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Fred Yu
The Orchid Farmer's Sacrifice
Fred Yu, author
The Orchid Farmer’s Sacrifice is a plot driven Asian fantasy, Martial Arts epic, taking place in ancient China, about Feng, a spoiled son of a general still realizing his own military genius, suddenly hunted by the entire world because of a symbol on his body, known as the Red Crest. Feng is chased from his home, his sister is abducted, his friends are slaughtered, and there’s a huge reward out there for his head. Feng learns that civil war is imminent in Ancient China. The enemy, only known as the Judge, is after the throne and out to kill the four Tiger Generals guarding the Great Wall, and he has some very advanced weapons. Feng falls in love with the leader of a cult of poison users, a beautiful woman with blue eyes that came from the other end of the silk road, dressed in red with a metal whip attached to a poisoned blade. He races against time to kill the Judge’s weapons maker and cut his supply lines. By chance, the weapons maker sees the symbol on Feng’s body and he sacrifices himself and his entire family to keep our hero alive, telling him that he is the only one who can unite the people and destroy the enemy. Feng realizes his responsibility to the world and realizes his own genius. In a desperate attempt to prevent the Judge’s forces from combining on the battlefield, Feng is determined to hold back an army of 50 thousand with his meager 2 thousand men. While planning his defense in a narrow passageway between two canyons, he learns that assassins have been assigned to murder his father, and that the other Tiger Generals have been murdered one after another. In a desperate attempt to turn the tides of the civil war, Feng hatches a plan to kill the enemy general, save his father, discover the meaning behind the birthmark on his body, and find the Judge.
Set in ancient China, Yu’s latest martial art’s novel (afterThe Legend of the Snow Wolf) follows Mu Feng as his privileged world as the son of an esteemed Tiger General falls apart––all because of the birthmark on his rear end. After a heavy night of drinking, Feng is attacked by bandits and barely escapes with his life. Betrayed by friends and perhaps family, Feng struggles to stay alive as his sister is abducted and killers in the empoy of an ominous, omniscient judge try to assassinate him. This coming-of-age legend is complete with ample action, a love interest, and two heroic missions: Feng must save his sister and stop war from breaking out.

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.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A-