Rita Chang-Eppig's sharp, gritty first novel, Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea, takes readers on a high-seas adventure alongside a legendary Chinese pirate queen who must reckon with government crackdowns on piracy and encroaching Europeans in the early 1800s.
Shek Yeung is co-commander of the Red Banner Fleet and Scourge of the South China Sea when her husband, fleet commander Cheng Yat, dies in battle against Portuguese sailors. Now that her greatest supporter is dead, she must secure her position as leader and keep her boats and crew safe in the face of the emperor's violent crusade against piracy. Shek Yeung is no stranger to survival situations, though. A youth spent in forced prostitution on the flower boats after pirates murdered her family honed her skill at strategy, the quality that motivated her husband to abduct and marry her in the first place. She swiftly seeks a consolidation of power by marrying her husband's second-in-command, Cheung Po, who shares with her the distinction of having been both Cheng Yat's protege and captive. She fears her new husband may assassinate her and take full command of the fleet, but instead he seems bent on impressing her. Soon Shek Yeung must outwit a ruthless nobleman and uncover a plot by aggressive European powers, while struggling through a complicated pregnancy.
This fascinating portrait of a woman determined to survive no matter the challenge will captivate readers' imaginations. Book clubs and solo readers alike should find much food for thought in this blend of high-stakes action and a complex character sketch of a fierce and wily leader. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads