Kate Chenli’s debut YA novel arrives successful October, and I don’t deliberation anyone would mind if you judged this book connected its cover, because nan screen is perfectly stunning. A Bright Heart is inspired by wuxia storytelling tropes and takes america connected a travel of revenge, reincarnation, and tribunal intrigue.
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After Mingshin is betrayed by nan man she loves—the man she made king—she prays that nan gods springiness her a chance to avenge herself. When she wakes up 2 years earlier she’s murdered, she vows that her erstwhile person will ne'er beryllium king, and she will ne'er autumn successful love. Mingshin must past navigate nan unusual changes successful her caller life, including a caller contender for nan throne, a caller threat to her kingdom, and a vipers’ nest astatine court. And hopefully she’ll debar being murdered successful this life too.
Take a look astatine this incredibly beautiful screen for Kate Chenli’s A Bright Heart, illustrated by Sija Hong. An question and reply pinch nan writer and an exclusive two-chapter excerpt are below.
Linda Codega, io9: What drew you to penning imagination successful nan first place?
Kate Chenli: I was a imagination scholar earlier I was a imagination writer. I’ve ever been fascinated pinch nan conception of magic. As a child, I often dreamed of possessing magic (who didn’t?). When I publication fantasy, I bask getting mislaid successful nan rich | imaginary worlds wherever nan characters go alive.
I wanted to create specified awesome worlds myself. Writing allowed maine to grow connected ancient legends and mythology that I’ve ever loved. Moreover, I wanted to create lifelike characters, particularly beardown women who animate young girls.
io9: What are immoderate of nan tropes of Chinese lit that person inspired A Bright Heart?
Chenli: For one, nan chance astatine a 2nd life and nan opportunity to beryllium sent backmost successful clip to correct past wrongs and protect those you love. Who wouldn’t want to relive an acquisition for illustration that? And a chance astatine uncovering existent emotion on nan measurement is besides exciting.
Princes competing for a throne is different communal trope successful Chinese imagination (many inspired by nan existent arena that happened during Emperor Kangxi’s reign successful nan Qing dynasty.) The complexity of powerfulness dynamics and nan entanglements of tribunal intrigue person ever willing me.
io9: What does reincarnation successful imagination trope opportunity astir quality nature?
Chenli: I think, heavy down, astir humans want a 2nd chance to correct our past mistakes, to redeem ourselves. Given a chance, we each dream to go a better, stronger type of ourselves.
io9: Which characteristic are you astir excited for your readers to meet?
Chenli: First of all, Mingshin. She’s smart, cool-headed, and highly protective of her family. She is simply a no-nonsense unit erstwhile it comes to dealing pinch her enemies. She has a clear extremity successful life and pursues that extremity relentlessly and fearlessly while seeking justness successful a challenging world that is biased against women. I want my readers to bask her travel of increasing into a stronger, much assured type of herself.
I’m besides excited for my readers to meet Prince Jieh. He’s arrogant but truthful; he’s a reliable warrior but very protective of nan group he cares about. He and Mingshin make a fabulous squad because he respects Mingshin’s intelligence and steadfastly stands by her.
And of course, Princess Yunle. I had awesome nosy penning astir her relationship pinch Mingshin. I consciousness that female relationship successful imagination genre still has a batch of abstraction to grow!
My shriek echoes disconnected nan moldy walls of nan dungeon.
The interrogator leans in, his activity foul. “I inquire you 1 past time. Do you confess to nan treason committed against nan crown?”
I hardly assistance my caput from nan cold, damp chromatic floor. A bolt of symptom shoots done me, and nan room spins. Still, I fastener my regard connected nan interrogator, consenting myself not to waver. My pharynx feels lacerated pinch sand, but I negociate to rasp 1 past “No.”
I spit astatine him. My spittle of humor smears crossed his bladed lips.
He backhands maine truthful difficult my caput snaps to nan broadside and my ears ring. He wipes nan humor distant pinch a sleeve, past snarls. “You’ll get what you deserve, filthy traitor.”
He turns and gestures to nan jailers opinionated watch. The 2 burly men stride complete and yank maine to my bare feet. My surgery ribs springiness a vicious jab, and I astir faint.
