My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Emma Donahoe is Australian and has been working as an English teacher in Hong Kong for four years when she is hired to be a full time live in nanny for one of her students, Simone. Simone’s father, Mr. Chen, is very wealthy and the household is mysterious. Simone has a full time bodyguard and sometimes strange visitors, who Emma is forbidden to speak to, come to train in martial arts with Mr. Chen.
Emma learns that she is working for Xuan Wu, one of the Four Winds of Taoist mythology. He is staying in his human form, Mr. Chen, in order to protect his child but that decision is making him weak and vulnerable to attack.
I first heard about these books on a list for #Diversiverse about Asian writers. I started reading it a bit early and then at the end of the book looked at the author picture and realized that Kylie Chan is white. Fail. Luckily, my goal for Travel the World in Book Read-a-long was to read books set in areas that I hadn’t read before and I have never read anything set in Hong Kong.
I really liked this book. I looked at the Goodreads reviews after I read it and was surprised by how many people vehemently hated this book. I think the things that most of them hated though were the things that I liked.
This book is longer and more in depth than a lot of urban fantasy. It is over 400 pages long. Lots of reviews complained that it was slow. There is a lot of set up which I appreciated because I’m not up on my Taoist mythology. There also isn’t any real insta-love here which I appreciated.
One plot point that bothered me was that they had been leaving hints that Mr. Chen was a god for Emma. She had been studying up on Xuan Wu. But then when they confirm it for her, she doesn’t believe them. What? She’d been halfway to the realization all by herself. Once given proof she goes backwards in her belief?
I did also have a complaint about the characterization of women. This surprised me because it is a female author. Emma is a strong woman. Once she accepts that she is living in a magical family, she adapts and starts to participate. When things go bad and she doesn’t run away screaming, the men are amazed and often call her “cold-blooded.” (That isn’t entirely an insult because Xuan Wu is a turtle.) Apparently all the other human women they know are gibbering wrecks when they see supernatural stuff or blood. Even a former human wife of Mr. Chen’s supposedly couldn’t bear to look at him when he was in any aspect of his god forms. His housekeeper hides whenever the god stuff gets to much. I don’t like the whole “women are weak and scare easily” idea.
I’ve already started book two, Red Phoenix.