To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods

Del Rey: Ballantine. Apr. 2024. 368p. ISBN 9780593722244. $30. FANTASY
DEBUT The gift—if it can be called a gift—of magic lives deep in Ruying’s body, fighting to be released, just beneath the bounds of her control. But only just. She is one of the Xianglings, a people who were trafficked and exploited for their gifts. But then the Gods came to Er-Lang with their science and technology, their hatred and their opian, intent on colonizing the Empire. When Ruying is imprisoned without access to her magic, she must bargain her gift for any hope of freedom. But what lengths will the Gods go to in order to possess her once they find she has the ability to pull the life out of mortal bodies? She’ll have to choose between fighting to avenge the losses her family has suffered or joining them. Ruying is a refreshingly imperfect protagonist and through her, Chang tackles topics as diverse as the rarely discussed trauma Manchurian people suffered during World War II and the complexity of fighting against colonialism while navigating within colonial systems.
VERDICT Chang has crafted her own magic with this must-read, genre-bending debut novel, skating between fantasy, science fiction, and historical commentary.
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