When I first began reading this book, I did not expect to be drawn into a brilliantly created universe with a rich back story. I was hoping for a good story, something simple and enjoyable, perhaps with a proverb inside. Happily, I was instead transported back to a time some might consider simpler, but which is actually diverse and complex with complicated characters and multiple storylines that Mr. Yu ties together into a beautiful tale of love, love of others, love of country, love of life, and also, love of power and prestige.
The characters express many different facets of human nature, some contradictory, but yet realistic sides of a person. Their motivation to do things draws deeply from different philosophies and shows the diversity inherent in China’s history, something I appreciated while reading this epic tale. From the Mongol characters, like Suthachai and their simple way of life to the multiple personalities of the Chinese elite, like Fei Fei to the common man found in Li Kung, each viewpoint is intense and constantly draws the reader farther into their land and their lives. The characters make you want to take sides in the ongoing war and root for the “little guy”, even if he is described as a hulk of a man. The overarching stories of loyalty and betrayal and what it means to be family are portrayed through multiple battles and the instantaneous decisions of each character, shaping the way the story is played out and showing how decisions in the past now affect their futures in ways no one could have expected, with the exception of Snow Wolf, the absent heroine. Even if the reader wasn’t pulled in by the challenges of finding and keeping love between the main pairs of characters, I expect they would want to continue reading this series just to know how Snow Wolf knew so much would happen to her people and her land and how she could have ever provided for them after her death.
In my opinion, the mark of a good series book is one that answers some questions but leaves you hanging, waiting for the bigger ones to come. This book accomplished that, taking the main characters on a path that makes you impatient, not wanting to have to wait to see where it leads. Whatever happens in the next chapters will likely answer some questions but still provide more new ones. Mr. Yu succeeded in providing just enough to make sure you were enthralled and invested and wanted to know who survived and how the people of this northern region fared while the heroes fought with power hungry leaders and tried to find their own answers to questions of life, love, and power.
See below for a quick Q & A with the author, F. Lit Yu.
Name: F. Lit Yu
Genre: Action/Fantasy/Mystery/Martial arts
Previous work: The Legend of Snow Wolf Book I
Current projects: Tenacity Crest series
What was your first project that made you feel like a real author and how did you get it?
I worked on a screenplay with a famous Hong Kong film director, one of those directors that won every award in Asia in the 70’s, and I developed this story in Chinese and English with him. The script was called Operation Yellow Peril, about human trafficking in the nineties. Jet Li was slated to play the lead. The Asian economy collapsed and the funding never materialized, but the chance to work on this screenplay was awesome. My favorite scene featured an old guy, completely insane; throwing a kerosene can into the Chinatown ghettos to make it explode while shouting “have you met Chairman Mao?”
What is your primary inspiration when writing?
I’ve been blessed to have great teachers in this lifetime. I’ve had great martial arts teachers, masters who taught me Chinese medicine and the I Ching, who taught me about art and freedom and guided me when I took the wrong path. When I sit down to write, invariably, the influence of these teachers become apparent in my writing, and what they’ve taught me over the years do propel me forward. I still remember when my late Martial Arts teacher of the Wu Mei system told me that my legs were like noodles and my arms were sprayed with “Indian Divine oil”. Without clarifying his terminology, I came to understand that he meant my arms were stiff and hard, and at least in this situation, very ineffective.
Unfortunately, that’s the only bit of humor I can remember from the teachers I’ve had growing up. Humor was never part of my relationship with them. They’ve had so much influence on me that I can’t write anything funny anymore.
What other authors do you enjoy?
I loved reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Rice Burroughs as a child, and in my teenage years, I read Eric Van Lustbader. I’ve certainly read the classics over the years, both classical and contemporary, but nothing was as enjoyable as a good, fun read from my childhood favorites. Looking back as an adult, I realize that I’ve always read violent stories, and so I grew up writing violent books. No wonder I was perpetually sent to the guidance counselor in high school for drawing gory pictures and writing graphic stuff.
Where would you like to see yourself in five years with your writing?
Five years later, I hope to have launched a new genre in the Western world, a genre that is age old in Asia (hundreds of millions of books sold), but still unexplored in America. I plan to continue writing in the Martial Arts Epic genre, and introduce this intriguing world of loyalty, honor, and strategy to the West, where rebellion against authority is romanticized and equality between gender and wealth is determined by fighting ability. I love this world that I write in, and my pipeline of pending, unwritten stories is getting longer each day.
What would your dream project be?
Now that my beer belly is truly resistant to change, my dream project has become far fetched, but I would like to have a Martial arts school up in the Catskill Mountains in New York State. I would teach martial arts, I Ching, Feng Shui, and believe it or not, Chinese cooking. The air would be clean and distractions would be minimal, especially with bad cell phone reception in the forest. I would teach young kids the system of honor that comes with being a martial arts practitioner, the same way I was taught, and I would enforce the work ethics, the integrity, and the values of the ancient Chinese warrior among my students. But again, the beer belly wouldn’t make me a convincing teacher, so it’s just a dream.
Final four questions –we ask everybody
Q) When the zombies take over the world where will you be?
That’ll depend on what the zombies really look like when the time comes. If they are the slow moving ones, like in the earlier Night of the Living Dead movies, I would be in the frontline with a big sword, and I would be decapitating them one at a time. Even in my worse shape, my sword is much faster than the slow moving zombies. But if they are the really fast ones, the ones who can run and jump incredible distances like in the more recent movies, then I would probably lock myself in a mall. There are plenty of malls in New Jersey with good food, massage chairs, and Sealy’s mattress stores.
Q) Jedi, Ninja, vampire, were-wolf, pirate, fairy or Spartan?
Spartan for sure. Real warriors with real training, intimidating battle formations and effective use of spear and shield. Vampires and wolves were turned into pansies by the Twilight series, Disney has turned pirates into comedians, my favorite Jedi was played by Hayden Christensen (that was before he said “Yipee!” in Episode 1), so Spartans for sure.
Q) What piece of art, be it in the form of music, a book, a film or picture, do you think people must experience before they die?
I think everyone should try to play the musical instrument of his or her choice while blindfolded. It doesn’t really matter the piece (twenty years ago, I played the Moonlight Sonata while blindfolded and experienced the biggest high of my life), but I swear by the idea that, to truly enjoy the music you play, you must abandon the other senses. Force yourself to give up sight, and the rhythm, the sounds, the heartbeat will become so much more prominent.
Q) Give one fact that most people would not believe about you?
I’m exploring a new innovation in culinary arts where I combine Chinese teas with French sauces. Fundamentally, Chinese teas are subtle and expressive in complex innuendos while French sauces are powerful and overwhelming. For the tea to avoid being overwhelmed, I would need to concentrate the teas flavors. That would make the tea bitter. If the tea remains subtle, we would never taste it in an intense sauce. I’m very close to finishing my cookbook, which represents these innovations, and I am ready to go to print as soon as I figure out how to pronounce Oolong teas in red meat stock without the use of red currant jelly to hide the bitter aftertaste.
Thank you F. Lit Yu for sharing this world of loyalty and honor with the rest of us and we look forward to more works from you, especially that cookbook!