culture of their country of residence than their culture of origin under the section "But what is diversity?" in this article.)


Someone reposted this on Facebook the other day, and I feel like this encapsulates this whole argument and why it's so grating.


What I really think is that y'all are just being super entitled, like the world has to revolve around you and what you want or what you think is "good" and "right". If I can put it in somewhat literary terms, you're acting like Dudley Dursley when he throws a tantrum because he had one less birthday present than the year before. 

Racism was somehow also brought up (I don't remember the exact context because those comments have apparently been deleted), so I might as well just address it because, for some people, just saying that "you really need to rethink this stance on inclusion" equals calling them racist. 

Do I necessarily think you're racist because you don't want diversity added to your beloved canons? No, though that really depends on why you are against it. (And usually how you phrase it.)

If it's for Story Reasons (e.g. the background/backstory doesn't make sense anymore, how did 2 white humans have a child of a different race without magic or IVF or gene manipulation or adoption or maybe plain adultery)... you know what? I'd likely agree with you that that specific effort was bad. The worldbuilding has to make sense, the narrative needs to be internally consistent. Sometimes people try to change things, but they don't go backwards into the history/lore quite enough. Good try, but I guess it didn't quite work out. 

But if your only objection is It Was Originally Written White So Changing it is Pandering To The Woke Crowd... or History! There Were No [Race] In History (when it's totally fictional, fantasy world)...

Let's just put it this way: the way some of you say that "inclusion and diversity is virtue signalling" tells me that really, you don't think I am a person. That I cannot exist except on your terms, when you want me to (probably when you need that token Not-White friend). That putting someone who looks like me into a fantasy story will always only be a political move. And not just a reflection of hey, the real world is made up of a bunch of different looking people, my fantasy world is going to be made up of a bunch of different looking people. 

You're telling me that I am a virtue signal and that don't deserve to have a story written for people like me. And that hurts. (Don't bother defending yourselves. It's okay really. I don't need to be your friend. You don't need to be mine.)

All that? Yes, that is racist. Even if you don't mean it to be. 


And since the group it was posted in is a Christian group, I feel like there's even more that should be addressed. 

First, I'd like to add that if you're complaining about not seeing Christians in fiction anymore or how Christians are always being portrayed as the "bad guy", think about how POC feel when there are SOOOO many books that do not have any POC, or if they are portrayed at all, are only ever the "bad guy" or the "comic sidekick" (with "comic" usually meaning slow, dumb, or useless).

But most of all, I suppose this is my specific gripe with White Christianity as a whole: that most times, when unity is sought, it’s taken to mean that one needs to conform to the traditions of the western church. In parallel, it’s like the Jews in Acts 15 insisting the Gentiles be circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, to be saved - forgetting that Peter addressed the apostles and the elders thus:

Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” — Acts 15: 7b-11 (NIV)

I wrote about this before here, so I'll not repeat the whole thing again.

But this insistence on Whiteness in a Christian group makes me wonder sometimes if we are truly following Jesus or if we are just following the White Man.


Anyway, Inclusion and Diversity. 

You know how they tell artists & writers to push through? That you have to get through the bad art and the terrible first drafts (or first dozen manuscripts) to get to the good stuff? That working through the bad takes is what will help you hone your craft? That right there is inclusion and diversity in the market right now.

People have realised a bias and a gap in the market, and they're talking about it. They've created such a buzz that the big publishers (and media companies) have taken notice. So they're pushing all of that out into the market right now, trying to ride on the wave. They're also probably overcorrecting or overcompensating to some extent - but then there's a huge structural bias to push against so that's probably why.

There's no doubt that some of this push is political - and companies wanting clout. That's okay. That's natural. But I think a lot of it is just people wanting to see their everyday lives (and faces) reflected in the media around them. So they're creating new stories (which often don't sell because saturated market) and also adapting old ones (which make a buzz because existing fanbase, many eyes, much money). 

