Review: To The Sky Kingdom

To The Sky Kingdom by Tang Qi, translated by Poppy Toland

To the sky kingdomThe story itself is amusing. Bai Qian comes out of seclusion after the death of her master to attend a party, and meets the young (in Immortal terms) man she is arranged to marry. She’s not sure why he’s so familiar, and when he waltzes into her life – with a young son who insists on calling her “mother” – she does her best to be diplomatic…but every attempt seems to drop her further into it! She bumbles her way from awkward meeting to catastrophe and back again, all the while trying to work out what her feelings for her betrothed really are.

This is an Eastern story-style, so quite winding – it drops back into the past at regular intervals with snippets of background story, which is a style I like; not everything is told immediately, and we get touches of different events. I obviously lose some aspects through not knowing much about the etiquette and conventions; the effect is similar to the Western fairytales, so if someone didn’t have a background then they’d lose nuances of particular interactions. That doesn’t affect the story; there are still some very sweet scenes and it’s still obvious what the emotions and situations are. The mythology is nice, too; everyone has their fights and squabbles and stories and jealousies, and they all play into the day-to-day affairs.

However, overall, my summary of this would be “muddled”. The translation is nicely done, so I think it’s probably a facet of the original story itself. I found it hard to follow why Bai Qian was acting as she was; situations are awkward but are made more so by Bai Qian’s attempts to get out of awkwardness, which just seem unnecessary…and the twists and turns seem additionally convoluted by extra people, scenes and information. Part of my problem with it is that I am used to the Western style of storytelling, with a very direct and action-based flavour, so the more ambling style and extra details sits strangely anyway. But…I don’t know. I liked the detail and the style, but the story itself was hard to follow.

So; an interesting read, but for anyone used to Western style stories and who isn’t too bothered about reading more widely, I don’t think this is worth it. I’d be very interested in knowing more about the author from a Chinese/Eastern perspective, and what their rating is to that audience; and I’d also love recommendations of Eastern-style books where maybe the story does translate a little better for a Western plot mindset. If you have any, weigh in!

This was part of my Discoverability Challenge.