I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
The youngest son of a Chinese emperor finds himself captured and purchased by an Elder of two Native American tribes and must find the truth behind the idea of freedom in the historical fiction novel “The New Empire” by Alison McBain.
In the alternate history novel The New Empire, the world undergoes a drastic change in the 14th century when Chinese ships land on the west coast of what we know as the Bay Area of California. Fast forward four hundred years to a much different America than we’ve read about in the history books, a land dominated by a cross-continental tribal confederacy grown out of a strong alliance with Beijing. This new empire has been built on the backs of enslaved Chinese political prisoners and a profitable trading partnership overseas. Into the mix comes Jiangxi, youngest son of the last Chinese Emperor. When he arrives from across the ocean as a boy, he is purchased by Onas, a renowned tribal Elder of both the Haudenosaunee and Mutsun tribes. As Jiangxi grows up, he’s caught between the two worlds of his past and present, forced into choosing between opposing ideas of freedom. Told from the main perspective of a Chinese slave in a Native American world, The New Empire paints a vibrant picture that draws strongly on a non-Eurocentric worldview.
This was such a powerful and engaging read. The world-building and culture that embedded itself into the narrative were mesmerizing, and the way the author was able to capture an 18th-century North American continent that featured a Non-Eurocentric worldview was incredible to behold. The brutality and chilling imagery the author was able to infuse into the narrative really painted a grim picture of the horrors of slavery and the cost of freedom overall to so many throughout human history, as well as the importance of a person’s heritage and culture when it conflicts with the life that has been thrust onto them.
Yet for me, the underlying themes of family, betrayal, and freedom really captivated me throughout this story. The haunting nature of how Jiangxi came to be enslaved in the first place as the result of a chilling uprising and power grab by his older brother made the protagonist feel the sting of betrayal and loss. The relationship he develops with Onas and Daiyu throughout the narrative was so compelling and spoke to the dual reality of his life as he becomes an apprentice in a land of laws yet struggles with the identity of the slave he was made into all those years ago and recognizes that struggle in his newfound allies. The fight for freedom takes a heavy toll throughout the narrative, and the morality that the protagonist faces is incredibly compelling.
Captivating, engaging, and brilliantly written, author Alison McBain’s “The New Empire” is a must-read historical fiction novel of 2022. An incredible and highly creative book that highlights the realities of what our world’s trajectory could have looked like if an Eastern exploration had led to a more Eastern-led American continent was fascinating to see come to fruition, and the rich character dynamics and emotional storytelling will keep readers invested in this amazing author’s work. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!
About the Author
Alison McBain is a Pushcart Prize-nominated author with over two hundred short stories, poems, and articles published worldwide. Her books have been honored with gold in the Literary Classics International Book Awards, as well as being finalists in The Wishing Shelf Book Awards and IAN Book of the Year. Her forthcoming novel, The New Empire, won gold in the When Words Count Pitch Week contest and will be published in October 2022. When not writing, Ms. McBain is the associate editor for the literary magazine Scribes*MICRO*Fiction, co-editor of Morning Musings Magazine, and pens an award-winning webcomic called Toddler Times. She lives in Alberta, Canada.