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Four Treasures of the Sky

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Daiyu never wanted to be like the tragic heroine for whom she was named, revered for her beauty and cursed with heartbreak. But when she is kidnapped and smuggled across an ocean from China to America, Daiyu must relinquish the home and future she imagined for herself. Over the years that follow, she is forced to keep reinventing herself to survive. From a calligraphy scho Daiyu never wanted to be like the tragic heroine for whom she was named, revered for her beauty and cursed with heartbreak. But when she is kidnapped and smuggled across an ocean from China to America, Daiyu must relinquish the home and future she imagined for herself. Over the years that follow, she is forced to keep reinventing herself to survive. From a calligraphy school, to a San Francisco brothel, to a shop tucked into the Idaho mountains, we follow Daiyu on a desperate quest to outrun the tragedy that chases her. As anti-Chinese sentiment sweeps across the country in a wave of unimaginable violence, Daiyu must draw on each of the selves she has been—including the ones she most wants to leave behind—in order to finally claim her own name and story. At once a literary tour de force and a groundbreaking work of historical fiction, Four Treasures of the Sky announces Jenny Tinghui Zhang as an indelible new voice. Steeped in untold history and Chinese folklore, this novel is a spellbinding feat.


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Daiyu never wanted to be like the tragic heroine for whom she was named, revered for her beauty and cursed with heartbreak. But when she is kidnapped and smuggled across an ocean from China to America, Daiyu must relinquish the home and future she imagined for herself. Over the years that follow, she is forced to keep reinventing herself to survive. From a calligraphy scho Daiyu never wanted to be like the tragic heroine for whom she was named, revered for her beauty and cursed with heartbreak. But when she is kidnapped and smuggled across an ocean from China to America, Daiyu must relinquish the home and future she imagined for herself. Over the years that follow, she is forced to keep reinventing herself to survive. From a calligraphy school, to a San Francisco brothel, to a shop tucked into the Idaho mountains, we follow Daiyu on a desperate quest to outrun the tragedy that chases her. As anti-Chinese sentiment sweeps across the country in a wave of unimaginable violence, Daiyu must draw on each of the selves she has been—including the ones she most wants to leave behind—in order to finally claim her own name and story. At once a literary tour de force and a groundbreaking work of historical fiction, Four Treasures of the Sky announces Jenny Tinghui Zhang as an indelible new voice. Steeped in untold history and Chinese folklore, this novel is a spellbinding feat.

30 review for Four Treasures of the Sky

  1. 4 out of 5

    jessica

    this story is work of art. its a stunning piece of calligraphy, every word as intentional as a brushstroke, every scene as the impactful as the pressure of a hand, resulting in page after page of valuable meaning. and, after reading the authors note at the end, im even more in awe. JTZs father came across a marker referencing a moment in history while visiting idaho and asked her to write the story of what happened. the product of the request is this book. and i am so grateful for JTZs father fo this story is work of art. its a stunning piece of calligraphy, every word as intentional as a brushstroke, every scene as the impactful as the pressure of a hand, resulting in page after page of valuable meaning. and, after reading the authors note at the end, im even more in awe. JTZs father came across a marker referencing a moment in history while visiting idaho and asked her to write the story of what happened. the product of the request is this book. and i am so grateful for JTZs father for wanting such a story, because i had no idea how much i wanted it, too. the story of daiyu is full of trials and adversity, hope and optimism, strength and resilience. it it not a happy story, but it is a real one. an honest one. and it does right by daiyu. JTZ has handled her with love and care and has given a voice to a moment in history many people are unaware of. this is definitely one to pick up! ↠ 5 stars

  2. 4 out of 5

    Fran

    Lin Daiyu, born in a fishing village outside Zhifu, China, recounted memories of home. Grandmother had a large garden of vegetables and herbs. "In that garden, I learned to care for living things...my grandmother wanted to teach me...patience." "It was my mother who taught me how to be good with my hands." "My father taught me to work with my mind." When Daiyu was twelve years old, her parents disappeared. "Any day, the people who captured your parents will come for you, too", according to grandm Lin Daiyu, born in a fishing village outside Zhifu, China, recounted memories of home. Grandmother had a large garden of vegetables and herbs. "In that garden, I learned to care for living things...my grandmother wanted to teach me...patience." "It was my mother who taught me how to be good with my hands." "My father taught me to work with my mind." When Daiyu was twelve years old, her parents disappeared. "Any day, the people who captured your parents will come for you, too", according to grandmother. "Go to Zhifu...disappear in the city...". Dressed in boy's clothes, quilted jacket, and with a shaved head, Daiyu became Feng. His name was Master Wang. "Feng with the good hands" was hired to sweep the steps and the courtyard outside Wang's Calligraphy School. "[Daiyu/Feng] would become someone who did not bend to the will of fate and the stories she was named after...I began at once...I traced over the characters in the stone tiles [in the courtyard] I was ravenous for what calligraphy might bring me." A daily walk from Master Wang's to the fish market...a man in strange clothes...the promise of food from a noodle shop. At age thirteen, Daiyu aka Feng, was kidnapped. Held captive for more than one year, Feng was taught English, a language spoken half a world away. Smuggled into San Francisco in a bucket packed with coal, another reinvented life would begin. "Once I thought love was simple- a round embrace, a gentle kiss...I never even knew that there could be something that was so not love...Tonight, you can call me Peony." Daiyu was convinced that her namesake, a heroine who died an untimely death, was the cause of her troubles. Despite these misgivings, Daiyu's ghost becomes her sounding board and confidant. "In calligraphy, as in life, we do not retouch strokes, we must accept that what is done is done." "Lightning splits the sky into pieces and I think, this is what I look like inside, not a whole, but a many, separated by something I cannot control...could I ever be whole...ever call myself unified?" First Daiyu, then Feng, followed by Peony, and now Jacob Li working in the Old West in the mining town of Pierce, Idaho. "Four Treasures of the Sky" by debut author Jenny Tinghi Zhang is a powerful, eye-opening work of historical fiction which highlights a little known chapter in American history. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 created a ten year moratorium on Chinese labor immigration. A historical signpost on a road in Idaho denoting a vigilante hanging was the inspiration for this magnificent novel. Kudos to Zhang for a well researched, haunting, emotionally filled read with overtones of magical realism and Chinese folklore. Highly recommended. Thank you Flatiron Books and Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Angela M