Do they always get it right? No. Is that a bad thing? Also no. 

Does this change or somehow devalue the "classics" they were based on? No. Because those books/shows are still there

Do I necessarily want (or need) another old story rewritten with the White Male Protagonist changed into a Chinese Female Protagonist? Probably not. Because I've already worked through a lot of this for myself. And it doesn't quite affect me as an adult anymore. 

But you know, there are plenty of kids out there seeing all this stuff for the first time. And if this remake with Black Ariel or She-Hulk or Female Thor or racially-diverse dwarves (I don't even know what the objection is, actually) is what's going to give them that epiphany earlier in their lives, we probably would get through all the bad takes faster to reach the better, original, diverse fiction earlier. Because they would be starting at the place I took maybe 20 years to get to. 

At any rate, siapa yang makan cili, dia terasa pedasnya.

Wednesday, 3 August 2022

#bookreview: The Timematician: A Gen M Novel (Book 2) | Steven Bereznai

The Timematician: A Gen M Novel: Book 2The Timematician: A Gen M Novel: Book 2 by Steven Bereznai
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What would you do if you could reset your life at any time you wanted, to (almost) anywhen you want to? You'd be able to do-over all the worst bits of your life - or maybe experience the best ones over and over again.

With this fascinating premise, Bereznai brings us the second book of the Gen M series, The Timematician. We follow Doctor BetterThan's mad plans for the best future earth, where all the annoying superheroes in Jupitar Island and all the dregs in the boroughs are dead. They're not longer trying to kill, control, or confuse him. This is the future where he has succeeded in his evil plan, leaving him as the only one left alive...yet is he really? Because suddenly he has a new nemesis: Mairi Lin Monroe and her bevy of lady-matons.

If you've read Generation Manifestation, it won't take you long to figure out who Doctor BetterThan is from that book (timeline), though there is a rather huge dissonance between the guy we remember from Caitlin's story to...this guy. (I did double take and go, "wait what? Did I remember something wrong?")

The Timematician starts off like a villain origin story, and yet as you live these timelines with him, watch him make mistakes and fall in love, and see him grow into the person he is/was in Generation Manifestation, your perspective shifts closer towards the hero origin story it should have been.

Despite it being called "book 2", I feel that it can be read as a standalone as the timelines have been so altered that you don't quite need to know what happens in book 1 to understand this one. It can even be read as a prequel, actually, since technically if you understand how this time travelling super power works, all this happened first.

While Generation Manifestation has a very strong YA dystopian, Divergent-like vibe, this one is just straight up snarky megalomaniac with super powers. It's funny yet awkward, and just a little bit sweet.

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book via Edelweiss. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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The Timematician just released yesterday! Get your copy now! :D

Monday, 1 August 2022

Saturday, 30 July 2022

#bookspotlight: The Keeper by D.L. Gardner

I "met" DL Gardner over on the Noblebright Alliance Discord Server and she mentioned that she has a Kickstarter going on for her new book, The Keeper! I haven't actually read the series, but it looks really cool. You can also get the earlier four books on one of the pledge tiers, or as add-ons. 

Here are the details! 


New technology. Stolen magic. The future invades the past like a thunderstorm wrecking havoc on a quiet farm

Just when things have quieted down in the kingdom of Prasa Potama and everyone is living happily ever after in their respective lands, invaders from another country, and seemingly another time in the future, steal the one thing that means life to the natives of Cho Nisi Island.

Their magic.

The ancient magic on the island of Cho Nisi is stolen, its tradition destroyed, and its protective shield ruined. But the destruction doesn't end with the broken drumbeats, nor the groan of the elders. King Barin is confronted with a vengeful adversary and a new enemy whose weapons far outmaneuver his army's bows and arrows, swords, and catapults. What have these strangers from the north come for, and will they battle for ownership of not only the kingdom's future but also its past?

