Storm in Shanghai by J.M. Bush
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
2015 finds former speedcaster champion Jaret King leading a joint mage & wizard law enforcement team in Shanghai. Sent to investigate the disappearance of a local wizard, a fairly innocuous-sounding missing persons case soon devolves into a hunt for the most deadly magical terrorist in history.
Storm in Shanghai is a story about a white American in China, written by a white American in China. Bush offers you snippets of life in China's biggest city, quick offerings of cultural exchanges, and descriptions of the locale, in the midst of a witch hunt (wizard hunt?) led by a white man with a team of locals. It's an interesting balance he's managed to walk, which should satisfy even the most politically correct of the cultural critics out there (I think. There were several jibes, but nothing I wouldn't say to a fellow Asian. lol).
The novel jumps between several main timelines: the terrorist attacks in 1990, the rise of wizardry in the early 11th century and present day events in 2015. This makes the beginning of the story feel long and rather clunky, making it a little difficult to get into immediately but it's worth it. By the time everything weaves together into one horrific disaster somewhere in the middle of the book, you can't help but feel invested in all that has happened so far and hope for a solution that's not painful or nasty, and certainly please, no more deaths. (Case in point: I read the first maybe 30% sporadically over the span of 5 days, picked it up again today thinking I'd read for short while before doing something else, and then find myself finishing the whole darned thing because... darn it, NO. WHY DID YOU DO IT JARET.)
There's no real explicit or graphic violence though violence (mainly magical) is mentioned and there are epic magical battles. There's also quite a bit of death, including a main character death, though they're not described in detail. Slight allusion to sex, nothing described, a bit of swearing, so this one's probably pretty safe for teens and up. (I.e. nothing that would shock a supposedly innocent 13-YO. I know 13YOs are not innocent. Just saying.)
Bush's writing style is pretty straight-forward and action-driven, so don't expect anything poetically fancy or pointlessly beautiful. His strength is in the plot, action and characterisations, even of the villain. There's a nice complexity to his creation of mage-wizard relations and tensions, making it believable.
Yeah, so all in all, I pretty much liked Storm in Shanghai
Given Bush's nomadic lifestyle, I'm expecting Mage Father #2 to be based in Penang (hinted as much at the end of the book) and Mage Father #3 (if there is one) to be based in Thailand (Bangkok, was it?)
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Probably not gonna be able to see Michael Bush before he heads off to Thailand, so I guess this is a farewell gift of sorts?
Hurry up and write book 2, man.