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Emperor’s Shadow (Elite Book 1) by Yi Zhu

Emperor's Shadow (Elite Book 1) by Yi ZhuEmperor’s Shadow (Elite Book 1) by Yi Zhu is a very fine beginning to an exciting new fantasy series. The novel follows two orphans born into a strict caste system. To go up in class is a virtual impossibility in the Glorious Empire. Only those who graduate from the Academy are granted Highborn status. As with other unjust civilizations, revolution is not far behind…

Unlike other fantasy books, which work in their own self-contained fantasy universe, Emperor’s Shadow seems like a contemporary fantasy, a reflection of our current times, as well as past dynasties. This makes the book seem more real, and the characters more immediate and identifiable.

This is the kind of book that you hope finds an audience. If there’s a weakness, it’s that the book at times reads too quickly, especially in the latter half where it seemed a bit like Zhu was racing to a close. In a way, that’s high praise, as it suggests that Zhu had created such a fully-realized and riveting world that a reader wants to stick with the book for longer. One is so invested in the characters by that point that Zhu had the freedom to spread his wings and delve deeper into the story. Fortunately, this is a series, so more books are coming.

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