    When I read historical fiction I want to come away learning something about the times it reflects. I want to come away with an emotional connection to the characters who represent those who lived then and I always hope for beautiful writing that will take me to that time and place. This debut novel is a powerful piece of historical fiction, based on a real event and inspired by the author’s father who asked her to write about something that impacted him while in Pierce, Idaho . Jenny Tinghui Zha When I read historical fiction I want to come away learning something about the times it reflects. I want to come away with an emotional connection to the characters who represent those who lived then and I always hope for beautiful writing that will take me to that time and place. This debut novel is a powerful piece of historical fiction, based on a real event and inspired by the author’s father who asked her to write about something that impacted him while in Pierce, Idaho . Jenny Tinghui Zhang gave me everything I hoped for. Daiyu, a young Chinese girl endures losses she doesn’t understand, is forced to leave her home in Zhifu, China in 1882 to stay safe and survive. Instead she meets a fate that brings danger in so many ways . Her fate also brings out her strength and her savvy intuition as she comes of age under horrific circumstances from China to San Francisco to Pierce, Idaho. Circumstances that reflect the terrible treatment of Chinese with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 banning Chinese immigrants. Heinous acts against Chinese immigrants when white men took the law in their own hands are at the center of this novel. It’s difficult to read about, but so important to get an understanding of what happened . Important to read because it sadly has relevance today as we witness frequently in the news hate crimes against Asian Americans today . I should mention that there is a ghost, but this is not a ghost story. It’s a stunning portrayal of historical events, brought to us through Daiyu, a character whose story broke my heart and a character that I won’t soon forget. An amazing debut. I received an advanced copy of this book from Flatiron/Macmillan through Edelweiss.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sujoya

    4.5⭐️ “My life was written for me from the moment the name was given to me. Or it was not. That is the true beauty. That is the intent. We can practice all we want, telling and retelling the same story, but the story that comes out of your mouth, from your brush, is one that only you can tell. So let it be. Let your story be yours, and my story be mine.” Daiyu always resented being named after a tragic heroine of Chinese literature (Lin Daiyu from Cao Xueqin's classic 18th-century Chinese novel Dr 4.5⭐️ “My life was written for me from the moment the name was given to me. Or it was not. That is the true beauty. That is the intent. We can practice all we want, telling and retelling the same story, but the story that comes out of your mouth, from your brush, is one that only you can tell. So let it be. Let your story be yours, and my story be mine.” Daiyu always resented being named after a tragic heroine of Chinese literature (Lin Daiyu from Cao Xueqin's classic 18th-century Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber), fearing that it would be ominous. Born to a family of tapestry merchants, her happy childhood is interrupted when at the age of twelve her parents suddenly disappear. Fearing for her grandchild's life, her grandmother dresses Daiyu as a boy and sends her to the port city of Zhifu. Once there, she, now calling herself “Feng”, is given shelter and work at the calligraphy school run by Master Wang. She develops an interest in the art of calligraphy and learns as much as she can eavesdropping while he instructs his students. The Master acknowledges her potential and here she learns about the Four Treasures of the Study, the principles of which have a deep impact on her and as the story progresses we see how Daiyu draws strength from what she had learned even in the darkest moments of her life. At the age of thirteen, she is kidnapped and trafficked to San Francisco (smuggled across the ocean in a barrel of coal) and sold to a brothel. As “Peony” she witnesses firsthand the violence and sexual brutality young girls like her are subject to and vows to find a way to return home. She manages to escape the brothel with the help of a kind patron who also gets her identification papers as “Jacob Li” but eventually betrays her. She moves on and ultimately finds herself in the employ of kind Chinese shopkeepers in the town of Pierce,Idaho. She intends to save enough from her earnings to buy herself a passage home. But the surge in anti-Asian sentiment fueled by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 triggers a series of events that changes her destiny irrevocably. “Daiyu to Feng to Peony to Jacob Li. When will I be me again? And if I become me again, will I know who she is?" Jenny Tinghui Zhang’s debut novel Four Treasures of the Sky is a tragic and heartbreaking story that combines historical fact, fiction, Chinese folklore and magical realism. The prose is beautiful and the characters memorable. Despite its slow start, the novel is evenly paced and at no point did I lose interest in Daiyu’s story. The episodes of brutality Daiyu witnessed and experienced in the course of her jouney are difficult to read. The author’s narrative tone in some parts might be interpreted by some as stilted or detached but I thought that the occasional factual, clipped tone of the narrative suited the story that was being told. I loved the segments on Chinese calligraphy and the description and symbolism of the different Chinese characters which are shared in the text. The author does a brilliant job in depicting Daiyu’s emotional growth through the years - from a trafficked child of thirteen in 1883 to a young girl who while admitting that she is safer dressed as a man also struggles with her feelings about Nelson, the young violin teacher she meets in Pierce. Daiyu’s interactions with the spirit of her fictional namesake Lin Daiyu that act as her inner voice and conscience throughout her journey, are depicted with much feeling and emotion as are Daiyu’s memories of Master Wang’s teachings and how she applies those principles in her life. The author also sheds a light on the xenophobia, racially-motivated violence and vigilantism that Chinese immigrants had to endure post the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 . The Page Act of 1875, which preceded the Chinese Exclusion Act and prohibited the entry of Chinese women into the United States is also mentioned. The author was inspired by true events, which she discusses in detail in her notes at the end of the book. Extremely well-researched and beautifully penned, this is a brilliant debut and I will be looking out for more of this author’s work in the future. “A line can only be called strong when it has the conviction to stay on paper. Strong lines are important, but how does one make a strong line with a soft brush? Answer: resilience. A resilient brush is one that, after depositing ink on paper, can spring back up in preparation for the next stroke. But resilience is not achieved by pressing harder. No, the artist must master the art of releasing the brush, giving it the space and freedom to find itself again. Resilience is simple, really. Know when to push and when to let go.”

