Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey
Date of publication: October 10th, 2023
Genre: Fantasy, Adult, Epic Fantasy, Magic, Fiction, High Fantasy, Martial Arts, Novels, Asian Literature
Series: War Arts
The Art of Destiny—Book 2
Once there was a prophecy that a chosen one would rise to defeat the Eternal Khan, an immortal god-king.
But the prophecy was wrong.
Now Jian, the former chosen hero, is just an ordinary young man trying to find his own way. But he may yet have an extraordinary destiny, because he joins forces with Taishi, his grumpy grandmaster, who instructs him in the ways of her family’s powerful war art. Jian still has a long way to go before he can become her heir, so she recruits a band of elderly grandmasters who come out of retirement to whip him into shape and help with this one last job.
And there are others who are also seeking their own destiny, like Qisami, an assassin on a secret mission to protect a powerful noblewoman from her enemies. But as Qisami goes undercover to complete her mission, she takes on a new identity that gives her something she never had before: friendship, found family, and new purpose.
Sali also thought her fate was laid before her. She was supposed to be looking for the next Eternal Khan and now finds her clan exiled from everything she’s ever known. As she leads the survivors in search of a new home, Sali discovers that she’s something she never thought she could be: a leader and a revolutionary.
Because sometimes destiny is grander than any prophecy can foresee. And the greatest destiny of all is the one you choose for yourself.
The caravan of covered wagons snaked along the craggy face of a mountain range known as the Five Ugly Brothers.The Art of Destiny by Wesley Chu
Important things you need to know about the book:
Pace: The pace of The Art of Destiny alternated between slow and medium. Usually, I’m not too fond of a slow-paced book, mainly because books with that pace do not keep my attention. But, in this case, it did. The author used that slow pace to introduce new characters and explain their relationship to the main one(s). The book did pick up pace towards the end and stayed medium speed until the book’s ending.
Series: The Art of Destiny is book 2 in the War Arts series. This book cannot be read as a standalone novel. You must read book one to understand the main characters’ backstories and some of the secondary characters.
Trigger/Content Warning: There weren’t many trigger/content warnings. But, if any of these trigger you, I suggest not reading the book. They are:
- Violence (graphic)
- Blood (graphic)
- War (graphic)
Sexual Content: There is no sexual content in The Art of Destiny. There is a scene where Wen gets kissed by Sonaya. There is also a lot of innuendo by Sonaya during her and Wen’s training sessions.
Language: There is no swearing in The Art of Destiny.
Setting: The Art of Destiny is set in the fictional country of The Enlightened States. The characters all travel to various areas of the country.
Tropes: High Action, The Hero’s Journey, The Chosen One, The Mentor, Epic Storylines with Lots of Characters, High Stakes, The Training Sequence
Age Range: I recommend The Art of Destiny to anyone over 16.
Plot Synopsis (as spoiler-free as I can get):
Two years after the Great Kahn was killed and Taishi took in Wen Jian as her heir, Wen Jian is still in hiding. His training is going horribly, and Taishi is worried. There are rumors of a war between the Dukes and an uprising by the Katuia. So, Taishi summons her friends, retired grandmasters, to help tutor Wen. She also has an ulterior motive known only to her and Zofi. What is Taishi hiding, and why is she so insistent on Wen being trained?
Meanwhile, Maza Qisami’s reputation as a Shadowstrike has taken a blow after her battle with Taishi. Unable to secure good-paying work for herself and her pod, she is surprised when she is offered a job to go undercover in Lord Niam’s household. But, once there, Qisami starts settling in and becomes attached to the people who live and work there. Will she be able to do what is asked of her, or will she forsake everything she has worked for?
Then there is Sali. The former Viperstrike is dying from the Pull of the Khan and is exhausted from leading her people to a safe area. She is reluctant to go when told of a cure in the north. Pushed into it by her younger sister, Sali takes her neophyte, Hampa, and Mali’s husband, Daewon, on the journey. What she learns once she is in Hrusha is life-altering. Can she be healed from the Pull of the Khan? Or will her journey north be for nothing?
Because this book has numerous characters, I will only outline the four who the storylines are molded around. If I went into each character, this review would be extremely long. The author did include a glossary that names The Tiandi, The Shadow, and The Katua characters.
Wen Jian: She was still grouchy, but I felt she lost her edge slightly. I liked seeing her interactions with the other grandmasters. I disagreed with what she did during the last half of the book, but I understood why she did it. It is the same with her agreeing to do what Wen asked at the end of the book.
Taishi: She was still grouchy, but I felt she lost her edge slightly. I liked seeing her interactions with the other grandmasters. I didn’t agree with what she did during the last half of the book, but I understood why she did it. Same with her agreeing to do what Wen asked at the end of the book.
Qisami: I enjoyed reading Qisami’s part of the story. I liked seeing her go from this uptight, bloodthirsty assassin to someone much softer. It gave me an insight into who she could have been if she hadn’t been sold to the Consortium. It also showed me what she might be like in book two. I know Sunri, Chiafan, and Qisami’s former pod mates better watch their backs because she’s out to get them.
Sali: Out of everyone in the book, she was my favorite. She led her people out of enslavement and kept them two steps ahead of tribes who wanted to kill them. Once Sali hid them, she reluctantly went to look for a cure for the Pull of the Khan. Her journies led her to Hrusha, where her character’s arc took another turn. I can’t wait to see where her storyline goes and how she will meet up with the other three main characters.
I had eagerly awaited The Art of Destiny since I saw the author put it on Goodreads. I enjoyed reading The Art of Prophecy and needed to know what happened to Wen, Taishi, Qisami, and Sali. So, when I saw the widget arrive in my email, I immediately downloaded it. This book did not disappoint.
First, I want to let everyone know that there is a map (a little small on my Kindle, but it might be bigger in a book) of The Enlightened States. I loved that. The second thing, and this is what I loved, is that the author included a glossary (or a Dramatis Personae). It lists every single named character in the book and has a brief description of them. As a reviewer, that is a lifesaver since I am forever going back and forth on my Kindle to find characters and make sure the names are correct.
I also want to let everyone know that this book is long. It is 672 pages. It is also slow, but, as I said above, the author reintroduced characters and introduced new characters. And there was a lot.
The Art of Destiny is split into three separate storylines. One follows Wen Jian and Tiashi. The other follows Qisami. The last storyline follows Sali. The storylines are kept entirely different from each other until the end of the book. Then Wen Jian, Tiashi, and Qisami’s storylines merge. But Sali’s is kept separate, and the author did have good reason for that. All of the storylines were well-written and very rich in lore. I was immersed in each storyline separately and did not have an issue transferring from one to another.
The storyline following Wen Jian and Tiashi focuses on Wen Jian, his training, Tiashi bringing the other grandmasters to the Cloud Pillars, and the events at the end of the book. I enjoyed reading about the other grandmasters and their chosen martial arts. I liked how each interacted with Wen and Tiashi. I also liked that they all had Wen’s back and would follow him (and Tiashi) anywhere. The storyline was still ongoing at the end of the book, and I am curious about where everyone ended up.
The storyline with Qisami did make me a little sad. Once placed in the Duke’s household, she seemed to find a family that accepted her for who she was (at face value). She formed friendships outside of her pod. She lost sight of why she was there until Firstwife told her to kill people that she had become attached to. But the saddest thing is when her pod mates betrayed her. Her surprise and betrayal came off the pages, as did her anger. She was so upset that she let Wen and Tiashi slip through her fingers.
The storyline with Sali had my attention the most. She was trying so hard to find a way to get rid of the Pull of the Khan. But her journies and the pull were killing her. She was also trying to be strong for her tribe. Her weariness was palpable. But, when she heard of a potential cure in the north, on the island nation of Hrusha, she reluctantly went. Her character’s growth while on the island was comparable to Qisami’s. I loved her fight scenes with the Stormchaser. It was the highlight of the book for me. What she turned into also surprised me.
The book’s fantasy angle was incredible (including the martial arts). I loved that the author based it on Chinese folklore and then ran with it. I wish the author recorded some of the lore in a glossary because I had some issues keeping them straight (but that is a me issue, not a book or writing issue).
The end of The Art of Destiny was good. Nothing was wrapped up. Instead, things were revealed and left there for my overactive imagination to process. I can’t wait to see where book three will take these characters. I also can’t wait to see how the author will merge Sali’s storyline with Qisami, Wen, and Tiashi’s.
Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey, NetGalley, and Wesley Chu for allowing me to read and review this ARC of The Art of Destiny. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
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