The Keeper, book 5 in the Sword of Cho Nisi series, is a fast-paced tale of monarchs and ladies - wizards and dragons - and even a teenage boy who join forces against the miscreants and their machines, to fight for the beloved tradition of the elders.

Back The Keeper on Kickstarter!


With a passion for a good wholesome story, D.L. Gardner (Dianne Lynn Gardner) dives into the adult and young adult fantasy genres. She is both a best-selling author and an award-winning illustrator who lives in the Pacific Northwest, USA. Dianne loves a book that ignites the imagination, strengthens friendships, spurs courage, and applauds honor. Though she targets her stories for young adults, her books are enjoyed by all ages.

Website | Bookshop

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

#bookreview: The Monk Prince | Golda Mowe

The Monk PrinceThe Monk Prince by Golda Mowe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've been sitting on this review, mostly because I do not know how to write it. I was rather ambivalent about Golda Mowe's first novel, Iban Dream, which was published by Monsoon Books. (I do not like most of Monsoon Books' list, so make of that what you will.) But I did quite like The Nanobots and Other Stories, so I figured I would give this one a try since it was published by Penguin SEA.

Ok look. Just because a book is published by Penguin Random House SEA doesn't mean it's good. I'm beginning to side-eye Penguin SEA and their poor editing quality (all outsourced!), strange cover decisions, and stupid pricing. I probably wouldn't be as annoyed with this book if it had cost the usual RM50 (-ish) for imported books instead of a whopping RM75. I'm not half as mad that I didn't quite like another local book I really should be reviewing because that only cost like RM20 (-ish. Can't remember what I paid for shipping). Printing in Singapore expensive kut.

ANYWAY. Back to the book itself.

The Monk Prince is an epic royal saga set in the Malay Archipelago in the 600s. Parantapa, raised by Buddhist monks to non-violence, is thrust abruptly into the middle of family drama when King Wayulo's spies finally find him after twenty years of searching. Not only does he have to adjust from a life of abstinence to one of plenty, he also finds himself an unwilling contender for the throne when King Wayulo discovers that his firstborn, Prince Alak Tegoh, isn't actually his biological son - meaning that Parantapa also has to give up his life of non-violence and learn to protect himself and his people. Across the sea, King Wayulo's brother-in-law, King Jayagapor, is looking to expand his political influence and increase his lands - and creating a war to put his nephew on Wayulo's throne looks like the perfect way to do it.

Filled with murder, betrayal, spies, and sea battles, The Monk Prince should have made for an enthralling read. However, the writing style creates an awkward distance between the reader and the story, leaving me feeling like I'm an observer from afar, rather than being able to immerse myself in the story world. In a way, it feels like actors merely reading lines instead of acting out and emoting the scenes. I suppose this is a preference rather than a fault.

There's also a slight feeling of disjointedness between scenes, as if the transitions are not quite right. This was especially obvious in later chapters when the scenes flip between POVs and the timeline becomes fuzzy. Does this next scene happen after the earlier one? Or are they overlapping? Why are we suddenly head-hopping so much?

For a book published by a major publishing house, it felt like the prose could have been polished much more. It starts off well, sags and drags a little in the middle, then picks up again with a lot of drama and action towards the end. There were also a few rather obvious typos, but well, typos happen. What irked me the most (maybe because I have struggled with this before) is the inconsistency in the titles & terms used. Within the same paragraph, Mowe switches between princess and puteri for Ming Zhu and between raja and king for Wayulo. Sometimes Megabintang is Queen, sometimes she is Rani. Gunawan is Commander in one line, then Panglima in the next. I think I fault the editor for this one.

As I said at the start, experience tells me that I may not really like Mowe's writing style, and The Monk Prince seems to confirm that. The story itself is solid, reminiscent of Udayasankar's Three. Despite my ambivalence as a whole, I do think that this is a book worth investing your time in especially if you do like historical fiction a whole lot more than I do.

I'm still annoyed at the price, though.