  5. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Audiobook…read by Jenny Tinghui, and Katharine Chin …..12 hours and 18 minutes (absolutely terrific narration) NO SPOILERS…. [no book could be easier to write spoilers than this one]….. It’s sooo tempting, but I promise I won’t. It’s a book I’d love to discuss with others. Outstanding debut! The beginning was an ‘audiobook- ‘BANG’…..’BAM’…..’BAM’….. I couldn’t have gotten pulled into the ‘tragedy-happenings’ any faster if I had tried. The storytelling stayed this way > non-stop gripping-addicting li Audiobook…read by Jenny Tinghui, and Katharine Chin …..12 hours and 18 minutes (absolutely terrific narration) NO SPOILERS…. [no book could be easier to write spoilers than this one]….. It’s sooo tempting, but I promise I won’t. It’s a book I’d love to discuss with others. Outstanding debut! The beginning was an ‘audiobook- ‘BANG’…..’BAM’…..’BAM’….. I couldn’t have gotten pulled into the ‘tragedy-happenings’ any faster if I had tried. The storytelling stayed this way > non-stop gripping-addicting listening-tragedies-mixed with suspense-hope for almost the first half of the entire book… I’m telling you —it’s GOOD….tragic as hell — but GOOD…. It’s the type of storytelling that readers devour with all our senses. The prose is gorgeous….highly imagined….with an aura of wisdom and spiritually that’s not jammed down our throats — but is sincerely moving. It was easy to appreciate certain nuances about the tales and symbolism from calligraphy….and horrific to reflect on the tragedies of the realities. It’s not until the second half — where I felt the bigger purpose for this novel… Fact is….history teaches…. ……Americans have been brutally nasty to people from China, but rather than textbook telling … Jenny Tinghui Zhang wrote an intimate story following Lin Daiyu…..(with a *superb* supporting cast of characters), as she comes of age under devastating circumstances. ….an abandoned girl, disguised as a boy….as a man…horrors, hope, love, kidnapped, treated cruel, empowering family memories, (that helped to draw strength), at times starving — unbearable hunger….a few openings to greater days of possibilities—only to have life poison a young girls dreams…. forced to do hard labor work, forced to learn English, forced into sexual coercion > all these really awful things…. but the beauty, bravery, and storytelling prose is truly magnificent. Jenny Tinghui Zhang, did an outstanding job delivering this heart wrenching emotional - very personal historical novel. The authors notes are interesting. Jenny shared about the research she did, (Covid hit during parts of it), and her relationship between her parents — and how her own Dad had a great influence on in relation to writing this book. Just a wonderful complete package novel-experience.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Leighton

    Thank you to Flatiron and NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review! First off, as a reader of Chinese descent, I am so happy to support an author of Chinese descent. The best historical fiction novels uncover a forgotten part of history, and this book definitely did that for me. Although I had previously learned about the Chinese Exclusion Act and the influx of Chinese immigration to America during that time, I had mistakenly believed that laws at the time prevented Chinese women f Thank you to Flatiron and NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review! First off, as a reader of Chinese descent, I am so happy to support an author of Chinese descent. The best historical fiction novels uncover a forgotten part of history, and this book definitely did that for me. Although I had previously learned about the Chinese Exclusion Act and the influx of Chinese immigration to America during that time, I had mistakenly believed that laws at the time prevented Chinese women from leaving China. I had not known about the plight of girls and women who were kidnapped and sent to America to work in brothels. Thank you to the author for teaching me about this neglected part of history! Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang is a brutal and unflinching historical fiction novel about a 13 year-old girl who is kidnapped from China and sent to America with other Chinese girls to work in a brothel. Eventually, she escapes and disguises herself as a boy so that she won't get preyed on by perverts on the street. She finds work and makes friends and allies, but she must also deal with growing discrimination and racism against Chinese immigrants that resulted in many instances of violence and death. The story definitely doesn't shy away from violence and sensitive topics, including sexual assault, so if you are triggered and/or would prefer not to read about these topics, you should take that into consideration. Here is an excerpt from the beginning of Chapter 1: "When I am kidnapped, it does not happen in an alleyway. It does not happen in the middle of the night. It does not happen when I am alone. When I am kidnapped, I am thirteen and standing in the middle of the Zhifu fish market on Beach Road, watching a fleshy woman assemble white fish the shape of spades into a pile. The woman squats, her knees in her armpits, rearranging the fish so the best ones rise to the top. ... The whole place smells wet and raw. Someone yells about red snapper. Fresh, they say. Straight from the Gulf of Pechili. Another voice tumbles over that one, louder, brighter. Real shark fin! Boost sexual potency, make skin better, increase energy for your little emperor!"" Overall, Four Treasures of the Sky is a well-researched historical fiction novel that also added elements of Chinese myths, specifically in the form of a deity that shared Daiyu's name who talks to her sometimes. There is a lot to admire here, particularly the meticulous research that the author conducted in order to write accurately about the experiences of a Chinese girl in America during this time. Unfortunately, reading this book was not an enjoyable experience. I had to take off 2 stars because of the unrelenting violence and threats of rape that the main character experiences. Imagine if the Mulan movie, which had similar cross-dressing themes, ended with Mulan defeated by the Huns, never able to see her family again, and no happily ever after romance with Shang. Even if it was a historically dark and depressing time, I want to be able to feel hope or at least some happiness while reading a novel. Nevertheless, if you are intrigued by the excerpt above, or if you enjoy reading historical fiction, you can check out this book when it comes out in April 2022.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

    At the end of this novel, is a very informative and interesting author’s note about how the story is based on a real life unexplained event. I wish that this author’s note was at the beginning of the story instead of the end, so I could better prepare myself for what is to come, which is a story of emotional devastation caused by the real life actions of our own history as Americans. The novel follows Daiyu, whos difficult life in China becomes an even more difficult life in America when she is At the end of this novel, is a very informative and interesting author’s note about how the story is based on a real life unexplained event. I wish that this author’s note was at the beginning of the story instead of the end, so I could better prepare myself for what is to come, which is a story of emotional devastation caused by the real life actions of our own history as Americans. The novel follows Daiyu, whos difficult life in China becomes an even more difficult life in America when she is kidnapped off the streets and forced to immigrate into the sex trade. The novel has an amazing beauty which perfectly mixes hope and tragedy throughout the story. While the story could almost feel exploitative in lesser hands, Zhang’s writing never makes it feel that way. It always felt like a real life story that happened and needed to be told. The magical realism interspersed within the story is often something that I am not a huge fan of but felt like it worked here completely. Daiyu has asides talking to the ‘ghost’ of her namesake. It was a great narrative way to express the trauma and loneliness she herself is facing. Daiyu is a wonderful and beautiful character who throughout her journey never really loses her sense of hope and wonder or her ability to love and be kind even when faced with the worst of people. She represents the best of youth and character and you want the absolute best for her. The side characters involved are written richly and create a great sense of a real community which is facing such deep opposition to their very existence. This book is obviously filled with tons of deeper and darker subjects. I knew very little about the Chinese Exclusion Acts. I remember learning that people from China immigrated to build railroads and then…that’s it. That’s as far as it went for schooling. This story focuses on the exploitation, racism, and segregation that the Chinese community faced after traveling all this way to a supposed land of hope. Daiyu is also dragged into the sex trade and this form of abuse is focused on in the beginning half of the book. It's a dark and tragic story but it is absolutely beautiful while telling it. I would recommend reading this with a few tissues handy. This is also a debut novel which is AMAZING. I will definitely be looking out for this author in the future. Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan Audio for a copy of this audiobook. It was narrated by Katherine Chin who did an absolutely wonderful job.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Greendale

    "A propulsive and dazzling debut novel set against the backdrop of the Chinese Exclusion Act, about a Chinese girl fighting to claim her place in the 1880s American West." "A propulsive and dazzling debut novel set against the backdrop of the Chinese Exclusion Act, about a Chinese girl fighting to claim her place in the 1880s American West."

