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Pushing the Boundaries: Sherry Thomas - Laura Wise

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July 23rd, 2014


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11:18 am - Pushing the Boundaries: Sherry Thomas
A quick book-note for today!

In the current market for historical romance, several writers are actively pushing on genre boundaries and expectations. Courtney Milan, whose new novel The Suffragette Scandal I've mentioned, is one of these explorers. She doesn't write Regencies, which seems to be the most popular period setting, but instead focuses on early to mid-Victorian stories; this allows her to work with actual historical challenges to the Angel in the House, with female mathematicians, scientists, and writers often at the heart of her stories, and (mostly) enlightened heroes. She also moves outside the aristocracy for many of her characters, and is dealing with material and cultural structures in interesting ways. Milan writes with wit and verve and feminist passion, but she is also v.v. fond indeed of characters in extremis, which is not necessarily my preference. (Your mileage may very well differ. ;))

But for supreme angst in the midst of pushing plot and genre boundaries, Sherry Thomas is the writer one would want.

Like Milan, Thomas favors Victorian (or Edwardian) settings; like Milan, Thomas can (but does not always) move outside the aristocracy for her main characters; like Milan, Thomas writes characters transgressing material and cultural boundaries. But her latest book takes her even further in genre-breaking, and I just want to mention it here.

Next month Thomas is publishing a new historical romance, My Beautiful Enemy, but this week she's published a ground-breaking prequel in The Hidden Blade. This prequel tells the background of the heroine and hero of the upcoming book, and well, let me give you the dedication: To my dear friend Flora, with whom I spent many of the happiest hours of my life reading and talking about our favorite wuxia stories.

"Wuxia" is a genre of Chinese fiction that focuses on martial-arts heroes (and heroines); in film, think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Chinese is Thomas's first language, in fact, which makes her novels in English even more remarkable. She describes the project thusly: Many years ago, I wrote what I called a martial arts (wuxia) semi-epic. It had everything, as wuxia often does: action, adventure, coming-of-age, love story, an 18-year time span, plus a legendary treasure. It also had something wuxia epics don't usually have, which is that a lot of it is set in England, where the heroine, a half-Chinese, half-English martial arts expert goes to find clues to the legendary treasure. She rewrote her old manuscript and these two books are the result.

The Hidden Blade takes us up to where the hero and heroine will actually meet. Half of it follows Bai Gu-niang, who will take the name Catherine Blade in the next book, as she grows up in Peking (so named in the text) from the late 1870s to the 1890s; there is martial arts, history, and really amazing character work. The other half follows Leighton Atwood during the same time, as he endures a horrifying childhood and adventurous adolescence. THERE IS ANGST. Finally, one character will unite their stories in the last third of the novel, and set up what's to come.

Recommended if you think you'd like this sort of thing, and this sort of pushing the boundaries of genre. :)

(12 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:paratti
Date:July 23rd, 2014 09:47 pm (UTC)
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That does sound interesting:)
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From:laurawise
Date:July 23rd, 2014 09:53 pm (UTC)
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You were one of the people I was thinking might like it! And it's available at Amazon.co.uk. :)

Cheers!
From:gwynnega
Date:July 23rd, 2014 10:07 pm (UTC)
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Oh wow, that does sound cool!

::hugs::
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From:laurawise
Date:July 23rd, 2014 10:41 pm (UTC)
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It's really different and really interesting. :)

Hugs! Happy Wednesday!
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From:stateless82
Date:July 24th, 2014 02:47 am (UTC)
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This looks awesome. I love Sherry Thomas.
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From:laurawise
Date:July 24th, 2014 10:07 am (UTC)
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I was amazed by this book, which is informed by the romance we know is coming but is SO DIFFERENT. And COOL.

Hugs a bunch!
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From:kathyh
Date:July 24th, 2014 09:20 am (UTC)
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That sounds fascinating. I adored Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon so anything with similar elements will definitely appeal to me.

P.S. You may already have seen this and I know you've moved on but this made me smile nostalgically this morning :)
[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:July 24th, 2014 10:10 am (UTC)
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The Hidden Blade's chapters set in Peking are so very Crouching Tiger, in very very good ways, but with added depth and characterization. And the chapters set in England with the boy who will become the hero are beautifully done, too.

As for the picture -- OMG, I hadn't seen it! I am running around happily shrieking. I am never moving on. :)

Hugs and a good Thursday!
[User Picture]
From:beadattitude
Date:July 24th, 2014 01:40 pm (UTC)
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Ooooooooooooooooooooh. Thank you!
[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:July 24th, 2014 07:36 pm (UTC)
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Yay!

Hugs and a great Thursday, friend. :)
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From:stevie_carroll
Date:August 6th, 2014 09:35 pm (UTC)
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My Beautiful Enemy is on my review list, so I'd better look at the prequel too.
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From:laurawise
Date:August 7th, 2014 10:33 am (UTC)
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The prequel is fairly important in understanding Bai Gu-niang aka Catherine and Leighton in the romance proper, I think.

Cheers, Stevie!

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