the new empire

The New Empire – Book Review

Thank you to author Alison McBain for providing me with a copy of The New Empire in exchange for this honest review.

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The New Empire is an alternative history novel that follows a young Chinese slave brought over to the Americas. Jiangxi was royalty back in Beijing but here he is raised as a slave by a man who foresaw that he would grow up to be a bridge between two worlds.

Jiangxi’s master, Onas, is known as a kuksui and is a respected tribal elder. He is comparatively kind and respectful to Jiangxi on the spectrum of slave owners. He doesn’t beat him just for fun and allows him to become educated in language and skills outside of hard farm labor.

However, he is not always excused from bamboo whippings and punishments. Jiangxi learns the hard way that he cannot trust anyone, even if they are kind on the surface. He finds his goal in life as freer of the slaves but has to figure out how to accomplish that massive task on his own. Will he ever be able to trust someone to help him save his people?

The New Empire describes itself as an alternative history in which Chinese slaves are brought to serve Native American masters in a non-Eurocentric view of early America. Unfortunately, any commentary that could be made from this premise is left on the drawing board. Although the book is an entertaining story about a fight against oppression it doesn’t really drive home any point about how the new world is different being run by Native American tribes instead of Europeans, with Chinese slaves instead of Africans.

The characters themselves do not have much personality outside of their roles within society so their respective heritages do not have a chance to shine through. It seems that they could have all been swapped with any race and the story would have remained the same.

The story itself is compelling and I found myself wanting to see how Jiangxi would change the world. But about two thirds of the way through The New Empire I started to feel like there was no way it would be able to wrap up in the amount of pages I had left.

The ending is either a very bleak but realistic conclusion or the set up for a miraculous sequel. I like to think that it’s the former but I know how popular sequels are anymore so I have a feeling a part two is more likely. Longtime readers of my book reviews know how much I hate unexpected sequels. If something is the beginning of a series please tell me upfront and honestly on the cover so that I can decide if I want to commit to more than one book.

The New Empire is perfect for people who like period dramas, historical fiction, and books about overcoming in a society that is strictly against the protagonist.

4/5 getaway boats ⛵️⛵️⛵️⛵️

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