Strong and complex characters, plotting, and politics distinguish this well-written wuxia novel. Yu adeptly blends wuxia story traditions: the young protagonist who faces a tragedy and is thrust upon a hero’s journey, learning martial arts along the way; his efforts to prove himself to people who doubt him in a world with elements of fantasy and magic; the detective-like figure who uses his problem solving skills to solve a mystery. Yu introduces magic slowly––Feng himself is skeptical of it––and unveils the world of this series with care, though an abundance of moving parts bogs down some of the story’s middle, and Yu at times offers more exposition than readers actually need.
Still, this is a suspenseful, often riveting start to Yu's Red Crest series, especially when Feng realizes that the only people he can trust are two women––Ming and Iron Spider––from the Venom Sect, a powerful group of poison (and magic) users who are stigmatized for their embrace of a dishonorable weapon. Can Feng get over his prejudice to work with the Venom Sect and save his sister––and his own life? And why is everyone after the mark on his butt? Appropriate for young adult readers (there’s binge drinking, talk of sex work, and free usage of the harmful term “barbarian”), The Orchid Farmer’s Sacrifice will leave wuxia fans eager for the next book.
Takeaway: A riveting and suspenseful hero's journey, touched with magic in the wuxia tradition.
Great for fans of: Jin Yong, Fonda Lee’s Jade City, Ken Liu’s Dandelion Dynasty.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-