They resistance maine retired of nan interrogation chamber, their mocking laughter pealing distortedly. The instant we are done nan door, a blast of frosty aerial slams into me. The upwind slices astatine my bare soma for illustration an icy scythe—the ferocious whippings person plastered nan shredded remains of what erstwhile passed for apparel onto my surgery skin. I shiver uncontrollably.
It’s snowing, and a carriage pinch a azygous driver awaits successful nan courtyard. Through nan swirling achromatic mass, I glimpse nan tall, imposing situation walls looming successful nan distance.
As soon arsenic nan jailers dump maine onto nan difficult level of nan carriage, it starts moving. I curl into myself. Where is nan driver taking me? The execution block?
The image of Royal Lady Bai’s lifeless assemblage hanging from a rafter successful her compartment pops into my head. “We’re each going to die,” she said conscionable yesterday. “The Royal Ladies, nan princes, and you. Ren has accused america each of treason.” She stared astatine maine pinch feverish eyes, each her dignity gone. “His edict declared that we conspired together.”
No! She was wrong. Ren couldn’t perchance judge I had thing to do pinch nan effort connected his life. He ever said he trusted maine supra everyone else.
But why did he let nan guards to apprehension maine without moreover giving maine a chance to take sides myself? It’s been 3 days. Why hasn’t he travel to spot me? Does he cognize what I’ve been through?
The anger that has been brewing wrong maine swells into a storm. Why haven’t you rescued me, Ren? How could you fto them dainty maine for illustration this aft your vows of love? Could nan fears that person plagued maine for these past fewer months beryllium true? That you’ve been utilizing my mind and money to thief you attain nan crown?
I suck successful a sharp, stinging activity arsenic my thorax seems to divided open. No, it’s excessively vulnerable a thought, excessively horrible. I mustn’t suffer hope. That’s each I person now.
The carriage jerks to a halt. A speedy speech of words outside, past we are moving again. When nan carriage stops erstwhile more, I perceive a thud, followed by footfalls. Moments later, nan driver appears and pulls maine out. An agonized groan escapes my parched lips.
The ruffian drops maine successful nan snow, turns, and walks away.
“Wait.” I shudder. “Why did you . . . bring maine here?”
But he only hurries distant faster. Without a connection aliases a backward glance, he jumps onto nan beforehand spot and drives off.
Am I to frost to death? I swallow a rising flood of panic and look around. Colossal buildings of woody pillars, reddish crossbeams, and yellow-glazed tile tiles are connected by twisting cobblestone paths, pinch evergreens and courtyards interspersed between.
I’ve been brought to nan royal palace.
I crawl to nan lowest measurement of a formation of tall, wide stairs. At nan apical stands nan Grand Throne Room, wherever Ren holds tribunal daily.
I perceive crunching connected snow. I move to spot 2 palace guards attack me. Like nan jailers, they hoist maine betwixt themselves and haul maine up nan stairs. Even nan relentless acold isn’t capable to numb my agony arsenic my lesions scrape against nan icy stone.
The men wantonness maine astatine nan top, past vanish nan measurement they came.
I jolt astatine nan show of personification opinionated earlier nan Grand Throne Room pinch its sparkling marble walls. His backmost to me, he wears a clothes heavy stitched pinch five-clawed aureate dragons—the ineffable animal only a monarch tin wear.
Ren. The emotion of my life. The man I helped go King of Dazhou. He’s yet here.
Ren extends his arms afloat and tilts his caput back, arsenic if flying precocious supra and savoring nan emotion that nan full kingdom lies beneath his feet. He maintains that posture for a fewer moments earlier turning astir and stepping toward me.
He’s arsenic handsome arsenic ever, pinch golden-brown eyes, lush ebony hair, and nan benignant of floor plan loved by sculptors and painters. But gone is nan warm, gentle grin he has ever shone connected me, and successful its spot is simply a ruthless mask.
My heart, which has been lifted by a abrupt flutter of hope, sinks, wings broken.
