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Jade Man's Skin
Daniel Fox
Del Rey, 421 pages

Jade Man's Skin
Daniel Fox
Daniel Fox is a British writer who first went to Taiwan at the millennium and became obsessed, to the point of learning Mandarin and writing about the country in three different genres. Before this he had published a couple of dozen books and many hundreds of short stories, under a clutch of other names. He has also written poetry and plays.

Daniel Fox Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sandra Scholes

Continuing from the previous novel, Dragon in Chains, Jade Man's Skin gives readers a wonderful story of feudal China in old times where a fight for the rightful owner of the throne is occurring and only a few men can prevent the evil-doers getting their hands on it and the power that comes with it. There are several who would overthrow the emperor, and those who would defend him, yet traitors are lurking in the midst.

Han is a boy who sets the dragon free is an enigma in this second novel as readers will wonder if he is just a warrior or has a higher calling than is expected. Han has cut the dragon's chains and rides with her as she seeks to get her revenge on those who did her wrong in the past, and, for his own sake, he does not get in her way.

The story contains everything fans of ancient literature will warm to; feudal China, with monks, pirates, a hidden emperor and a vengeful dragon. General Ping Wen is one who seeks to overthrow the current emperor and is left fuming at not being able to have his assassins complete their mission to kill him. He foolishly believes he should be the one to take the Jade Throne from him and is ever working on his treachery among his peers, waiting for an opportunity to strike at him and end his reign for good. Li Ton, a pirate who had once been a honorable man lost everything he held dear, including his honor and name, was under the care and tutelage of Jorgan who is now a dead man, his ship sunk and forgotten. Li seeks an opportunity to make his mark on the world around him and in some way avenge his friend Jorgan's cruel demise. Chung, the messenger to the General Ping Wen is the one who keeps a low profile and tries to give him what he wants, yet knows how impatient the general has grown over the years. There is also an emperor who wishes to see a Jade mine and the unusual wonders it holds.

Daniel Fox describes how they all got together and what drew them all to the same fate even in this short paragraph that manages to capture the setting perfectly:

  "Who came, in the end, were the pirate and the doctor and the girl. Not the boy with the chains and the crippled hand. On the way there, Old Yen had wondered if he had a crippled mind as well, he had believed so oddly. Perhaps they had bought the dragon's favor, with his life? Old Yen was sure that the pirate at least would leap at such a bargain."  

With all these characters, Daniel Fox has made the epic stories of old China come to life with this story. He knows how to take the characters and make it work. Li Ton's conflict with all those who opposed him, killed his family, friends and his still mourning the death of Jorgen make him a great foe to the general and his cruel men.

  "He had been a man, a married man, a father; he had been a strong man, a whole man in his prime, marked only by the dire scars of his service to the empire. He had lost it all. He had seen his wife and women executed, his children too. His own skin he had seen emblazoned, treachery and cowardice writ large upon him, great black block characters tattooed with heavy needles while he struggled in his chains."  

The general, however, who wants to eventually take the throne becomes tired with having to wait for his men to kill him and chooses another way to take him down.

The city that is featured in the novel is mentioned in detail, though not too much as the writer has left the rest to the reader's imagination:

  "And there at last was the city. No wall, no gate; a town built on wealth alone, buying good relations with its neighbors and ultimately protected by the emperor's own word, his jade-port, where the stone came in from Taishu. As a pirate, Li Ton had been drawn in; as a soldier, he despised the complacency and felt small pity for the ruin that it was."  

Another novel is to come after this one, and it will be due out in 2011, so avid readers of his work should watch out for that next instalment in the enthralling series.

Copyright © 2010 Sandra Scholes

Sandra Scholes likes nothing more than to write fantasy fiction if she ever gets a chance to start a novel, some of the time she sends her work to whoever will take it and most of the time she reviews for Active Anime, Fantasy Book Review and The Zone.

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