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Saturday, 16 July 2022

#review: Ignite Solo Performance Festival 2022 - Week 1

I guess FB ads do work. 

Ch'ng saw an ad on Facebook yesterday and so we ended up catching the first night of the Ignite Solo Performance Festival Week 1 at iBOX Theatre. Two performances, A Complete Woman and Kenapa Tak Tukar Nama, form Week 1's offering. Week 2 will be at Jetty 35, featuring Hujan Pagi and 11:11 A Tribute to Loving (V3).

Two questions immediately came up:

1) Where on earth is this theatre, why is the address in some office complex?

2) Got subtitles or not? 

First time at this space!

iBOX theatre is on the second floor of Sunny Point Complex and was relatively easy to find because a) they had the poster above right by the lift telling you where to go, and b) you can actually see the theatre itself on your right the moment the lift doors open. It's pretty small, black box style, and fits about 50 pax. (We counted 6 rows of 7 chairs in the main seating area, there were a few more chairs in front of the sound desk. They could probably add more in a pinch, but I don't know if there are still any SOP limitations.)

And yes, they have subtitles. They have all the subtitles. 

A Complete Woman

This monologue, written and acted by Suzanne (directed by Chee Sek Thim), explores the lifecycle of a woman from marriage and pregnancy to the birth of a daughter, coming full circle to the woman writing a letter to her eighteen-year-old daughter who is about to get married. 

It's a very heavy monologue, though it starts off somewhat light, talking about the blessings of getting married and being pregnant, and how everyone is happy for you. It also explores the different taboos and practices around pregnancy - and this was just between two different Chinese dialect groups (in this case Cantonese vs Teochew), proving that there really is no Chinese monoculture, even in Malaysia. Some of these points - including the part where she was stuck in GH and couldn't understand the nurses speaking in Malay - could have been funny, but presented as it was (by a woman who seemed to feel trapped in her marriage), it felt more like a panicked cry for help. 

Where it turns dark is when she talks about not being prepared - how the child was an accident in a moment of passion and how she desperately wanted an abortion because she was not ready for marriage and children. There's also a reference to her mother staying in an abusive marriage because that is her home and she will not let it go. It felt like a distorted point of pride for her at being able to "keep the family together", implying that the current rate of divorces show that these modern women are not tough or dignified enough to hold their marriages together.

At the end of it all, the daughter (and the audience) is burdened by the question: are you ready? Are you ready for the way that marriage will change you? Do you realise that getting married is not just being in love, but also having to adapt to and change for the family you are marrying into? Is your identity strong enough for that? Can you hold on to yourself through the pressures your in-laws will put you through, and emerge the other side still complete and whole? Does marriage make you complete or are you already complete before marriage?

This was the one I worried about because it's... Chinese theatre and I am a banana hahaha. A Complete Woman was mostly in Mandarin, with some Cantonese, Teochew, and Malay. There were English subtitles, but these were not very well done - ignoring grammatical mistakes, there were parts where the translation didn't quite make sense. In fact, there was this whole section that either wasn't translated or the projector got stuck, because the words didn't change.

Performance-wise, it was a good show, though I probably didn't get the full experience, being distracted by reading and figuring out the subtitles. But as I said, it was also very heavy-hitting, ramping up pretty quick and staying there for quite a while, so you get an overwhelming hit of raw desperation and not many other emotions. Maybe if you could understand the actual dialogue it would hit you differently. 

Kenapa tak tukar nama?

Hoe Mei Ying wants to get married to her boyfriend Zahari - and they've already gotten tickets for their honeymoon at 70% off during the Matta fair! The only problem is that she needs her new IC after her conversion to Islam, but JPN is delaying the process because she refuses to change her name. 

Yiky Chew's performance was brilliant. As a solo performer, she switches between different roles seamlessly, but also leaving the audience with no doubt as to which character she is playing at any point. I especially loved her portrayal of Puan Fatimah, the woman at JPN who interviews Mei Ying to try to convince her to change her name to a Malay one even though it's not required by law. 