I agelong my mangled hand, to touch this man who erstwhile promised to cod nan stars for me. “Water . . . please.”
He eases away. “The assassin confessed that you and my brothers commissioned his service.” Each connection is arsenic crisp arsenic a knife. I can’t judge they travel from Ren, but they do.
“I didn’t. I blocked his beard . . . pinch my assemblage . . . erstwhile he ran astatine you. You saw it.” Every musculus spasms arsenic I struggle to constituent to nan coiled wherever nan assassin’s leaf pierced my shoulder. But nary of nan symptom compares to what I consciousness inside.
“And we were to marry,” I plead. “Why would I person you murdered?”
“Did you honestly deliberation I’d wed a merchant’s daughter? Once each nan traitors are put down, I’ll wed Aylin and crown her arsenic my Queen. She’s a regal noblewoman fresh for nan position. In fact, she’s nan 1 I’ve ever wanted.”
It’s arsenic though Ren had reached into my thorax and wrenched retired my beating heart. I suck successful a activity to clasp backmost tears. “You utilized me, you bastard.” Such elemental words, but they return each my spot to utter. “Did you ever emotion me?”
“For 2 years, I had to look astatine your plain, mooning look while saying pathetic words of love, putting connected a show of passion. It sickened me.”
Inside, my world crumbles to dust. I suspected that Ren harbored much than friends feelings for Aylin, but I ever attributed this to my insecurity and petty jealousy for my beautiful highborn cousin.
“Aylin loves me,” I opportunity pinch vehemence. “She wouldn’t do this to me.” My relative tended maine arsenic I laic successful my sickbed aft nan assassin’s attack. She didn’t take sides my innocence erstwhile nan palace guards came to apprehension me, but she must person been excessively frightened.
Ren scoffs. “Her wedding gown is being made arsenic we speak.”
Her wedding gown. I adjacent my eyes, imagining bright-red cloth nan colour of my blood.
“You forced her into an statement of marriage,” I spit out.
“Believe it each you want, but you won’t unrecorded to spot nan wedding. After all, you are a traitor to nan throne.”
I consciousness arsenic if nan crushed were splitting and shifting beneath me. He wants maine dead. Why? Although he doesn’t emotion me, he could conscionable make maine 1 of nan galore Royal Ladies successful his harem, past put maine aside, leaving maine to wither distant successful humiliation and isolation.
A basking unreserved of rage rises, blazing done my anguish. “You staged your ain assassination, past framed maine and your brothers. All I’ve ever done is emotion and thief you. Why do you dislike maine truthful much?”
“They opportunity without your riches and strategies, I’d ne'er person go King,” Ren hisses pinch softly controlled anger. “They shall beryllium punished for their insolence. My brothers thought they were better, smarter. But I guidelines present while they await death.”
Royal Lady Bai’s past words echo successful my head. We person each been fooled by that charlatan. Even his precocious father. He maintained his merciful estimation truthful good that everyone believed he was harmless, but look wherever it landed us.
A masterful charlatan Ren is. No wonderment location are nary guards posted here—so he tin taunt maine without witnesses.
I wound connected my articulator until I sensation blood. How I wish I hadn’t been truthful hopeless for love, for a family aft Mother’s passing, that I held connected to him contempt my suspicions astir his existent feelings for me.
In despair, my manus reaches for nan chromatic pendant hanging astir my neck. Father’s family heirloom I’ve worn since childhood, fixed to maine for his belief successful my worth. It’s of nary worth to anyone but me, truthful nan jailers didn’t rob maine of it.
I’ve ne'er prayed before. But arsenic I clutch nan pendant to tie spot from it, I nonstop a fervent dream to each nan gods, to immoderate divine powerfulness retired there, that I beryllium fixed a chance to do it each complete again, to correct each nan wrongs inflicted by Ren.
“You’re a monster,” I growl, my sound seething pinch each driblet of hatred that boils within. When he simply shrugs, my hatred flares white-hot, prompting maine to goad him, “Royal Lady Bai told maine Prince Jieh escaped.”
Ren’s smugness is gone successful an instant. He grabs my chin and squeezes truthful difficult I groan. His features contort. “I’ll seizure Jieh and crush him for illustration I’m crushing you. I americium nan existent King. He is ungraded and nary more.”
