Opium War, Book #1
By Jeannie Lin
Author’s website: http://www.jeannielin.com/
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Adelynne
Since her father’s execution eight years ago, Jin Soling kept her family from falling into poverty. But her meager savings are running out, leaving her with no choice but to sell the last of her father’s possessions—her last memento of him.
Only, while attempting to find a buyer, Soling is caught and brought before the Crown Prince. Unlike his father, the Emperor, the Prince knows that the only chance of expelling the English invaders is to once again unite China’s cleverest minds to create fantastic weapons. He also realizes that Soling is the one person who could convince her father’s former allies—many who have turned rebel—to once again work for the Empire. He promises to restore her family name if she’ll help him in his cause.
But after the betrayal of her family all those years ago, Soling is unsure if she can trust anyone in the Forbidden City—even if her heart is longing to believe in the engineer with a hidden past who was once meant to be her husband…
Although I enjoyed this book, for me, it did not have much depth. I felt that Gunpowder Alchemy was a book purely entertainment.
I had a few qualms with the book- one of the things that bothered me was the events. I felt that Lin was trying too hard to make the book have action, and a lot of the events felt random and didn’t make sense. Because of this, a lot of her scenes felt too forced, and didn’t feel natural or something believable. For example, the main character Soling gets trapped for a while on her old acquaintance’s ship. To be honest, that event did not need to happen at all. The action wasn’t very engaging and it didn’t leave me feeling excited or hanging off the edge of my seat.
Another thing that bothered me was its historical and steampunk aspects. I don’t think steampunk is a very appropriate label- the book didn’t have many inventive mechanical objects/themes, and even though it was supposed to concentrate on new mechanical inventions, it just didn’t feel very steampunk-like. It was the same for the historical setting. Although the book was set in a historical setting, it didn’t really feel much like 19th century China, and the descriptions weren’t very elaborate or vivid. The most that really came from the setting was the treatment of Soling but that’s about it.
The last thing that bothered me was the romance. It felt very bland and dull. Chang-wei was not a very appealing character to me, and their relationship felt so toned down. They didn’t feel like they were in love, they felt like awkward friends. There were barely any dynamics to their relationship.
However, I really loved Soling’s strength and the whole story was very interesting. Soling was independent and inquisitive- she didn’t just go along with the flow. She wanted to find a path for herself, even though it was being controlled by others.
Overall, Gunpowder Alchemy was an intriguing read that I would recommend for those in search of a historical novel with a strong heroine and complex plot.