In a fallen kingdom, one girl carries the key to discovering the secrets of her nation’s past—and unleashing the demons that sleep at its heart. An epic fantasy series inspired by the mythology and folklore of ancient China.
Once, Lan had a different name. Now she goes by the one the Elantian colonizers gave her when they invaded her kingdom, killed her mother, and outlawed her people’s magic. She spends her nights as a songgirl in Haak’gong, a city transformed by the conquerors, and her days scavenging for what she can find of the past. Anything to understand the strange mark burned into her arm by her mother in her last act before she died.
The mark is mysterious—an untranslatable Hin character—and no one but Lan can see it. Until the night a boy appears at her teahouse and saves her life.
Zen is a practitioner—one of the fabled magicians of the Last Kingdom. Their magic was rumored to have been drawn from the demons they communed with. Magic believed to be long lost. Now it must be hidden from the Elantians at all costs.
When Zen comes across Lan, he recognizes what she is: a practitioner with a powerful ability hidden in the mark on her arm. He’s never seen anything like it—but he knows that if there are answers, they lie deep in the pine forests and misty mountains of the Last Kingdom, with an order of practitioning masters planning to overthrow the Elantian regime.
Both Lan and Zen have secrets buried deep within—secrets they must hide from others, and secrets that they themselves have yet to discover. Fate has connected them, but their destiny remains unwritten. Both hold the power to liberate their land. And both hold the power to destroy the world.
Now the battle for the Last Kingdom begins.
“She would take it. She would no longer be the flower. She would be the blade.”
What an adventure!
Reading Song of Silver, Flame like Night reminded me of The Poppy War with its theme of white people invading China. They had their metal weapons (here viewed as metal magic for the purpose of the fantasy universe) and the traditional magic from Chinese masters, manipulating qi.
I truly had a grand time and I didn’t want to stop reading it.
At the beginning of the story Lan, our heroine, witnessed the invasion of her home and the death of her mother. We guess that her mom must have performed some kind of magic but we won’t know what before a long time.
Then the story switches to Lan, orphaned and working at a “teahouse” , a brothel really, just to see it invaded by the Elanthian once again. They are led by the winter magician who is dying to capture Lan and get “something” from her that her mother hid!
Lan will be saved by a mysterious handsome stranger Zen, who will lead her to the last school of magic in the empire.
I will stop here for the plot.
What I loved in that story:
–Lan. And Zen too. Both are survivors from massacres by the Elanthian. And it’s hard to go on living when everyone you loved is dead.
“I know how it feels,” he said quietly. “I know how it feels to have everything taken from you. And I know how difficult it is…to continue to live.”
Lan has a huge character growth. At the beginning of the story, she is feisty and irreverent. With a lot of spunk. And grumpy too 😉
“Your tripping and falling indicates that you are not connected to the flow of qì. You must feel the grooves of the earth, the rising root of a pine, the movement to a puddle of water.” “Oh, I do,” Lan grumbled. “I feel it all on my face when I fall onto it.”
When the story progresses, she becomes more mature, less reckless but still very brave and with a huge heart.
Zen is a flawed character. My heart broke for the poor orphaned boy. He wanted to protect the Hin people from the Elanthian and made drastic choices that will have him ostracized.
–The hidden powers trope! I won’t say a lot about it but I do adore that ARC when powers left dormant are awakened when a big threat arises. Probably because I secretly hope that it could happen to me too LOL
–The historical elements referring to the invasion of China. What it cost to Chinese people. And what oppressed people would do to get their freedom back.
But the quest for power is a double edge.
“If I could choose to be good, if I could choose the balanced path of the Way, why wouldn’t I? But this was the hand the gods dealt me, the circumstances I was born into, and if I must choose the Wayward path in order to save this kingdom, then so I shall. If I must see darkness for our people to find light, then I will make that same choice, over and over and over again.”
-The mysterious past of Lan and of Zen too! I loved gathering the clues and trying to guess what happened.
And of course, I loved the tragic love story. Amelie Wen Zhao’s writing is beautiful and she had me swooning more than once, certainly when she uses quotes like: “I wish for you to not go anywhere without me. In this world and the next. I wish for you to choose me.” A pause, and softer: “That is, if you would wish it.” Be still my heart!
To conclude I would say that this story swept me off my feet and transported min in a mythical China, following two courageous and flawed characters trying to make the most of what cards fate delt them in order to save their country. It was fast paced, filled with lore, magic, humor, drama and love.
Now I need the sequel!
Thank you for reading!