For a infinitesimal it seems Ren is astir to strangle me, but he smiles, releasing me. “You cognize I dislike that scum much than anything. You said that connected purpose, didn’t you?” His grin grows much sinister. “As payback, let maine to divulge a small secret, wench. Your mother’s drowning was not an accident, arsenic your uncle made you believe. He had your relative Bo termination her aft she refused to manus complete your father’s business.”
What’s he saying? I shingle each over. “No. No. You’re lying.” I’ve ne'er liked Uncle Yi’s insidious character, but he’s not tin of murdering family. When Ren laughs successful disdain, I recognize he’s yet telling nan truth.
A wail rips from my throat. I don’t cognize wherever I find nan energy, but I leap up and propulsion myself astatine Ren. He jumps back, but not quickly enough. My fingernails excavation bloody grooves into his cheeks. Too bad I don’t gouge retired his eyes.
He roars and slams a fist into my chest. I alert backward, my ribs cracking. No, no, by my ancestors. I cannot dice yet. Please!
I tumble to nan bottommost of nan stairs, landing adjacent nan feet of personification opinionated there. As I’m lying connected my back, I spot my cousin, nan gorgeous Aylin, successful an arsenic stunning achromatic fox fur coat—ah, I cognize that coat. She looks astatine maine arsenic if I’m immoderate diseased vermin.
With a last burst of will, I outcry out, “Heaven above! Grant maine different chance and I’ll do thing to make it right.”
Colorful ray shoots up each astir me, glowing arsenic brightly arsenic nan sun. A activity of powerfulness washes complete maine and ripples out, far, acold away.
So grand, truthful mighty, so—
A complete, endless acheronian pulls maine under.
I bolt upright, screaming.
What happened? Where americium I?
My shriek cuts short.
For a moment, I linger successful a void, mind and body.
Is this death?
Everything successful maine snaps into focus.
What does decease look like?
My ragged breaths rasp successful my ears arsenic I scan my surroundings.
I’m sitting successful a canopy furniture covered successful smooth, cleanable sheets and embroidered feather quilts. There’s a ample dresser, a wardrobe, a vanity desk, and an adjoining room for bathing. Coal smolders successful a brazier a fewer feet from nan extremity of nan bed. Calligraphy scrolls and ink paintings of mountains, forests, and flowers bent connected paneled walls that gleam pinch nan acheronian enigma of well-polished mahogany. A gold-spined book, still open, lies connected a nightstand.
A tremor wracks maine from caput to toed arsenic my mind yet catches up pinch my eyes. This is nan chamber I lived successful for 2 years earlier my death.
How did I extremity up present successful nan afterlife?
I look myself complete and agelong my limbs. All my wounds and injuries are gone. Is this what happens to a tone aft it passes over? I property a thenar to my bosom and consciousness nan rhythmic beating beneath my fingers. Does a specter moreover person a heart?
The title of nan unfastened book is scrawled successful achromatic ink: History of nan Continent. It’s 1 of my favourite topics, and—
The woody doorway swings open. A woman dashes in, shouting, “Are you each right, Miss?”
“Mai?” I gasp arsenic I admit nan woman pinch a information look and doe eyes.
Mai had been my handmaiden until Aylin caught her stealing—an discourtesy often punished by having nan thief’s manus chopped off.
Guilt slashes done me. I trusted Aylin’s connection alternatively of my maid’s plea of innocence. Despite my shame, I begged Aylin not to person Mai maimed. The past clip I saw her, my uncle’s steward was trading her to a servant trader.
Have Mai and I been reunited successful this afterlife?
I unfastened my rima to apologize to her, but past she moves farther into nan room pinch a lively bounce successful her step. “Did you person a nightmare, Miss?” She turns and bows. “Mistress,” she says, yielding her way.
A acquainted fig hurries into view. All nan aerial rushes retired of me, and I clutch astatine my chest. Heaven above, what would I not person fixed to spot her again?
For 1 infinite, glorious moment, I gape astatine Mother, humor thundering successful my ears.
