Strike the Zither (Kingdom of Three #1)

Joan He

YA Asian Historical Fantasy

The year is 414 of the Xin Dynasty, and chaos abounds. A puppet empress is on the throne. The realm has fractured into three factions and three warlordesses hoping to claim the continent for themselves.

But Zephyr knows it’s no contest.

Orphaned at a young age, Zephyr took control of her fate by becoming the best strategist of the land and serving under Xin Ren, a warlordess whose loyalty to the empress is double-edged—while Ren’s honor draws Zephyr to her cause, it also jeopardizes their survival in a war where one must betray or be betrayed. When Zephyr is forced to infiltrate an enemy camp to keep Ren’s followers from being slaughtered, she encounters the enigmatic Crow, an opposing strategist who is finally her match. But there are more enemies than one—and not all of them are human.

An epic YA fantasy about found family, rivals, and identity, from New York Times and Indie bestselling author Joan He, inspired by Three Kingdoms, one of the Four Classics of Chinese Literature.

-Excerpt taken from Goodreads.

Check Goodreads to see the book’s ratings.

My Opinion

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5) The story is set in the Xin Dynasty where the realm is torn into three areas and three rulers. Zephyr is a war strategist under Xin Ren and is sent undercover to another area to convince the wardlordess to side with them and fight against the other. She is labeled as a traitor so all believe it’s true.

It sounds fabulous, right? Let’s just say that I came for the traitor/undercover story and it turned into something completely different. While that was still the main theme, the story took such a turn about halfway in that almost gave up. It was outlandish and I couldn’t wrap my mind around it so I quickly lost interest.

At that point, the feel of the story changed so much that the traitor theme was downplayed. Can you hear me harumph? I was unimpressed. I expected a fast-paced Chinese historical fiction and what I got was a outlandish story. Yes, a lot of fantasy is outlandish but this one didn’t jive.

“Honor is defending what you can’t bear to lose,” I say, meeting Cicada’s gaze. “It’s fighting for a family that can’t help you.”

There were moments I was interested in the story, but overall I was unimpressed. I did enjoy Crow, on the opposing side, but I did not feel the connection he supposedly had with Zephyr. He was mysterious and endearing and I would’ve loved more of a background on him.

General content summary: This was mild in language and intimacy but had a few details with violence. The main character is 18 so she’s not relatable to most teens (being a strategist in an ongoing war) but was tough and loyal; mild language, alcohol (some underage), physical violence, some details of a beheading, poisoning (brief illness), bodies float in the water (few details), arrow injury and blood, m/f kiss, battle (injuries, weapons, blood, death and killing, few details), attempted strangulation, many naked women entertain a man (no details), killing with a scimitar (blood, some details), battle (weapons, blood, limb cut off, severed head as a trophy), Gods.

Thank you to Fierce Reads and NetGalley for the gifted copy!

The book releases October 25, 2022.

**As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases. 

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