- Title And Author: The Hand, The Eye and The Heart by Zoë Marriott
- Publisher: Walker Book
- Physical, eBook or Audiobook: Physical
- Bought, Borrowed or Gifted: Gifted by the publisher in exchange for an honest review/reaction
- Length: 448 Pages
Backstory time. A few years back, I was at Walker Books HQ at a blogger event to celebrate the cover reveal to the final book in Zoë Marriott’s urban fantasy trilogy, The Name of the Blade, Frail Human Heart. At the event, Zoë mentioned an idea for a novel she was researching. When she was chatting about it, myself and a few book bloggers got hugely excited and went “You have to write this!” then looking at her editor and people at Walker, going “You’re going to buy this, right?”
And this is the book in question. So, you have no idea how excited I have been for this book…
No pressure, Zoë.
Zhilan was born a girl. Despite the rare gift of illusions known as banner-breaking, she is destined to live her life in the confines of what is expected for a women. But when a civil war breaks out in her empire, one man from every family is called to fight. With her father being disabled from the battlefield of his youth, Zhilan is desperate to save him and takes his place, becoming a boy called Zhi to survive army training. But that’s the first challenge as love and betrayal can be two sides of the same coin and soon, the weight of the country is on Zhi’s shoulders. But to win, they have to decide where their heart truly lies as, sometimes, the greatest battle is to be who you are…
So… what do I think of this?
Personally, I think this is Zoë’s best novel to date. It beats The Name of the Blade trilogy of being her best work, in my opinion. I know there are others who think Shadows on the Moon is Zoë’s best work, but I think this is it’s equal, if not stands over it.
I am going to admit this isn’t perfect. For example, I found the first few chapters quite slow. But I get why these chapters are here - these chapters set everything up and we need these chapters. But you guys know me, I like to hit the ground running and while these chapters did kinda, they aren’t exactly put of the main story. They’re there to give us a better understanding of the world and what a banner-breaker is.
Once the book gets past these chapters, it flew and hit the ground running. You can tell Zoë worked hard on this book and it works wonders. You can tell that this is set in a fantasy China without it being overwhelming. Same goes with it tackles issues such as sexuality identity and identity as a whole, as well as knowing that this story was inspired by the several very different legends of Mulan. Everything works in a nice way where nothing overpowers the other, all the while telling the story.
Like I said, I think this is Zoë’s best work to date and I hope this book gives Zoë the attention she deserves!