She stops adjacent to maine and caresses my cheeks pinch some hands, her brows furrowed. “I heard you scream. Are you each right, Shin’ar?”
At nan sanction of endearment only utilized by my parents, a large weeping sound escapes my lips. I propulsion my arms astir Mother’s waist, my tears flowing.
“Shin’ar, what happened? You are scaring me.”
“I miss you, Ma,” I say, my sound muffled by heaving sobs.
She smooths a manus down my back. “Silly girl. You conscionable saw maine past night.”
But that’s not true. I mislaid her half a twelvemonth ago. I’ve ne'er forgotten really I fell to my knees adjacent to her bloated body, conscionable fished retired of nan acheronian waters of a pond. She was truthful still, truthful acold arsenic I held her swollen face. I wept and wept, until I passed retired from condolences and exhaustion.
Mother feels coagulated and lukewarm now. Her touch is gentle and caring. Still hugging her—I don’t want to ever fto go—I assistance my head. She looks radiant, beautiful, and hale.
We must person been sent to Paradise successful nan afterlife. But why are Mother and Mai acting for illustration they still unrecorded successful nan past? I glimpse astatine nan book again. I spent each nighttime reference it complete nan first fewer months aft Mother and I moved into Uncle Yi’s home. How did it travel maine into death?
Glancing astatine nan reflector connected nan vanity desk, I drawback a glimpse of myself. My mean look shows babe fat, nan measurement I looked erstwhile I was a small younger.
The moments correct earlier my decease flash done my mind.
I prayed, begging for different life, a chance to do it each complete again. In response, location was a burst of dazzling light; its powerfulness radiated throughout.
My beat quickens arsenic a strange, intolerable thought occurs to me. “What time and twelvemonth is it, Ma?”
She frowns, but replies, “It’s Year 105, Month of Er, Day twentyone, of nan Jin dynasty.” She looks maine complete again.
Year 105. My bosom is pounding truthful accelerated I consciousness giddy. Did nan gods really reply my prayers and move my life backmost 2 years? Month of Er, Day twenty-one. Exactly 2 weeks aft we arrived astatine Jingshi, nan capital. Only a period ago, Mother and I celebrated my sixteenth birthday, nan time marking my rite of transition into adulthood.
“How are you feeling, Shin’ar?” Mother touches my forehead.
“Should I summon a doctor?”
“No, I’m fine.” Given really perceptive Mother is, though, she won’t driblet it if I don’t springiness her a reasonable mentation for my unusual behaviors earlier. “I dreamed of Baba. We were together arsenic a family. It was truthful existent I wished it were a different time and he were still pinch us. That’s foolish . . . but I miss him, Ma.” As soon arsenic I opportunity nan words, I perceive really existent they ring. If only clip had gone further backmost to erstwhile some my parents were alive.
Mother sighs. “I miss him, too.”
We enactment successful each other’s arms, sharing a quiet infinitesimal of mourning and tenderness.
I don’t want to sadden Mother, truthful I merchandise our clasp and grin astatine her. “We still person each other, Ma. I emotion you. I’ll make you very, very happy.”
“I emotion you, too, Shin’ar. And you’ve already made maine very, very happy.” She pokes mildly astatine my chest, a familiar, comforting motion that holds typical value for me: Mingshin, my name, intends a agleam heart.
Tears prick my eyes. Quickly I move away. Only past do I announcement nan young female opinionated adjacent to Mai. It’s Ning, Mother’s loyal handmaiden, who “accidently” drowned on pinch her. After Ren’s confession, I’m judge he and my relative Bo murdered Ning arsenic well.
But I won’t suffer immoderate of you again. Definitely not to those monsters. A surge of torrid hatred sears done maine to seethe successful my core. I little my caput truthful nary 1 sees my burning look aliases nan veins pulsing successful my neck.
Ren, Uncle Yi, Aylin, Bo. I’ll bring nan large wind of vengeance upon you all. Feel its unit arsenic it sweeps down and destroys anyone who obstructs its path.
“Time to get up, my girl,” Mother says. “I’ll spot you successful a small
while.” She pats my feature and departs.
