Rating: 4 of 5
Author: Edward C. Patterson
Available: Paperback, Kindle
12th Century China – Graduating with the highest honor at the academy, Li K’ai-men is charged by his great teacher and master Han Lin with carrying out a number of warrants both public and secret. Designated as the new superintendent of Su-chou, Li K’ai-men restores order and beauty to this chronically neglected area and proves he is more than an academic. However, Li is not perfect and his errors in judgment only serve to build his character; soon his talents are recognized by the Emperor and K’ai-men finds himself tutor to a royal prince. But political unrest and war soon come and China quickly finds itself turmoil. Not only must Li K’ai-men protect his prince, but also the secret warrants associated with the Jade Owl relics.
In The Academician, Edward C. Patterson takes the reader into the heart of 12th century China and the historical events that unfold. Patterson masterfully weaves in the fictional fantastic elements of the Jade Owl and the character of Li K’ai-men during the sweeping changes in China’s dynasties centering around the great painter but ineffective Emperor Hui and his family. Fans of Patterson will once again find a story strong in character development and steeped in ancient Chinese culture and events of the day with hints of the fantastical elements that are sure to build in later installments.
Told from the perspective of K’u Ko-ling – Li K’ai-men’s faithful though occasionally acerbic servant – each chapter begins with a 1st person account of events detailed in the remainder of the chapter. In this way, Patterson is able to avoid too much exposition while still conveying the richness of the history woven into the story. Reminiscent of James Clavell’s work but injected with even stronger character development with the addition of the fantastical elements, Patterson creates an engaging and enlightening read.
Fans of the Jade Owl Legacy will find the beginnings of this relic and its associates. Much like the back-story extras on a good collector’s addition of a DVD, the Academician provides that detailed background into what would later drive Rowden Grey and Nick Battle into the quest of a lifetime. I’m looking forward to the next offering in the Southern Swallow series.