  9. 4 out of 5

    Meagan (Meagansbookclub)

    Rounding up to 5 ⭐️ Audiobook Review I don’t think I’ve ever read a book like this before. My reason for picking it up was to learn more about the Chinese Exclusion Act, but what kept me reading was this layered story that tugged at my heart start to finish! I loved the poetic writing! I think what kept me from giving it a perfect 5 stars is that this book was set in the late 1800’s but it felt too modern at times. I don’t know if that makes sense. It just felt like too modern and not so “old fa Rounding up to 5 ⭐️ Audiobook Review I don’t think I’ve ever read a book like this before. My reason for picking it up was to learn more about the Chinese Exclusion Act, but what kept me reading was this layered story that tugged at my heart start to finish! I loved the poetic writing! I think what kept me from giving it a perfect 5 stars is that this book was set in the late 1800’s but it felt too modern at times. I don’t know if that makes sense. It just felt like too modern and not so “old fashioned.” I loved the authors note at the end, I think that was what really helped around out my review! So many incidences that happened in the story were true, which made it even more heartbreaking. The audio was really well done.

  10. 4 out of 5

    — Massiel

    Why do I feel I'm going to cry with this book? BRING THOSE TEARS TO ME. Why do I feel I'm going to cry with this book? BRING THOSE TEARS TO ME.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jenifer Greenwell

    4.5 stars rounded up. This book broke my heart, and took my breath away. I finished this last week after spending 2 nights of marathon reading. I needed to wait a while before reviewing. Incredibly good writing which kept me so interested, I barely slept for the 2-3 days it took me to finish it. I'm not going to explain the story, as so many other reviewers do, you can read the description given by Goodreads. What I am going to do is say that this book is a must-read. I'd like to thank Flatiron 4.5 stars rounded up. This book broke my heart, and took my breath away. I finished this last week after spending 2 nights of marathon reading. I needed to wait a while before reviewing. Incredibly good writing which kept me so interested, I barely slept for the 2-3 days it took me to finish it. I'm not going to explain the story, as so many other reviewers do, you can read the description given by Goodreads. What I am going to do is say that this book is a must-read. I'd like to thank Flatiron Books for my ARC that I won in a Goodreads giveaway.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bon

    Happy release day! Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan Audio for an advanced audio copy of Four Treasures of the Sky. This title drops on April 5th and if you enjoy historical fiction and a lens thrown on rarely-spotlighted history, it is for you. This is a book that hits hard in the emotions and doesn’t stop hitting. It holds up a mirror to the average white American and says “did your history class cover this?” and no, my classes certainly did not. This book hurt to read, but it hurts more to k Happy release day! Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan Audio for an advanced audio copy of Four Treasures of the Sky. This title drops on April 5th and if you enjoy historical fiction and a lens thrown on rarely-spotlighted history, it is for you. This is a book that hits hard in the emotions and doesn’t stop hitting. It holds up a mirror to the average white American and says “did your history class cover this?” and no, my classes certainly did not. This book hurt to read, but it hurts more to know that mainstream American education just omits so much of our worst doings. It is relentlessly grim, readers should know, but I don’t think that’s a reason to knock significant stars off your review, as I’ve seen others do. Lin Daiyu is a girl named after a tragic romance heroine in perhaps a significant foreshadowing of Daiyu’s own fate. When she is suddenly left to fend for herself, without family or connections, she dresses as a boy and makes her way to a calligraphy school to find shelter and a living. There her worldview and frame of reference are shaped by the eloquent lessons calligraphy teach her. The different radicals that go into a Chinese character, every stroke coalescing into a beautiful little almost-poem, inform Daiyu’s narration as she struggles to make sense of the cruel world around her. I enjoyed how much calligraphy would come up later, how it is a consistent line through the plot. I listened to the audio format as mentioned, and Katharine Chin is a beautiful narrator. She does justice to the Chinese in the book while making the story more than the sum of its parts, the trademark of whether or not a book serves well as an audiobook for me. You feel painful passages, you’re touched at the inspiring ones. I ended the book crying at work, so, good job to Katharine. The book is realistic and gritty, following Lin Daiyu through being trafficked to the United States, forced to work in a brothel, and her subsequent escape and struggle to survive, to try to make it back to China. Her personal struggles are shadowed by sexual violence and the ongoing threat of sexual assault for much of the book, as well as the specter of the Chinese exclusion act and increasing anti-Chinese sentiment and violence. The book feels so eerily timely to publish when and where we are now in America. History often feels like a wheel, and the worst kind of wheel. I will say that enjoyment of a book should play into a rating, not just the craft, research and content. For that I will mark this overall four stars, because it is very sad, and there is minimal emotional payoff for any optimistic readers. But it is also inspiring and educational, the research and emotional investment I was coerced into are very effective and the book deserves high marks. The author’s note is well worth listening to or reading, by the way.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Fanna

