RogerBW's Blog

The Shadow Pavilion, Liz Williams 27 April 2022

2008 urban fantasy. Detective Inspector Chen's partner has disappeared, finding himself stalked by tiger-demons. And someone is trying to assassinate the new Emperor of Heaven.

But what's really important here is badger, the family familiar of Chen's wife Inari, who becomes a viewpoint character for the first time. Badger has simple priorities, and sticks to them, when others seem to be losing sight of the situation. Badger is great.

Unfortunately, not only is this a book with multiple threads and viewpoints, it's one that chops them into short chapters, averaging under 1500 words each. That's enough for one scene, just about, but some of those scenes are cut quite short, and even more than in the previous book any hope of rising tension is lost when we have to check in with three other strands before we get back to see how the latest cliffhanger was resolved; the end feels sudden and rushed. (And there's not a whole lot of Chen, considering the series is named for him.) One couldn't separate these strands completely, beause the stories do overlap and merge, but I could certainly have done with longer chapters and fewer switches of perspective.

And that's a shame, because what's happening here is great. This is very much a series about huge changes happening across the multiple worlds of Hell, Earth and Heaven, which at the same time doesn't lose the individual touch. If anything there's a bit of a step back in scope from the third book, but there was a lot of picking up of the wreckage to do after those events, so that's fair enough. I keep saying that I want to care about the people more than about the things they do, and Williams hits that dead on for me.

"Surely there are scores of young actresses just waiting for their big break?"

"We needed more than that. Certain qualities, you know?"

Chen was not sure that he did, but Go seemed to have some kind of artistic principle in mind: he was making hand gestures which seemed too abstract to be a representation of the female form.

Still very good, in spite of some problems of format.

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Previous in series: Precious Dragon | Series: Detective Inspector Chen | Next in series: The Iron Khan

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