Monday, September 19, 2022

Review: STRIKE THE ZITHER by Joan He


Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Strike the Zither is a YA fantasy based on a classic Chinese epic called the Three Kingdoms, mixed with inspirations from some other Chinese stories. This novel employs the classic trope of “pretend you’re defecting so you can join the enemy’s side and gain intel and then use that to turn around and destroy them.” We’ve all seen that done before but it was still enjoyable to read about here for the most part. 

I struggled to follow the story a bit. Zephyr was supposed to be doing these grand things but I felt like I kept missing them happen and then the scenes would be over. For example, I’m still not sure how Zephyr convinced Miasma to let her join her side because I feel like it would have taken a lot to prove that she defected from her original leader, but she pretty much just walks up and is like “I’m on your side now” and Miasma believes her. It was very weird. 

Zephyr conspires with different groups on different sides and I had a hard time gauging the layout of the land because these clans of people were battling and I didn’t think they were close in proximity but Zephyr travels back and forth like they are. I feel like the politics weren’t as fleshed out as they could have been, which made it a little difficult keeping track of the relationships and scheming between everyone. 

I found it hard to emotionally connect with any part of Strike the Zither. For some reason, I felt very distanced from the story, like a far-away viewer of unknown people rather than an active participant. I don’t feel like I know Zephyr that well, or anyone else for that matter. I wasn’t emotionally invested when betrayals or deaths or big events happened, and that saddened me. 

The story takes a drastic turn when stanza two begins, at the 50% mark. It’s like the book turns into an entirely different story with different characters in a different setting that felt narratively very disconnected from the first half of the story. I was quite confused and really didn’t enjoy it from then on, if I’m being honest. 

Also, I found the romance, if you can even call it that, to be quite unrealistic. Zephyr never really liked Crow, until she one day did? I never understood where the attraction came from, especially since he poisoned her and didn’t seem to like her all that much either. I didn’t understand their connection at all. 

Overall, I don’t think I’m the quite right audience for this book, and I can’t say for certain yet whether or not I will be reading the sequel. Strike the Zither ends on a cliffhanger of sorts that does pique my interest in how the story will progress in the next volume, but I don’t know if I’m committed enough to continue on with a series that I found to be just okay. 

I enjoyed The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He, which is why I picked up Strike the Zither. Even though I didn’t enjoy her newest book as much as I enjoyed her sophomore novel, I’m curious to see what other stories she’ll write in the future as I enjoy her writing style overall and the types of stories she writes. 

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