    It’s often interesting to see what motivated an author to craft a particular story. Especially when the push to create something powerful comes from empathy for the powerless. Like Sabaa Tahir who says her own experience of growing up as a kid who didn’t fit in and then reading about various stories of some absolutely voiceless people when she worked as a copy editor for Washington Post’s international desk, inspired her to finally write An Ember in the Ashes. So it’s no surprise to find —throug It’s often interesting to see what motivated an author to craft a particular story. Especially when the push to create something powerful comes from empathy for the powerless. Like Sabaa Tahir who says her own experience of growing up as a kid who didn’t fit in and then reading about various stories of some absolutely voiceless people when she worked as a copy editor for Washington Post’s international desk, inspired her to finally write An Ember in the Ashes. So it’s no surprise to find —through the book’s author note— that Jenny Tinghui Zhang’s Four Treasures of the Sky came into existence after her father requested her to write a story based on what he had come across: a marker, while visiting a site in Idaho, referencing to an incident of 1885 when five Chinese people were hanged by vigilantes. The raw intention that must have fuelled Zhang when first drafting this novel is evident from a plot that doesn’t hold back on what can happen —must have happened and is still happening— to those who are destined to or want their stories to span two continents, two directions: the East and the West. It’s a historical fiction that draws on the infamous Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that was founded on anti-Asian sentiments in America. But there’s a sense of urgency in this fiction that reads real and the historical context that unfortunately holds true even in present times. Consider reading this review over on my blog. “When I am kidnapped, it does not happen in an alleyway. It does not happen in the middle of the night. It does not happen when I am alone.” From the very first line, Zhang warns you that the story isn’t one you would expect, especially if you wish for it to abide by what you must have already read with respect to the plot’s events. Daiyu, a thirteen-year-old girl, was born in a Chinese village where she had a place and its people to call home: her grandmother taught her patience while learning to care for the living things in her garden; her mother taught her how to be good with hands while she made tapestries; and her smart father taught her to work with her mind. But this family also gave her the name of a tragic heroine. From the story of Dream of the Red Chamber, one of China’s four great classic novels, Lin Daiyu is a poet who fell in love with a boy above her in the pyramid of social hierarchy. When the boy’s family disapproves of the match and disguises another girl as their son’s one true love on his wedding day, Lin Daiyu falls terribly ill and dies. Daiyu frequently wonders throughout the story if she would succumb to the misfortune of the character she is named after, and constantly tries to run away from the destiny attached to this name. Every adversity in her life is blamed on the fate her name holds. Like the first domino falling, her parents disappear and her grandmother warns her that the same people who captured her parents would come for her too —urging her to run away to the city. The city teaches her she can’t be a girl anymore if she wishes to survive. So with a jacket and shaved head, she becomes Feng. Sweeping steps outside the calligraphy school, she discovers her interest in the art form and the father-like Master Wang teaches her how to write. Zhang’s research shines through these pages of momentary happiness in our protagonist’s life as a lyrical meditation on the language and its beautiful strokes can be witnessed. The idea of how one’s first language shapes them is unmissable. Another domino subsequently falls when Daiyu is kidnapped at the fish market by a dangerous Chinese gang. A year locked in a dark room, forced to learn English, Daiyu traces Chinese characters with her fingers in hope for familiarity, home, and roots —recounting the significance of each stroke in a character. Shipped to America to be sold to a brothel, Daiyu’s destiny is once again indisputable and devastating. It is here that the ‘timely’ historical fiction interspersed with Chinese mythology makes space for magical realism when Daiyu’s namesake appears as a ghost. The spirit acts as a materialisation of what our heroine believed was only her, of what she believed was now only hers to suffer through: the cruel fate married to this name. The teenage Daiyu’s trauma finds a release in the times she summons the ghost. The United States teaches Daiyu that here, she doesn’t need to disguise herself as a boy to be safe, because it is just as dangerous for Chinese men as it is for Chinese women. But that bit of her identity isn’t changeable; it can’t be taken off like a jacket. She realises the injustices are different on this other side of the world but aren’t any less brutal. Like the very many starts to Daiyu’s story— the author subtly begins a lot of sections with the phrase, “This is the story of…” —through the course of this journey, another blank page is drawn to start over when she escapes to Idaho. In this mining town, she creates a new life disguised as a man. Four Treasures of the Sky isn’t easy to read but it’s easy to comprehend as one meant to be difficult. It explores the exploitation, fetishization, segregation, and blatant racism faced by the Chinese in a land they come to with hope or are dragged to with abuse. At the core of it all, this debut is dark and tragic. It’s not one you can escape through. It’s one your emotions will force you to hold on to as Zhang’s poetic prose unravels a story of reclamation—even though there’s no justice, no closure, no happiness at the end. Though, there is a reminder and an encouragement throughout. Thank you, Flatiron Books, for the review copy!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Fadwa (Word Wonders)

    Content warnings:(view spoiler)[rape, human trafficking, forced prostitution, sexual assault, physical assault, kidnapping, hanging, murder, gunshots, racism, hate crimes. (hide spoiler)] This book is so haunting. It has a multitude of stories within the same story. It's the story of a Chinese girl who gets stolen from China and trafficked into the US to work at a brothel, it's a story of five Chinese men who get framed for the murder of a white man, and it's the untold story of so many Chinese p Content warnings:(view spoiler)[rape, human trafficking, forced prostitution, sexual assault, physical assault, kidnapping, hanging, murder, gunshots, racism, hate crimes. (hide spoiler)] This book is so haunting. It has a multitude of stories within the same story. It's the story of a Chinese girl who gets stolen from China and trafficked into the US to work at a brothel, it's a story of five Chinese men who get framed for the murder of a white man, and it's the untold story of so many Chinese people who lived in the US during and around the Chinese partition act (I highly recommend listening to the audiobook if you can, it has an interview with the author at the end that explains a lot of her influences). It's also a story about identity, about the way our names haunt and defines us, a story about reclaiming your story and about how far we are willing to go for the sake of survival. This was a hard read, but a heartbreakingly beautiful one.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)

    3.5 stars I don't always do well with present-tense writing, but this author has a really interesting (to me) narrative style, which is probably what kept me reading all the way to the end. This is a well-told, albeit disturbing, story based on some real events, all about the way Chinese immigrants were treated here in America in the late nineteenth century. Specifically it deals with those who were kidnapped in China and brought to America to be sold into servitude. Although I did enjoy it, there 3.5 stars I don't always do well with present-tense writing, but this author has a really interesting (to me) narrative style, which is probably what kept me reading all the way to the end. This is a well-told, albeit disturbing, story based on some real events, all about the way Chinese immigrants were treated here in America in the late nineteenth century. Specifically it deals with those who were kidnapped in China and brought to America to be sold into servitude. Although I did enjoy it, there was one thing that preoccupied me way more than it should have. There's a young woman who pretends to be a man for a very long period of time. Given the circumstances of her life during that time, there is no way she could have gone that long without being found out, because she would have had to squat to pee! Sorry folks, but this issue was never dealt with in the story, and it made the whole thing less plausible for me.

  16. 4 out of 5

    lisa (taylor's version)

    this book is more than words on paper, it's art and jenny tinghui is a very capable artist. four treasures of the sky is brutal but also incredibly lyrical. rare is a book that is honest about the dark reality of chinese people's fate in america in the 19th century but still retains such beauty. *4.5/5 this book is more than words on paper, it's art and jenny tinghui is a very capable artist. four treasures of the sky is brutal but also incredibly lyrical. rare is a book that is honest about the dark reality of chinese people's fate in america in the 19th century but still retains such beauty. *4.5/5

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kim Lockhart

    This is a stunning debut novel about the Chinese Exclusion Act, the objectification of Asian women and girls, and the obstacles which face all immigrants, woven into a beautifully written narrative. I felt this one in my bones.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lea

