I received a review from the publisher. This does not affect the content of my review and all opinions are my own.
The art of prophecy by Wesley Chu
Mogsy Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
series: Book 1 of The saga of military art
Publisher: Del Rey (August 9, 2022)
Length: 544 pages
Information about the author: Website | Twitter
I have been reading the works of Wesley Chu for a long time, and if I am not mistaken, I believe The art of prophecy may be his first foray into the epic fantasy genre. This is the first book in his new series The saga of military art is a magnificently written story of intrigue, adventure and action in a world inspired not only by the rich history and theology of Asian cultures, but also by the martial and chivalric traditions of the Wuxia genre. There’s no doubt that this novel is much bigger, deeper, and vastly different in style and scope from the author’s previous works, but fans will be pleased to know that his writing is as witty and entertaining as ever.
It will also not surprise anyone to learn that one of the main topics The art of prophecy it’s… well, a prophecy. According to the book’s story, centuries ago it was foretold that a child would be born who was destined to defeat the Eternal Khan, the immortal god-king of the Katuya Horde. At the beginning of the story, this chosen one was identified as Wen Jian, now a teenager studying in the palace under the tutelage of many masters who trained him in martial arts from a young age. However, somewhere along the way, it turns out that both the student and his teachers are blinded by the magnificence of prophecy, losing sight of their purpose. So when the famous war master Ling Taishi arrives to assess Jian, instead of the great warrior everyone expected, she instead finds a spoiled young man who has never been tried in real battle.
Disgusted, Tycee decides to take the boy into her apprenticeship, determined to turn him into the hero the prophecy promised. Having been idolized and spoiled all his life, Jian initially rebelled against her harsh training, but then they both eventually reached a point of mutual respect – just in time to receive the news that the Eternal Han had died. In an instant, Jiang’s whole world is turned upside down. Because if Nemesis, whom he was destined to kill, is already dead, then what will happen to him? Sensing that the boy will be in great danger now that the entire prophecy has collapsed around him, Taishi flees the palace with Jian and takes him to the Warrior Arts School, where she plans to hide him until the danger has passed.
But as it turns out, Jiang has more to fear than death at the hands of his own people. In the Grass Sea, Sally of Katua has taken on an important quest now that the khan and her dear friend to whom she swore her life are gone. And then there’s the mysterious Kisami, a ruthless bounty hunter and assassin tasked with killing Jiang.
Hands down what I loved the most The art of prophecy thus he turned a well-known fantasy trope on its head. What happens when the chosen one turns out not to be chosen? While the first part of the novel played out as a typical master-apprentice scenario, with Taishi taking on the role of the wise teacher and Jian the reluctant apprentice, the plot was turned on its head once it was revealed that Eternal Han was dead. From that moment on, one could only guess what would happen. While I’ll admit to being a big fan of warrior stories, so I didn’t really mind the cliche in the first installment, I also had a blast when the focus shifted to Jiang’s banishment and all the events that followed.
Once Taishi left Jian at school and they went their separate ways, that’s when I felt both characters were able to come into their own. As a result, they became much more interesting, shedding the expectations associated with their previous roles. At this point it became a tight contest as to who was my favorite POV to follow, as Sally’s presence also became more prominent as the story progressed. She was definitely one of the most memorable characters, caught between duty and her personal mission to find her missing sister. Perhaps the only character I didn’t feel much sympathy for was Kisami. She seemed a bit over the top and had little depth beyond the stupid, ruthless, psychotic killer archetype. Hopefully the next book will give her more material.
I’m also hoping for more world building in the next installment. What we got here was pretty solid, but rare in places. Knowing that it’s an Asian-inspired world, especially influenced by wushu traditions, made it a bit easier to fill in any gaps left in the setting, but I’d like to see things fleshed out more in a sequel – more in-depth into the history and cultures of the people and the backstories of the characters .
But in general, The art of prophecy was a great start and clearly the next step in Wesley Chu’s journey as a writer. It’s a very ambitious project that I can see turning into an impressive tour de force. In my eyes, this was a clear winner in terms of providing action and fun, two elements that are often rare or difficult to maintain in epic fantasy series, but which this novel had no problem providing with plenty of energy. I hope the momentum continues and I look forward to picking up the next book.