Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea

Blackstone Audio. May 2023. 10:40 hrs. ISBN 9798212172745. $19.95. F
Chang-Eppig’s fascinating, deeply researched debut—inspired by Shek Yeung, a real 19th-century woman pirate commander who helmed a fleet on the South China Sea—is made even more riveting by narrator Emily Woo Zeller’s vibrant performance and nuanced characterizations. As a girl, Shek Yeung was snatched from her family of fishermen and sold to be a sex worker on a wretched “flower boat.” A regular at the floating brothels, pirate captain Cheng Yat comes to admire the intelligent and beautiful Shek Yeung and offers marriage as a way out of her dire circumstances. The two find, if not love, a nice companionship and an even better working relationship, until Cheng Yat is killed during a battle. As her leadership role on Cheng Yat’s pirate ship is threatened, Shek Yeung must employ all her professional and personal strengths to fend off societal gender roles and hostile members of her own fleet.
VERDICT Chang-Eppig’s descriptions of the swashbuckling adventures of her woman pirate protagonist simply sparkle, and listeners can savor it all thanks to Zeller’s careful pacing and empathetic delivery. Within the narrative, a well-placed sprinkling of short stories featuring sea goddess Ma-Zou makes this a fun read for fantasy fans as well as those who enjoy historical fiction.
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