    Got to read this one a little early (Thank You @netgalley ) The Chinese Exclusion Act is a part of history we are not taught about in school. This story is a based on a fictional Chinese girl that happened in a very real time in the United States in the 1880’s. Lots of trigger warnings in this book but it is an important story to be told. This is one of those books where you keep thinking things have to get better for the main character and they only keep getting worse. I really enjoyed followin Got to read this one a little early (Thank You @netgalley ) The Chinese Exclusion Act is a part of history we are not taught about in school. This story is a based on a fictional Chinese girl that happened in a very real time in the United States in the 1880’s. Lots of trigger warnings in this book but it is an important story to be told. This is one of those books where you keep thinking things have to get better for the main character and they only keep getting worse. I really enjoyed following Daiyu’s journey and am glad I had a chance to read this one before it is released in April 2022. Fans of historical fiction put this on your list! 📚”Daiyu never wanted to be like the tragic heroine for whom she was named, revered for her beauty and cursed with heartbreak. But when she is kidnapped and smuggled across an ocean from China to America, Daiyu must relinquish the home and future she imagined for herself. Over the years that follow, she is forced to keep reinventing herself to survive. From a calligraphy school, to a San Francisco brothel, to a shop tucked into the Idaho mountains, we follow Daiyu on a desperate quest to outrun the tragedy that chases her. As anti-Chinese sentiment sweeps across the country in a wave of unimaginable violence, Daiyu must draw on each of the selves she has been—including the ones she most wants to leave behind—in order to finally claim her own name and story. At once a literary tour de force and a groundbreaking work of historical fiction, Four Treasures of the Sky announces Jenny Tinghui Zhang as an indelible new voice. Steeped in untold history and Chinese folklore, this novel is a spellbinding feat.” (Amazon)

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    This was definitely not the easiest of reads, but "Four Treasures of the Sky" has already been one of the most memorable books I've encountered this year. The story is told from the perspective of Lin Daiyu, a Chinese girl who grows up in a fishing village out of Zhifu, China in the late 19th century. Her life gets upended when her parents mysteriously disappear overnight, and she's forced to try and survive on her own. Daiyu's journey takes her across the world, starting with a calligraphy schoo This was definitely not the easiest of reads, but "Four Treasures of the Sky" has already been one of the most memorable books I've encountered this year. The story is told from the perspective of Lin Daiyu, a Chinese girl who grows up in a fishing village out of Zhifu, China in the late 19th century. Her life gets upended when her parents mysteriously disappear overnight, and she's forced to try and survive on her own. Daiyu's journey takes her across the world, starting with a calligraphy school in Zhifu, a brothel in California, to a small general store in Idaho, Daiyu learns the cruel truths of the world, especially in the midst of the Chinese Exclusion Act which pits her race against the rest of America. There are a lot of hardships that befall Daiyu, and perhaps here it would be best to note a large TW for sexual abuse, kidnapping, and violence. In between these terrible situations that she's forced into and the people she meets who consistently try to take advantage of her, there are are small glimmers of hope and joy interspersed between them. Her ultimate goal, to claim her own name and identity, is one that many of us can empathize with and the final ending of the book allows her to meet it on her own terms. I really enjoyed Zhang's prose and sentence structure, and how she was able to convey Daiyu's emotions and thoughts. I appreciated as well that she was able to highlight a point in history that isn't often written about, especially in the midst of the present anti-AAPI violence movement. Thank you Flatiron Books for an advance copy of this novel!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mainlinebooker

    This is one of those transporting and immersive books that you don't want to end. Inclusion, kinship, love and identity form the floorboards of this novel which encapsulates both China and the American West in the 1800's. There was a lyrical mellifluous weaving of a calligrapher's life intertwined with the racist oppression and injustice against the Chinese in the US. What should have felt discordant did not. In fact, one of the great unintended pleasures of this book was reading about the brush This is one of those transporting and immersive books that you don't want to end. Inclusion, kinship, love and identity form the floorboards of this novel which encapsulates both China and the American West in the 1800's. There was a lyrical mellifluous weaving of a calligrapher's life intertwined with the racist oppression and injustice against the Chinese in the US. What should have felt discordant did not. In fact, one of the great unintended pleasures of this book was reading about the brushes and brush work, the ink and the ink stones and the various surfaces used for calligraphy. In the book, one learns that one of the greatest honor's is for a newborn's hair to be used as a brush so that his art would be an extension of himself. Combining diverse Chinese mythologies with the atrocious history archives was enriching and educational. However, it clamors to be be broadcast...why are we still in this same xenophobic world today? This is just a poignant novel, full of great characters and a wonderful bildungsroman. Do yourself a favor, get the book, and then dive deeply.

  21. 5 out of 5

    jasmine

    Set against the backdrop of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Four Treasures of the Sky is about a young girl, Lin Daiyu being kidnapped from China and sold to America. If you're looking for a story about triumphing over suffering, this is not it. Throughout the book, we follow Daiyu travelling through continents and states, searching for a way back home. Readers are brought into different settings and meet new characters along the way. I appreciate how broad the scope of the story is. We learn about the Set against the backdrop of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Four Treasures of the Sky is about a young girl, Lin Daiyu being kidnapped from China and sold to America. If you're looking for a story about triumphing over suffering, this is not it. Throughout the book, we follow Daiyu travelling through continents and states, searching for a way back home. Readers are brought into different settings and meet new characters along the way. I appreciate how broad the scope of the story is. We learn about the local Chinese experience back in China, living in a fishing village and experiencing gender disparity in education. To being kidnapped and looking into the business of human trafficking. Surviving the brothel and later work with a shopkeeper. Loosely based on the event of Chinese Hanging Tree, the author’s note at the end informs us about her inspiration and the tons of research done in writing this book. However, the writing is a miss for me. Following after Sally Rooney, it seems like a trend to not use the quotation mark. I read several books this year without quotation marks and Four Treasure of the Sky is the plainest one among all. The writing is straightforward and felt like a stretch of sufferings and rumination. It can get pretty hard to get through the story. Four Treasures of the Sky is a character-driven story about finding your identity despite tough circumstances. Swept into the world of Chinese folklore and an untold past, I found it an accessible historical fiction for all. Rating: 3.5 ⭐

  22. 4 out of 5

    Harris

    There was so much that worked well with this book: 1880s history, the art of calligraphy, a kidnapping, forced labor in a brothel, concealing one's true identity, the Chinese Exclusion Act. Not that all of these are good things, but perfect aspects of storytelling that demonstrated a well-formed character arc. But I couldn't get past Lin Daiyu constantly interacting with the "spirit" of her namesake. It was a distraction from Lin's transformation from Lin to Feng to Peony to Jacob. I get that it There was so much that worked well with this book: 1880s history, the art of calligraphy, a kidnapping, forced labor in a brothel, concealing one's true identity, the Chinese Exclusion Act. Not that all of these are good things, but perfect aspects of storytelling that demonstrated a well-formed character arc. But I couldn't get past Lin Daiyu constantly interacting with the "spirit" of her namesake. It was a distraction from Lin's transformation from Lin to Feng to Peony to Jacob. I get that it was a form of internal thought, but it didn't work for me.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Elena L.

