Wesley Chu’s The Art of Prophecy follows a hero’s journey style narrative, but he kept adding new characters, new environments, and new challenges before tying things up in a way that left opportunities for more exploration of Chu’s creation. Jian’s persona ties into the prophesied hero at the beginning of the book, but he is never shown to be infallible. Jian possesses several flaws, and they play key roles in his narrative thread without magically getting resolved to serve the plot; however, I found several of the other characters more engaging than the young hero: Ling Taishi, the aging war artist who first decries Jian’s training, personality, and manners; Saliminde the Viperstrike whose defiance of Katuia tradition leads her to an unimaginable future; Meehae, the apprentice acupuncturist who treats students from various war arts schools in Jiayi; and Qisami, the Shadowkill hunting Taishi and Jian for a mixture of reasons.
One of my favorite aspects of The Art of Prophecy is how many unique and developed female characters showed up throughout the pages. Jian, the focal point of the Tiandi prophecy, is identified as male, but he is surrounded by and respects (sometimes begrudgingly) many women with a variety of skills (war artists, healers, map makers, assassins, etc.) Conversely, not all the men in the book are portrayed as martial artists, and some of the most talented fighters reveal interests beyond combat. Even the antagonists have enough depth to feel lived in and whole, and no one is just evil for the sake of wrongdoing.
Wesley Chu has written several previous novels, and The Art of Prophecy is a great example of his comfort with storytelling. Through three sections, he grows his tale of a spoiled young hero into a world-sweeping epic that I didn’t want to put down. Blending action and character development is not always easy, but Chu does a magnificent job. I needed to know how everything would resolve, at least for now. The Art of Prophecy is marked as The War Arts Saga Book One, so we may get more adventures in this fruitful world.
4.5 Creative Fighting Techniques out of 5
Creative Team: Wesley Chu (author)
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine, Del Rey
Click here to purchase.