The Pirate Empress

Written by Deborah Cannon
Review by Fiona Ness

Women do not inherit anything but misery in China,” is the caustic sentiment expressed to a Ming princess named Li in Deborah Cannon’s sprawling historical-fantasy epic The Pirate Empress.

Li finds herself in the center of a vast and very tangled web of palace intrigue, imperial politics, and of course plenty of derring-do on the ocean, as she’s forced into marriage with a brutal sea captain in order to further her quest to save her kidnapped son, who has prophesied to become an emperor, a future Son of Heaven.

Complicated forces are aligning against that destiny, and hovering over friend and foe alike is the supernatural Fox Faerie, who seeks the destruction of all mankind. Readers who might remember Barry Hugheart’s wonderful fantasy novels set “in an ancient China that never was” will take to Cannon’s fast-paced and wonderfully written tale, which mingles supernatural beings with well-researched flesh-and-blood characters and historical details from the Ming Dynasty.

The characters sparkle with life, and their dialogue crackles – this is an intensely readable and well-done work of fantasy-infused historical fiction.

Strongly recommended.