A much better second effort in the series,
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This review is from: The Fourth Sacrifice (The China Thrillers Book 2) (Kindle Edition)
Walking into this novel, I was warned 'It's worse than the first one'. I'd just written a withering review for it, so it was with some trepidation I approached the second in the series and I'm glad to say it's significantly better than the first effort, which was cloy, ridiculous, unlikeable and predictable. Here, May has toned down the ridiculous - think Independence Day versus National Treasure - and managed to drive a suspense-filled plot that doesn't reveal everything right at the opening.
That's not to say it's flawless. It really isn't. The lead is still utterly unlikeable. It's around this novel that May discovers the word 'sublimate' and then uses the hell out of it. There's a little bit more flesh around the characters this time round. Happily, the 'Rice X Virus' is conveniently forgotten and left by the wayside and the plot focuses on themes around The Cultural Revolution and archaeology. Through these themes, there's even a little bit of cultural and historical insight, though the overuse of 'Yang guizi' ('foreign devils') instantly requires a facepalm. Nobody in China says that. Nobody in China said that in the early 2000s (when the book was written and when it's set).
On that note, nobody in China really says 'In the name of the sky'. It's an old-fashioned, dramatic curse presumably used in lieu of other, rurder curses. Nobody uses it. Other faults include broad and wrong pronouncements. 'No one's made bronze swords for serious use since they discovered iron.' Which is false. Bronze was still preferred for weaponry and armour at the discovery of iron, because early iron was not as hardy. Bronze was simply more expensive. Nitpicking? Perhaps but the series is rife with these kinds of statements. Smug, assured statements of fact from unlikeable characters which pull you right out of the fantasy as, in frustration, the book hits your face. Regarding the symbol of the swastika, he has eminent archaeologist-cum-Indiana-Jones-wannabe say 'No. Hitler only borrowed it from the Chinese. It was the ancient Chinese character for long life.' It was used by Ancient Indians long before it came to China.
The novel manages to survive its problems in a much better state than its predecessor. I'm glad I stuck with it this time round.