Sunday, May 29

Hell to Heaven – Kylie Chan

Australian Emma Donahoe, nanny turned wife of Xuan Wu, absent god of the Northern Heavens, would have her hands full with any of her many tasks – managing the training academy, running John’s empire while waiting his return, raising his teenage daughter Simone, and fending off the advances (personal and political) of the Demon King and his competitive progeny. She has to juggle not only all these demands but also her own demon nature – as if discovering she was part snake were not enough, contamination with demon essence presents the very really danger that Emma may become wholly demon.
Her quests to uncover the reasons for this, undo it, and discover who (or what) she really is, form the driving narrative of the second in Chan’s Journey to Wudang trilogy, Hell to Heaven. It continues the story started in the Dark Heavens novels, and like the previous four novels blends a combination of contemporary sensibilities with ancient lore – in both cases primarily Eastern but with a little Western flavour (primarily Australian) added to the mix.
Though engaging and intelligent, this is not a light or easily accessible series, and if the books are read out of order or elements forgotten the plot could easily become unintelligible. This is certainly not to say that Chan’s writing is oblique, just that the subject matter and the plot are layered and complex.
As I read I noted several passages I wanted to include in my review – the role of ‘calling’ in preventing consanguinity; the lure of Emma’s other nature; Emma’s Archivist experiences looking at indigenous Australian records; the concept of Celestial High school; the unexpected results when the uninformed but well-intentioned (and determined) act – but they all turned out to be too difficult to include without having to explain half the book, because it is so much of a piece. Instead I give you this snippet:

It sounded too much like a Druidic sacrifice ritual, which was very disturbing. Druids had been nature-loving tree-huggers, yes; but they’d also disemboweled people and used their own intestines to tie them still alive, as sacrifices to the trees they worshipped.

I look forward to the final part of the Journey to Wudang trilogy but hope it will conclude the story, rather than being a springboard for a third trilogy. Thus far Chan has managed to keep the central plot, of Xuan Wu’s return and Emma’s growth, at the heart of the narrative. I would hate to see that diluted. – Alex

The Dark Heavens Trilogy:
1. White Tiger

2. Red Phoenix
3. Blue Dragon
The Journey to Wudang trilogy:
1. Earth to Hell
2. Hell to Heaven
3. Heaven to Earth

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