Wesley Chu’s The Art of Prophecy is the first installment in The War Arts Saga and one of the best books I’ve read this year. I am so enamored with this story that I can barely put words together, but I will do my best to convince you to pick it up ASAP. The story is action-packed and follows intensely dynamic characters you can’t help but root for even though they are on opposite sides.
There are two main storylines told by different leads in Prophecy. The famed grandmaster of the war arts Ling Taishi was sent to the Celestial Palace to see how the Hero of Prophecy, Wen Jian, was developing. For fifteen years, Wen Jian had trained with several masters to prepare him for the prophesied battle with the immortal Khan, and it was time to see how the young man fared. To Taishi’s horror, Jian was far from the hero their kingdom needed, so she intervened before more damage could be done. Meanwhile, the Katuia clans traverse the Grass Sea and follow the will of the Khan as they defend their homeland from Jian’s people. Salminde, one of the Khan’s elite warriors, is summoned by the clan’s spiritual leaders and is set on a new path to aid her people. And in the shadows waits a deadly assassin named Qisami who will stop at nothing to gain fame and fortune.
Chu’s cast of characters is fantastic. Jian may be the Hero of Prophecy, but the three strong, female leads are the main attraction. I had an insanely great time following these incredibly skilled women. Taishi, Salminde, and Qisami have entirely different attitudes, fighting styles, and upbringings. However, one characteristic they share is that they absolutely do not give a fuck and it makes for fun times. Taishi is the last of her family line and she is weathered, crass, and grumpy. As she’s aged, Taishi has lost her purpose, but it’s heartwarming to see a small spark ignite when she meets Jian. Salminde is a cold, unwavering force. She diligently serves the Khan, and I love how dearly she cares for the clans and their culture. Qisami is downright terrifying. She wakes up and chooses violence at every opportunity and delights in drawing blood whether it’s hers or her enemy’s.
The Art of Prophecy has a big, wild world that I could not get enough of. The environments, villages, and cities are imaginative and almost always dangerous. The Katuia clans roam the Grass Sea which is a swamp made up of larger-than-life grass stalks. If you don’t get sucked down deep into a bog, there are several creatures that could kill you in an instant. There is also a stretch of land called the Sand Snake. Here the sand behaves like water and the dunes become giant cresting waves. The characters travel from isolated, decrepit temples to water-carved, underground cities. There’s no shortage of fascinating places for us to explore in this book. Even a typical city like Jiayi was made interesting with depictions of the competing war arts schools, Katuia camps, and underworld system.
Chu did a fabulous job building this complicated story. He expertly showcased the world in broad strokes while focusing on the granular elements that gave the characters and story substance. Through Sali, Chu shows the plight of the Katuia clans as they endure their long struggle with Jian’s kingdom. They are nomads with an appreciation for the land, and they are deeply misunderstood by their enemies, or the “land-chained’ as they call them. Jian’s kingdom is divided into regional duchies that serve the kingdom. On this side of the world, we see a traditional, established civilization that is tainted with corruption and power. The Tiandi religion is centered on Jian, and it has a powerful presence. The dukes shape the world to their liking and it’s intense so see how far they will go to protect their interests. We get to see just how deep their corruption runs through Jian, Taishi, and Qisami.
At first glance, I was prepared for The Art of Prophecy to be a simple story following Taishi and Jian, but it developed into something so much bigger and better. The story is clever, powerful, and dark. It also has brilliant moments of levity and humor that delighted me every time. I am in awe of how entertaining this book was. It is setting itself up to be a great series, and I can’t wait to see how the story progresses.
Rating: The Art of Prophecy – 10/10
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. The thoughts on this story are my own.