Saturday, April 11, 2020

The Hummingbird Temple, by C.C. Finlay

★★★★☆ Fun Characters, Clean Plot, Plenty of Action and Tension

(Silkpunk) When the Dynast dies, his daughter Lin flees before her older siblings can kill her. She has a place of safety in mind, but she’s never been there herself and needs help to get in. (14,968 words; Time: 49m)

"," by (edited by Scott H. Andrews), appeared in issue 300, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Review: 2020.173 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: Dyness (aka Princess) Lin is a product of her environment. Paranoid almost beyond reason, but filled with concern for the people who help her. We don’t get to meet her siblings, but the little we do learn makes Lin seem exceptionally compassionate by comparison. As far as the plot goes, this is about her journey to the temple to survive the night after her father’s death, when her siblings struggle over the succession.

Kuikin is a cynical man, a practical man, and yet an idealistic man. When Lin asks to whom he and Vertir are loyal, and he answers “to the rule of heaven,” we (and she) know that he means it. Vertir is the more capable of the two, but he follows Kuikin without question, and it’s clear how he’s earned that trust.

It’s cute that the temple is full of Lin’s hummingbirds. Even though she needs Vertir’s help to get in, there is a strong sense in which it’s already her place.

We pretty much know how it’s going to end, of course. There are plenty of hints—including the dice game—but it’s gratifying nonetheless.

Incredibly, nine-sided dice really do exist. The odds of rolling nine such dice and getting all ones is one in 387,420,489, or just under one in four hundred million, as the text says. The parallel with Lin’s situation—that the lowest number only wins if it’s the only number that comes up—is obvious, but still charming.

I’ve classed this as “silkpunk” because I think that term best describes “fantasy with Chinese characteristics.” That is, a fantasy that’s set in a Chinese-themed secondary works instead of a European-themed one.

Con: The way Lin murdered Ochs was unsettling, particularly since she had no idea whether he was sincere or not in his claim he’d come to escort her to a safer location. Maybe she had no other choice, but it didn’t sit well with me.

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C.C. Finlay Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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