2023 Reading Challenge

2023 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 5 books toward her goal of 265 books.

Book Review AND Excerpt AND Giveaway: The Last Days of Hong Kong by G.D. Penman

About the Book

Book 3 in the Witch of Empire series

In the aftermath of the war, Iona “Sully” Sullivan has lost everything; her job, her friends, her fiancé and even her magic. But when an old friend shows up on her doorstep, offering her the chance to undo one of her long litany of mistakes, there is still enough of the old Sully left to get her on the first boat to Hong Kong. A stranger in a strange land, Sully must navigate alien customs, werebear chefs, the blossoming criminal underworld, religious extremists, Mongol agents, vampire separatists, and every other freak, maniac or cosmic leftover with an iota of power as they all compete for a chance at the most valuable prize in all the world; a little sailor doll named Eugene, and the last wish on earth.

My Review

This has been such an amazing trilogy! From the very first pages of The Year of the Knife (book 1 – there is also The Wounded Ones, aka book 2), Penman has had me hooked. Sully is a fabulous character, full of piss and vinegar, sass and quirks, and foibles and frailties. She is utterly relatable, even if nothing about her personality, life, or the situation she finds herself in Bear any resemblance to any of my own. This, I think, is Penman’s true gift as a writer – an uncanny knack for crafting a personality so large it jumps off the page and resonates with everyone, regardless of seeming similarities or their utter absence.

Add to that a tremendous gift for wholly original world-building, spot-on pacing, and a sense of action, adventure, and absurdity that is second to none, and you have all the makings of a hit. It has been some time since I read the first book. There is a tremendous amount of cross-referencing and loose-end-tyng in this final installment, yet I never found myself feeling lost despite the reintroduction of myriad characters and situations from the earlier books. This is another credit to Penman – he’s done a masterful job bringing in just enough references to earlier actions and events and characters to keep the reader familiar enough to be able to follow this third book without feeling lost or compelled to go back and re-read the first two.

That being said, I’m dying to go back and re-read the first two. I have a feeling there are a lot of small details that I may have glossed over in my read this time, given the lack of immediacy with the events of the first two books. It will be a delight to do so though, and I am looking forward to the chance!

Thanks to the fabulous Meerkat Press and the author for my obligation-free review copy.

The Excerpt

August 3, 2019

Hong Kong was a city the way that a well was a bath; your odds of coming up again when you took a dip were very different. It rose up out of the sea fog like a great glowing lantern, every part of it alive and moving within the gentle embrace of its towering walls. Every building glowed with neon, flickering and stuttering as the galvanic supply struggled to keep up with the demand. Dazzling, but inherently flawed.

Sully had been here before, in another life. She could feel the memory of it tickling at the back of her mind, like a grain of sand in the oyster of her brain, but she couldn’t find the details. Just a little case of déjà vu, except she’d read through her military records while she was pulling herself back together again after the war, and she knew for a fact that she’d sailed out of this port.

Every time she butted up against those lost years it was like she was standing on a precipice. She knew that who she had been was down there somewhere, but each and every time, she had to make the decision whether what she might find out was worth the dive and the pain. Very little was.

Outside of those weary walls, war was waiting. The Khanate had Hong Kong under siege today just as surely as they had for the past three decades. Their various armies had been camped out there for so long that the untrained eye might have mistaken the mass of buildings and bodies as an extension of the city proper. Only the odd glint of gunmetal reflecting a campfire gave them away by night, and only the uniforms gave them away in the light of day.

There was another tickle at the back of Sully’s memory: this view had changed. The last time she’d been in Hong Kong there had been demons on the doorstep. The Khanate wasn’t above cutting deals with the hells, when they were still open for business, and they’d secured plenty of recruits with no greater promise than the freedom to serve out the centuries up here instead of back home. It wasn’t much more than Sully had been promised in her own recruitment office, if she was being honest.

She’d come around the world the long way, slow and steady on a steamer out of New Amsterdam, a big lumbering ship that would have been the laughingstock of her old Royal Navy buddies, if any of them had still been alive. Slow and steady, the flame-runes in the boilers pulsed. Slow and steady the inches of the map moved behind them.

Pratt had been in a hurry. He wanted her there yesterday and he’d been willing to throw his not-inconsiderable weight around to get her bounced through a half-dozen portals by the American Empire’s allies. It would have been fast, yes, but it would have been loud, too. The whole world would have heard that Sully was coming to Hong Kong, and that was a recipe for trouble.

At the last count, Sully judged that approximately half of the people in the world wanted her dead for one reason or another. She didn’t feel any particular need to advertise her travel arrangements to those people; particularly when portal travel was a precarious proposition at the best of times where one “accidental” miscalculation could leave her spleen strewn across four different dimensions.

She had other reasons not to travel by magic, but they were none of Pratt’s business. A private eye without secrets was like a vampire without fangs.

 From The Last Days of Hong Kong, copyright 2021, GD Penman.

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1 comment to Book Review AND Excerpt AND Giveaway: The Last Days of Hong Kong by G.D. Penman

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