All The Flavors: A Tale of Guan Yu, The Chinese God of War, In America

My first novella, City of Kaiju, is available for pre-order. Available through Amazon and Books2Read. You can see a preview of the very first chapter here. Check it out when it launches, February 12th, 2019.


Today, we’re doing something different. Instead of doing a typical novel review at the beginning of the month, we’re changing things up to make things easier on me. To start, every three months, starting today will be a novella review, either a small novella or one from a magazine. Novel reviews will be in between and short stories, of course, will be every Friday otherwise. This puts less strain on me and it means I can focus on other things at the same time. So now, let’s get into our first novella (a reprint, really, but a good starting point)

Today’s Novella is All The Flavors: A Tale of Guan Yu, the Chinese God of War, in America by Ken Liu. You can find it here. This is from Lightspeed, but you’d have to buy the issue to read for yourself. The original version is here.

Let’s get started, shall we?

American Gods

This is a tale set in the 1800s about a Chinese man living in Idaho trying to make ends meet with his friends. A young American girl, Lily Seaver, is curious about them, but when she gets wrapped up in a fight between two bandits, she has no choice but to stay with him if she hopes to heal her wounds. The man, Logan, tells the tale of Guan Yu and many others, showing his proud storytelling and his country’s interesting cooking.

This is a calm, mesmerizing tale filled with Chinese culture, legends, and two separate lifestyles trying to get along. It’s a historical story that doesn’t have to adhere to the darker side of history, and can instead, be uplifting and inspiring. The story feels like Thor, but with a historical setting, but without the superhero stuff and glorious action scenes. It’s something that feels calm and relaxing, yet engaging at the same time.

Logan, aka Lao Guan, because the Americans can’t pronounce it right, is a big man with a wonderful heart. He looks intimidating, but he never showed it and was friendly the whole time. Big, hearty, and loving. That’s why I like to see in my big, burly men. The more I read it, I felt this should be made into a movie. Granted, the flashback sequences might be dark, but I think this would be a wonderful hit.

The tales are also interesting. Chang Sheng was a young boy when he meets a nobleman Hua Xiong, who challenges him to a game. Losing made him angry, so much that when he became emperor, he killed his father as retribution, but not before Chang Sheng killed him and the entire castle when he came of age. Since then, he became known as Guan Yu, god of war.

Though it wasn’t said outright, and this is solely speculation here, my mind went to Logan and Guan Yu being the same. Their characteristics are too similar, but the one minor issue was that while most of us assumed as much, no one confirmed it in the story. I like a good question to remain unanswered, and I might have felt easy if it were spelled out, but the fact that it goes without even a subtle nod from the characters felt kind of cheating.

A side from that, I enjoyed reading the many tales. Logan is quite the storyteller, even if the stories were dark. Seeing the culture of the Chinese workers living in America and being the strangers to another culture is always fun to see. I’ve always had a fascination for Asian culture, particularly from China and Japan (My mascot has a Japanese name, can’t you tell?), and their tech combined with their love for history and nature are a sight to see. I feel like even though I’m in my home country in the 1800s, I feel the soul of another world being told to me. It’s a refreshing sight to see.

Guan Yu is also a badass. His desire for vengeance, plus his noble heart make him one interesting lore figure. He isn’t so vengeful that he kills everything in sight, but he fights for those who cannot defend themselves. If anything, he’s a good hero to look up to and a wonderful role model. He’s powerful, has a rough history, and knows the meaning of honor. He’s someone I would like to be someday.

I felt the story about him and Hua Xiong was more interesting than the rest of the story and would have loved to see that fleshed out more. Granted, the story itself was wonderfully told, but I also would have been happy just seeing Chang Sheng and Hua Xiong in their own self-contained story. Maybe a possibility for the future, but this was in 2012, so who knows?

Final Thoughts

This was a fantastic story and despite being a while back, it’s very entertaining. The storyteller telling a tale about a master of war and heroism all while potentially hiding as a Chinese worker living in Idaho makes for a wonderful tale. I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a fun and calming read.

That’s all for today. If you liked this post and want to see more, I have a Ko-Fi page set up. Why spend three bucks on a Starbucks Coffee when you can help support hard-working authors like me? Every bit helps and keeps me going. So thank you, and remember, the inn is always open.

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