3 out of 4 stars
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Wing Chun is a Gung Fu that can be studied and used by any body type and any age. ('Gung Fu' is the Chinese Pinyin equivalent of 'Kung Fu' and is considered to be the more appropriate term for Chinese traditional martial arts.) Wing Chun Gung Fu is notable for although its stances involve only subtle movements, these movements can inflict severe damage. And in Kirin Rise: The Cast of Shadows by Ed Cruz, the titular character, Kirin, seeks to use Wing Chun Gung Fu to cause a ripple that may change the twisted society.
At the start of the 21st Century, the economic crisis permanently abolished the middle class, creating an America divided between the rich and the poor. Soon, the United Federation of Mixed Fighting (UFMF) was established, providing a new form of entertainment that involves gruesome fights. UFMF sponsors tournaments where martial artists are pit against each other in fights for survival or fights to the death. Citizens were brainwashed into believing that any means is justifiable—including violence and killing—provided it is for the sake of money. Kirin hates this system, and she has to do something. Otherwise, she will never outgrow that eight-year-old girl who ran away from North Korea, unable to save her biological parents and saving only herself. So with Wing Chun Gung Fu that she learned from Sifu, Kirin finally makes a stand in the Chum Night—an event where the 'uninitiated' (non-professional martial artists) can fight against professionals. Kirin beats her huge opponent in one strike, giving a new meaning to the ‘One-Hit Wonder’ tag. She then showers the crowd with the cash prize she won, shocking the spectators of the match and disturbing the system she loathes. But when Kirin thinks her job is done, she realizes causing a ripple means so much more than winning one fight.
Kirin Rise: The Cast of Shadows is the first offering in the Kirin Rise series and features a futuristic dystopian story told from multiple points of view.
I recommend this book to all fans of young adult stories with feisty female lead characters and to those who are into martial arts. Though evidently knowledgeable in Wing Chun, the author chose not to focus primarily on the technicalities of the Gung Fu. Thus, even if you do not have any background in Wing Chun or in any form of martial arts, you will not find the story too complicated. The book contains a number of philosophical discussions, and since it involves martial arts, expect scenes depicting violence, although nothing too disturbing. If you are bothered by these, it's best not to read this book. In addition, despite having a futuristic concept, the book did not depict much technological advancement, except for the TV that responds to voice commands. To be fair, the book’s timeline spans from 2024 to 2032 which is not that far off from our current year 2018. But if you’re looking for a world that is profoundly technologically-advanced, you won’t find that in this book.
The author’s narrative is more of a direct exposition and not stylistic. As I prefer poetic narratives, the author's writing style did not appeal to me at first. The mixture of the first-person and third-person point of views also threw me off. Nonetheless, I got used to these as I read along, and the switching of point of views also started to make sense after a few chapters.
I commend the author for creating characters belonging to different races. The characters were also generally interesting and likable, except for the antagonists who were a bit formulaic, like the typical thugs and their excessively wealthy bosses in your typical action film.
The book also presents a love triangle. Kirin is the object of affection of her high school friend Hunter and her Wing Chun classmate Tobias. I am glad the story did not revolve around this love triangle for I find other aspects of Kirin's life more exciting. Hunter was introduced halfway through the book and barely had any significant scenes. Meanwhile, Tobias and Kirin’s relationship occurred to me as a brother-sister bond stemming from their student years in Sifu’s school. I couldn’t tell when the line between siblings and romantic interests started to blur between the two. Moreover, Kirin had a tendency to swing from one side to another, and this is the type of love triangle I’m definitely not fond of, though some readers may find the dynamics of this triangle entertaining.
Descriptions in the narrative were also heavily lacking, and the few descriptions included were more ‘telling’ than ‘showing.’ For instance, the author wrote ‘Her features were soft and gentle…’ instead of expounding why the features were supposed to be ‘soft and gentle.’ Nonetheless, the illustrations compensated for this lack of descriptions. At the beginning of the book, the author also added brief character profiles which included drawings of the characters.
I give Kirin Rise: The Cast of Shadows 3 out of 4 stars for I enjoyed Kirin’s journey, both her past as Sifu’s student and her present life as a fighter. Nonetheless, I noticed a few typos and some errors in comma usage. Some lines were also awkwardly phrased and need to be reworded.
Kirin Rise The Cast of Shadows
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