Mai leaves to capable nan washbasin. Standing earlier a full-length mirror, I portion disconnected my sleeping gown. As I straighten, I startle astatine nan reflection of my sixteen-year-old self.
Did nan gods assistance maine a 2nd chance astatine life? Now that I’ve had clip to see what I’m experiencing, doubts grow.
Legend has it that nan gods near this quality world ages agone and nary longer interest themselves pinch quality affairs—the main logic I’d ne'er prayed to them for thief earlier nan twilight of my past moments. Why would they intervene connected behalf of me, a woman without societal opinionated and of nary value to anyone but my family?
My activity hitches arsenic a conception strikes. If this occurrence is not nan merchandise of gods, could it beryllium magic?
I shingle my caput astatine nan foolishness of my imagination. Only nan group successful Nan’Yü are tin of magic. Besides, I cannot fathom immoderate benignant of magic mighty capable to move backmost time.
And that curtain of ray humming pinch powerfulness successful my past representation . . . did I really spot it, aliases was it a imagination arsenic I hovered connected nan verge of death? But its powerfulness felt truthful real, almost tangible.
I sigh. I must lick this mystery, but answers won’t travel easy.
I assistance my five-colored pendant up to my eyes. In moments of despair, Father’s gift gave maine strength. It’s a plain thing, but I cherish it much than each nan gemstones successful nan world.
Father entrusted his family heirloom to maine erstwhile I was only 3 years old. “You’re worthy this treasure, Shin’ar,” he said. “Guard it well. One day, I’ll show you its history.”
I stood taller and raised my chin, grinning up astatine him. Since then, I’ve ne'er taken nan pendant disconnected isolated from erstwhile I bathe.
But Father didn’t get nan chance to stock its history pinch maine earlier we mislaid him to illness.
I strangle a sob. I miss you, Baba. Rest successful peace; I committedness you I’ll protect Ma pinch each I have.
When Mai returns, I lavation my look and hands successful nan basin, past barren them pinch a caller towel. She helps maine into an emerald wool gown patterned pinch metallic embroidery, and wraps a silk set astir my waist. The early outpouring greeting is still chilly, truthful she drapes a lilac velvet clothes crossed my mini frame.
At my request, Mai makes respective bladed braids and weaves them into a elemental bun. I prime retired a golden hairpin dangling pinch a fewer pearl beads for her to thread into my hair.
As I locomotion down nan hallway to nan surviving room pinch Mai successful tow, Ning approaches maine pinch a smile. “Miss Aylin is here—”
Boom. A roar explodes successful my head. Blood rushes to my face, and everything astir maine swirls successful a swarm of reddish shapes. All I tin spot is Aylin opinionated complete my surgery body, her look filled pinch loathing.
How situation she look again successful my life aft her eventual betrayal? How situation she?
I’m startled retired of my trance by urgent whispering. I turn, my imagination still misted complete pinch scarlet. But done it I observe Ning’s worried face.
With a jolt, I drawback myself. How galore times did she telephone maine earlier I heard her?
“Are you each right, Miss?” she asks pinch concern. Beside her, Mai is arsenic taut arsenic a bowstring.
The reddish mist dissipates. I motion weakly and thin connected a wall, closing my eyes for a second. This is my caller life. My decease is still successful nan future, and Aylin’s deceitfulness hasn’t been revealed to maine yet. How could she person fooled maine truthful completely? For 2 years, she assured maine I was loved for illustration a sister. For 2 years, she acted for illustration a trusted family member.
I want to large wind into nan room and tear nan clone disguise disconnected Aylin’s face. I want to outcry astir her betrayal for nan full world to hear. I want to onslaught her for harming Mai.
But my enemies must judge I still respect them arsenic friends.
I inhale a agelong activity and worldly my rage and hatred backmost into nan darkest portion of my soul. Then, I paste a large grin connected my face.
Two tin play this game.
Excerpt from A Bright Heart by Kate Chenli reprinted by support of Union Square and Co.
A Bright Heart by Kate Chenli will beryllium released connected October 17. You tin preorder a transcript here.
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