    [3.5/5 stars] Set against the backdrop of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, FOUR TREASURES OF THE SKY follows Daiyu, a Chinese girl who is kidnapped from China to America. Being a reader of Chinese descent, I was utterly excited to read this debut - Zhang excels at using calligraphy as the base of the story, minutely exploring the ideograms root. I thought it was utterly original tooling calligraphy to cultivate one's character, weaving Chinese history into the characters. We follow the main chara [3.5/5 stars] Set against the backdrop of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, FOUR TREASURES OF THE SKY follows Daiyu, a Chinese girl who is kidnapped from China to America. Being a reader of Chinese descent, I was utterly excited to read this debut - Zhang excels at using calligraphy as the base of the story, minutely exploring the ideograms root. I thought it was utterly original tooling calligraphy to cultivate one's character, weaving Chinese history into the characters. We follow the main character as she desires to be in control of her fate and change the fact that her life has been written by her name (Lin Daiyu), a tragic Chinese heroine. Her journey is heartbreaking and Zhang draws a multilayered character - the moments of introspection and dialogues with her inner self are brilliant and immersive. Furthermore, the story shines with moral between the lines. I thought the incorporation of atrocities and microaggressions towards Chinese people was well-done, highlighting the Anti-Chinese violence occurred across the country during the mid-late nineteenth century, unknown by many and still a recurrent event nowadays. With straightforward writing, the story is often depressing. I must say that the characters aren't the most memorable, however Zhang succeeds in an attempt to deliver a powerful message. My complaint is the uneven pacing, so for those looking for a fast-paced read, this isn't it. Having said that, the pacing picks up towards the end and the realistic ending makes this book worth a read. Lastly, I appreciate the author's note that allows a deeper understanding of the story. FOUR TREASURES OF THE SKY is a well-researched debut that you should read. [ I received an eARC from the publisher - Flatiron Books - in exchange for an honest review ]

  24. 5 out of 5

    Elena L.

    [3.5/5 stars] Set against the backdrop of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, FOUR TREASURES OF THE SKY follows Daiyu, a Chinese girl who is kidnapped from China to America. Being a reader of Chinese descent, I was utterly excited to read this debut - Zhang excels at using calligraphy as the base of the story, minutely exploring the ideograms root. I was surprised by the originality of Zhang tooling calligraphy to cultivate one's character, weaving Chinese history into the characters. We follow the [3.5/5 stars] Set against the backdrop of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, FOUR TREASURES OF THE SKY follows Daiyu, a Chinese girl who is kidnapped from China to America. Being a reader of Chinese descent, I was utterly excited to read this debut - Zhang excels at using calligraphy as the base of the story, minutely exploring the ideograms root. I was surprised by the originality of Zhang tooling calligraphy to cultivate one's character, weaving Chinese history into the characters. We follow the main character as she desires to be in control of her fate and change the fact that her life has been written by her name (Lin Daiyu), a tragic Chinese heroine. Her journey is heartbreaking and Zhang draws a multilayered character - the moments of introspection and dialogues with her inner self are brilliant and immersive. Furthermore, the story shines with moral between the lines. I thought the incorporation of atrocities and microaggressions towards Chinese people was well-done, highlighting the Anti-Chinese violence occurred across the country during the mid-late nineteenth century, unknown by many and still a recurrent event nowadays. With straightforward writing, the story is often depressing. I must say that the characters aren't the most memorable, however Zhang succeeds in an attempt to deliver a powerful message. My complaint is the uneven pacing, so for those looking for a fast-paced read, this isn't it. Having said that, the pacing picks up towards the end and the realistic ending makes this book worth a read. Lastly, I appreciate the author's note that allows a deeper understanding of the story. FOUR TREASURES OF THE SKY is a well-researched historical fiction that you should read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Gagne

    This was a deeply painful read that I won't be forgetting anytime soon. In 1875, the U.S. banned Chinese women from entering the country. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed, banning all people of Chinese nationality from immigrating to the United States. And in 1883, Daiyu, the narrator of the novel, is kidnapped from China and smuggled into San Francisco by the Hip Yee tong. Daiyu is forced to take on many false identities as the years pass: Feng, Peony, Jacob Li. And to protect herself This was a deeply painful read that I won't be forgetting anytime soon. In 1875, the U.S. banned Chinese women from entering the country. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed, banning all people of Chinese nationality from immigrating to the United States. And in 1883, Daiyu, the narrator of the novel, is kidnapped from China and smuggled into San Francisco by the Hip Yee tong. Daiyu is forced to take on many false identities as the years pass: Feng, Peony, Jacob Li. And to protect herself from the dangers of men, gangs, and xenophobic violence, she must call on all she has learned from her journey. This book exposes a chapter of American history that is too often suppressed from view. It is a dark period filled with violence, and therefore it is an emotionally challenging novel to get through. While Daiyu's story is fictional, the things that she endured were very real in our history and that's a hard thing to cope with. The author includes some detailed accounts of violence in many forms, some physical and some mental, so readers who check for trigger warnings should use caution. For those who do read this book, you will find the poetic and tragic story of a girl who loves art, calligraphy, music; who longs for the love and safety of family and home; who is afraid to stand for what's right in a world full of danger and hate but who tries nonetheless, guided by the kindness of the loved ones she lost so many years ago.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I am greatly disappointed by this book. I wish I would go with my gut and not read books that are universally lauded by reviewers and publishers. Inevitably they are not as advertised. Perhaps this would be better tagged as YA? It reminded me of Year of Wonders, for its anachronistic historical depiction of a young woman rising above trauma during a tumultuous era. I started the book greatly confused by the time period--was it modern day? Set during the Cultural Revolution? In fact it took place I am greatly disappointed by this book. I wish I would go with my gut and not read books that are universally lauded by reviewers and publishers. Inevitably they are not as advertised. Perhaps this would be better tagged as YA? It reminded me of Year of Wonders, for its anachronistic historical depiction of a young woman rising above trauma during a tumultuous era. I started the book greatly confused by the time period--was it modern day? Set during the Cultural Revolution? In fact it took place in the mid-late 1800's, which should have been a red flag for me. I kept listening, as I had downloaded this thanks to a generous gift. The numerous terrible events that befall one child, her ability to immediately learn English and read it while being kept captive in a completely black cell, her escaping the brothel, her de-riddling of the American capitalist system, along with the judiciary "process" is all...incredible. Oh well. Once a year I end up reading a book through to the bitter end that I do not enjoy.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Haley

