The Heavenly Sword is a very important book to me. When I was first looking for publishers who would be interested in an Urban Fantasy story set in Hong Kong, I began by looking through the companies that had published the nonfiction texts which I’d used as research. When I went to the website of Earnshaw Books, one such publisher, I saw, prominently displayed on the site’s front page, The Heavenly Sword. The synopsis promised fantastic adventure with an historic backdrop, in the tradition of wuxia greats like Jin Yong. And because of its inclusion in the Earnshaw Books catalog, I was able to pluck up my courage, contact the publisher, and proceed on my current journey with Project Shenmue.
More than that though, Alice Poon, the author, despite being a successful author and in a position that seems like a dream to me, is polite and sociable on social media. She has taken the time to answer questions I’ve posed to her on Twitter, given me likes and comments on my own platforms, and even was kind enough to mail me some bookmarks with characters from The Heavenly Sword. Thanks to her, I have made a contact in the writer realm, and she has been nothing but kind and encouraging to me.
Because of all this, I really wanted to like this book. To not like this book would be a sort of critical parricide, and, leaving her writing completely aside, Alice Poon seems like a genuinely cool person, whom I would love to get to know more and perhaps even become proper friends with in the future. So I can’t simply write The Heavenly Sword off and leave it at that, especially since I know that Poon herself will almost certainly read this review.
However, there are issues with this book that ultimately dragged down the experience for me, and I would not be able to write an honest review if I did not address them. My policy with criticism has always been that, so long as I do not personally insult the creator or the fans, anything goes. But, even though I know “constructive criticism” has become a BS buzzword like “just asking questions” or “devil’s advocate”, for this review, I will endeavor to frame every criticism I have in the most constructive way I can. This one is gonna be light on jokes, folks.