Despite the hilarity of the situation and the way Chew played it up for laughs, it is also a very poignant piece. Zahari points out that no matter what happens, no matter her name, it's still just the two of them, in love. Mei Ying's parents panic (What? When did he propose?) and point out all the difficulties she might face, from being unable to eat pork anymore to whether her body might be snatched by the authorities in case of death. Mei Ying describes the goosebumps she had during the conversion ceremony and how surreal it felt. 

But Mei Ying's declaration of why she wants to keep her birth name is the one that resonates the most: the connection to her forefathers and the generations before her by the surname she bears, the love with which her grandparents had picked out her given name even if it is a very common name. And while she may change her religion and marry into another culture, these connections with her past, her race and ethnicity itself do not change. So why should she change her name? Why must she meMelayukan herself? (Muka masih Cina lol)

Kenapa Tak Tukar Nama? is primarily in English & Malay, though the section with Mei Ying's parents had some Chinese. There were subtitles throughout in both English & Chinese. I only looked at them at the points where they were speaking Chinese, so I have no major thoughts about them.


Both plays worked well together thematically, with their emphasis on marriage and its impact on a woman - whether through cultural norms or the inner workings of bureaucracy. One thing that stood out was the fact that both these pieces were biographical - it's not fiction or conjecture, not a simple "what if". A Complete Woman was written from Suzanne's own experiences; Kenapa Tak Tukar Nama? was developed by Chew and Syafiq Syazim (the director) based on the experiences of a friend as told to them by that friend and their family members.

There was a Q&A session after the two plays, which is not something I've ever seen done in English theatre. I don't know if it's a common thing in Chinese theatre? 


If you have no plans for today, do catch their performances at 3pm and 8pm. It's worth the RM40!

Pretty sure you should be able to walk in because the theatre was less than half full on Friday. Though if you want to check and reserve tickets, you can contact them at:

FB专页 / Facebook Page: Triple I Production House

电话号码 / Phone No.: +604 – 296 4353

WhatsApp: +6011-2070 6550

Wednesday, 13 July 2022

#bookreview: The Dragon's Promise | Elizabeth Lim

The Dragon's Promise (Six Crimson Cranes, #2)The Dragon's Promise by Elizabeth Lim
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Dragon's Promise picks up right after Six Crimson Cranes, so this review may have a few spoilers for that one.

Where the first book is solidly a retelling, this one ventures into its own path. Shiori has promised to return the dragon's pearl, so she sets off with Kiki and Seryu into the dragon's realm to do just that. But the dragon's pearl is a finicky thing, and its owner is not where, or even who, Shiori expects it to be. At the same time, Bandur is gaining power - and is angling to become the Demon King who will release the demons from the holy mountain and destroy Kiata (obviously by killing Shiori). So cue another adventure to return the pearl, save Kiata, and destroy the demons. And get married to Takkan.

I ended up liking The Dragon's Promise more than Six Crimson Cranes and it's not because I dislike retellings. I do love a good retelling, and I have done some myself. But where SCC just felt flat to me (I still don't get why everyone was raving about it), what I really loved about TDP was this parallel journey of discovery and redemption. As Shiori journeys to return the pearl, she uncovers the truth behind who her stepmother was and her motivations in setting up all that she did in SCC.

What I really hated about TDP was Shiori, because MY GOD DID SHE REGRESS. As I said immediately after reading the book:

COVID read #2: The Dragon's Promise - 4.5/5 stars. Super absorbing read but omg Shiori is SO annoying in this one. I liked her better with the bowl over her head.

— Anna Tan (@natzers) June 26, 2022

So if you do read Six Crimson Cranes, it's really gotta be for this one. Which is mostly villain stepmother redemption, if you ask me.

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from Hodder & Stoughton via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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