    Incredible book! 10/10 a must read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    Thank you to Flatiron Books for this ARC in exchange for an honest review. I originally rated this book 4 stars because I really liked it, but wasn't a fan of the ending. I took a few days to let the book's ending settle in my thoughts before I wrote this review, and because I cannot get the character of Daiyu and her life out of my mind, to me that is the sign of a great book, so I changed this to 5 stars. My criteria for rating a book 5 stars is one that I consider amazing, or has me thinking abo Thank you to Flatiron Books for this ARC in exchange for an honest review. I originally rated this book 4 stars because I really liked it, but wasn't a fan of the ending. I took a few days to let the book's ending settle in my thoughts before I wrote this review, and because I cannot get the character of Daiyu and her life out of my mind, to me that is the sign of a great book, so I changed this to 5 stars. My criteria for rating a book 5 stars is one that I consider amazing, or has me thinking about it long after I've read the last page, or one that I would 100% recommend to others. This book meets all those criteria. I'm not giving a synopsis of this book, because Goodreads provides a good summary of the book in its description. Instead I like to summarize what I did and did not like about a book. What I liked: - the story itself. It is captivating and interesting. It tells the tale of Daiyu who was born in China, what happens to her parents, why she moves to the city Zhifu, how she comes to work for a calligrapher (and the impact he has on her), how she gets kidnapped then smuggled into San Francisco, how she ends up in a brothel and how she gets out, then ends up working in a store in Idaho. Hers is a tumultuous life full of tragedy and people who have a big impact on her, both her circumstances and her thoughts / feelings. The book pulls the reader in right away, chapter one, sentence one: "When I am kidnapped, it does not happen in an alleyway. It does not happen in the middle of the night. It does not happen when I am alone." - the historical context. While living in Idaho in the late 1880s, Daiyu and her Chinese friends are subjected to racism and cruelty due to the anti-Chinese sentiment of the times. During this period, the Chinese Exclusion Act is signed into law, which further fuels the flames of tensions. A "trial" takes place, during which the accused are not allowed to testify in court because they are Chinese. It was interesting, although horrifying, to learn this part of history in the US, how Chinese were treated during this period of time and the actual policies that the US government implemented, making it worse. - use of Lin Daiyu for inner conflict. Daiyu was named after Lin Daiyu, a mythical young woman who dies tragically due to a broken heart. Throughout her life when facing decisions and challenging times, Daiyu (the main character) has internal and very emotional conversations with Lin Daiyu to discuss and argue certain decisions and actions. It was a clever way to show the inner conflict that Daiyu has when trying to make the best choices for herself. - inclusion of Chinese characters. Frequently throughout the book, the author includes Chinese symbols for certain words. It was insightful to read how Daiyu saw these words built. For example, Daiyu saw the symbol for man as a field and a plow, the plow a symbol of power. The symbol for her friend Swallow as built on a bird + wings, and must include fire beneath it all. Her friend would not be burned but would BE the fire. - chapter approach. I found the approach where the author has one chapter dealing with a specific topic and events in the past, where the subsequent multiple chapters unfold to show how we got to that point. This is done several times throughout the book. The chapters are not laid out in an alternating timeline, rather an older time frame chapter is used as an intro to a new plot sequence. It worked very well, and made the book all that more intriguing. - character depth. This book was well written with the thoughts and feelings expressed by Daiyu so captivating, that I found myself cheering inwardly when things went well for Daiyu, groaning out loud when things did not go well for her, absolutely angry at certain people that Daiyu has the unfortunate luck to encounter (such as Jasper the kidnapper and Madam Lee the brothel madam), and at times I was downright sad for the tragic events she had to endure. When Daiyu is being driven to the brothel, she and the other young girl in the carriage sit next to each other but "We did not speak to each other. To do so would be to confirm that this was real". - the writing. This book is beautifully written. Her description of a piece of paper with calligraphy inked onto it, a letter that is very important to Daiyu and her friend: "When he holds it up to the window, light pierces through and I can see all the black characters at once, like small bones in the paper's flesh. It looks strong". Several of the chapters that begin a new direction begin with 'This is a story"... .the end of the sentence changes throughout. I thought this was a great way to tie the different phases of Daiyu's life together. For example: "This is a story of a magical stone. It is a story told to me by my grandmother." "This is the story of a girl who arrived in Zhifu on the back of a wagon". "This is the story of a coal bucket that floated across an ocean". "This is the story of how a boy became a man". - there was an underlying theme of strength in this book. Over and over Daiyu wishes to be stronger like a man so she will not fall prey to what a young woman could be subjected to, and she becomes stronger internally with her learnings from working with the calligraphy teacher. Some quotes that jumped out at me as so very insightful: - "There is no such thing as luck, I told him. Luck is just readiness that meets opportunity". - "Here I am finally free, but with that freedom comes a new decree: to stay free, you must stay hidden." - "On mornings like this, I unwrap the heat-filled memories of my childhood, hoping they will warm me". - "I have been practicing for this moment, putting myself through danger again and again, waiting for the one day when I could recognize it". Because I like to include what I did and did not like about a book in my review, I tried to come up with any points that I did NOT like, and honestly I couldn't think of any. The only thing I didn't like was the ending. But it doesn't mean the ending was poorly written or not inline with the rest of the book. I don't want to say more than that because it will start straying into the 'spoiler alert' zone. As I reread my review, I realize it sounds like this is a sad book... yes it has some sad parts but the story is so captivating and well written, it is definitely worth it!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Elisabeth

    Beautifully written. Tragically played out.

  30. 4 out of 5

    ash

    t̶h̶i̶s̶ i̶s̶ a̶ w̶o̶r̶k̶ o̶f̶ f̶i̶c̶t̶i̶o̶n̶. this is a work of art. this story is about daiyu who grows up in a small fishing town near zhifu. she is forced to leave her place under unfortunate circumstances. from there begins her journey to zhifu where she works as an apprentice under a calligraphy master in the disguise of a man, and later on is kidnapped to america. daiyu’s story is full of trials and tribulations, where she shows her strength and resilience. there’s the chinese exclusion ac t̶h̶i̶s̶ i̶s̶ a̶ w̶o̶r̶k̶ o̶f̶ f̶i̶c̶t̶i̶o̶n̶. this is a work of art. this story is about daiyu who grows up in a small fishing town near zhifu. she is forced to leave her place under unfortunate circumstances. from there begins her journey to zhifu where she works as an apprentice under a calligraphy master in the disguise of a man, and later on is kidnapped to america. daiyu’s story is full of trials and tribulations, where she shows her strength and resilience. there’s the chinese exclusion act of 1882, which pits all americans against the chinese living there, the idaho massacre where a group of chinese miners were murdered – these historical events put throughout the story make it very authentic. four treasures in the sky is not an easy story to read, particularly as a woman, but a real one. i am so glad JZT’s dad came across that history marker about idaho, and asked her to write about it. this story is one of those which was always meant to be told.

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