Book Review: The Long Way by Michael Corbin Ray and Therese Vannier

4 Jan

Image**This review is based on a NetGalley e-reader copy of the book, which I received for free in exchange for an honest review.

Chi-Yen lives in war-torn China. Working as a servant in an opium den and brothel, she is determined to escape what seems fated: to become a prostitute like her mother, and serve these foreign men in other ways. Opportunity strikes when she is ordered by a dying man to protect an ornate box at all costs. With Tam Sin-Feng and his master, opium addict Liu Kun, Chi-Yen breaks free of what is expected of her and journeys to America, but not without a few surprises. Unleashing a real, flesh-and-blood dragon, Chi-Yen attracts the attention of Englishman Malvenue, who will stop at nothing to control the beast, even if it means killing whoever crosses his path.

This book is wonderfully written, with nitty gritty descriptions that will plop you straight into 19th century China and Wild West America. The first few pages took my breath away as the authors somehow made this dirty, war-torn Chinese town beautiful. You won’t want for details here, and you will be able to tell that research has gone into this book. The settings are wholly believable, never sugar-coated; the sea voyage from China to California is not an epic adventure but a journey made in horrible conditions and a high chance of death.

Heroine Chi-Yen was refreshing at the start. At twelve years old, she had a realistic view of the world and dealt with blows as they came. Her sarcasm when accepting punishments, her head-strong attitude, ability to see what needs to be done and go after it, her awareness and ability to survive–all of that rounded her into a likable character that will make readers eager to follow her adventures.

With wonderful descriptions and a lovable main character, not to mention the fantastical addition of a dragon, the first half of this book kept me turning pages and wanting to know what happened next. It set up the plot to turn into something epic.

The second half is what knocked a few stars off my review. Suddenly, years passed in just a few sentences. Chi-Yen turned 24. While we get a synopsis of what happened in all those years, she was very much changed, leaving the reader jarred. While we finally get to spend more time with the dragon, the reason for the dragon’s existence, why Chi-Yen was able to hatch it, and why the evil Malvenue wanted it so bad all went unexplained. The plot moved quickly after this, reading more like a summary of events than a full novel, and leaving me wondering what the whole point of the plot actually was. If it was to defeat Malvenue–well, that happened, but again, in a matter of sentences.

Point of view suddenly switched to Malvenue and Sin-Feng, and these switches were in odd places, jumping back in time to account for their version of events after we’d heard about it already from Chi-Yen. 

Basically, the whole second half read like a different book entirely from the first, and while the same feeling of being in 19th century America remained, complete with references to important historical events, it was not as enjoyable and left me with a “meh” sort of feeling about the whole thing. It was like they had too much planned and needed more room to tell the story, but opted instead to cut things out.

There is a reference to a possible sequel at the end, so, all that said, I probably will pick it up when it’s released because I enjoyed the first half of this book immensely. It’s worth a read for that alone, and I’d recommend it to fans of historical fantasy.

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One Response to “Book Review: The Long Way by Michael Corbin Ray and Therese Vannier”

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  1. 2014: A Year of Reading in Review | More Than One Page - December 31, 2014

    […] The Long Way by Michael Corbin Ray and Therese Vannier *** […]

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