To Journey in the Year of the Tiger: Tails of the Upper Kingdom: Book 1 Paperback – 21 Sep 2012
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About the Author
H. Leighton Dickson grew up in the wilds of the Canadian Shield, where her neighbours were wolves, moose, perennial-eating deer and the occasional lynx. She studied zoology at the University of Guelph and worked in the Edinburgh Zoological Gardens, where she was chased by lions, wrestled deaf tigers and fed Polar Bears medicine via baby bottles! She has been writing since she was thirteen, has three dogs, two cats, three children and one husband. She has managed to keep all of them alive...so far.
Top Customer Reviews
Let me tell you though, there is brilliant action, seduction, forming bonds, breaking bonds, flirting, and adventure in this book. I think in all, the author has done a brilliant job, and I must say I'm slightly ashamed that I couldn't fully appreciate it for reasons I'm still unsure of myself. One thing is for certain though, I did not, could not, stop reading it.
THE NOVEL IDEA THAT MAN IS THE HIGHEST
LIFE FORM IS AT BEST FLAWED AND ILL CONCEIVED
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The story was engaging, the characters were complex and well thought out, and the writing was high quality. This is one of those gems you always hope to find in independently published books.
I cant think of anything to say about the story that wouldnt be a spoiler, and isnt already included in the synopsis. Just try this series, you wont regret it.
There were a few times, especially early in the read, when I got confused about characters. Further in, once the personalities were more clearly defined, I did better. The back-story is intriguing, and I appreciated how the author paced out the clues. I do look forward to reading the next installment!
H. Leighton Dickinson's To Journey in the Year of the Tiger (Tails from the Upper Kingdom) surprised me with how well the author delineated each character, making the character traits so specific that it was easy to tell who was who from how the character acted and spoke, which was good because the author made the unfortunate choice of giving two of the characters, both lion-men, names that were almost identical. It made sense because they were brothers, but early on, I was not always able to recall which was being referred to just by name, however, as I said their personalities and duties were so different it always quickly became apparent who was being referred to.
I almost made a big mistake and quit early on in a book I ended up thoroughly enjoying because there multiple earth cultures were seemingly hodgepodged into the cat-human-hybrid empire in which the tail, er, tale takes place. HOWEVER, I read on long enough to get excellent hints that there was a very valid and logical reason behind this rather than being the amateurish world-building I initially feared.
This novel earned four stars because, though the characterization and plotting were excellent, the similar names of the two characters, as well as some rather unfortunate formatting on the kindle version created a few stumbles, and the ending didn't have much in the way of resolution.
Since I did enjoy reading this book and LOVED the sequel To Walk in the Way of Lions (Tails from the Upper Kingdom) I highly recommend this book.
I am absolutely loving the world-building. Asian cultures tend to get overlooked quite a bit in Western-written fantasy, but the society here is real, the characters are unique and fascinating, and the dropped references to recognizable cultural artifacts and languages work perfectly. The atmosphere feels like a real world and the characters make sense in context. Do not let the idea of cat-people put you off. It makes complete sense and elements of feline biology fit in logically with the characters. I am very picky about world-building in my fantasy (and have put down a lot of fantasy novels I've picked up because I hit the made-up names and the same-old same-old Fake Middle Ages setup and can't even) and this world is engrossing and makes me want to read more and become engrossed in it. I am glad I picked this one up and am looking forward to delving deeper.
Books base on fantasy versions of medieval Europe are endless, so it was refreshing that Dickson's setting is a fantasy version of China instead. The blend of ancient Chinese myth and tradition in her world worked very well to this reader unfamiliar with such things. I was pulled into the story without any lengthy backstory or explanations. In fact, Dickson is such a good writer that even a sudden revelation that throws science fiction into the story isn't jarring, it just adds to the intrigue. I won't say more because to do so would spoil the surprise that definitely changes the tone of the entire quest.
What really hooked me was the characters. Dickson takes a stock of familiar archetypes (the stoic, the jester, the arcane, the studious, the fierce, etc) and fills them with flawed personalities that make them all the more appealing. Normally I'm drawn to a single character as a favorite, but I really like the entire band, which is a rare feat indeed. This is a quest story, so there is a lot of journeying. Having characters that keep you intrigued is worth every step of their trek.
Bottom line: I really can't find anything not to like about this book. Highly recommended to any fan of fantasy, talking animal characters, or an all around adventure story with well-developed characters and a compelling story.