Update: Boring progress; but also Recent Reading: Tribute by Sherwood Smith

Okay, so nothing new to mention regarding RIHASI. It’s moving along, that’s all. Very much same old, same old. I think there are two more chapters before the very fun final resolution, and I suspect there might be an epilogue. That seems pretty likely, but I won’t be sure until I get there. I expect I’ll be making that decision in a couple weeks, but for now, nothing much to say.

Therefore, how about a different topic? I haven’t been reading anything because (as you have noticed) I’ve been writing, but recently, I volunteered to beta read a book in the Phoenix Feather world called Sage Empress.

This book is set after another book called Tribute, though that one stands alone perfectly.

Now, I really loved the Phoenix Feather quadrilogy. I mean, a lot.

One of the many things I loved about it was that it was very slice-of-life and that when the good guys actually faced a bad guy, the bad guy would be defeated practically at once so that the story could refocus on the lives of the important characters. Because of the emphasis on daily life and the deemphasis on long dire struggles against bad guys, this quadrilogy seemed to me to basically be pretty low tension most of the time, and I mean low tension in a good way.

How does Tribute stack up to the Phoenix Feather quadrilogy?

A) In the quadrilogy, there were three really important pov protagonists and a good handful of other secondary pov characters. In Tribute, the focus is tighter. The story is contained in this one book. Although pov shifts, Bu is very much the primary protagonist. The other pov characters are distinctly secondary.

B) In the quadrilogy, I liked all the pov characters. In Tribute, yep, I really liked all the pov characters. I greatly enjoyed Bu, who is not a typical fantasy heroine, far less so thatn Mouse/Ari/Firebolt. I loved Granny Zim. I loved YinYin. I liked the various princes and the princess and the Emperor, all of whom were drawn deftly. I mean, there were some not-nice princes, but we didn’t see them a lot and they did not succeed in their machinations. Sorry if that’s a spoiler, but I think it’s pretty minor as spoilers go because I don’t think the reader is going to be super worried about them.

C) In the quadrilogy, flashy bad guys are defeated briskly when encountered. In Tribute, this is if anything even more true. The emphasis on slice-of-life is very similar. There is a shocking scene I didn’t see coming AT ALL that leads to the plot going off in a direction I didn’t anticipate, and this part is NOT SLICE-OF-LIFE. I mean, it was like, WHOA. But (a) I kind of liked it at the time, and (b) I liked it MUCH BETTER later, after everything was resolved. That’s my attempt to avoid extremely big spoilers, sorry, I know it’s super vague. If you read Tribute, you will definitely for sure recognize this plot twist when you get to it.

D) In the quadrilogy, the ending seemed possibly a little truncated. In Tribute, maybe a little? But not as much. In the quadrilogy, there were certain scenes I wanted very much and wrote in my head and those scenes didn’t occur and perhaps other readers don’t tend to write scenes ahead of time in their heads that way? Anyway, that wasn’t the case in Tribute. I wanted pretty much the ending we get. Sure, it’s a bit pat, but happily ever after is what I wanted and there it is. Although it’s not “ever” because Sage Empress takes place long after Tribute.

E) Tribute has a different emphasis. The quadrilogy was about the martial arts. Tribute is about music. I loved, loved, loved all the music. You can sure tell Sherwood Smith knows A LOT about music, far more than I do, and Bu’s journey from student to master was just absorbing and wonderful to read about.

The recent post about YA novels that are on the low-romance side? I forgot about these, but add them in. I mean everything in this world. There is romance, I don’t want to imply there isn’t, but it’s restrained and low-angst.

Overall rating: 5 out of 5. For me, Tribute just completely nails it. If you haven’t read it and you enjoyed the Phoenix Feather quadrilogy, don’t hesitate for even a second and let me reiterate that Tribute is self-contained, so don’t be put off by the “book 1” designation.

Meanwhile, I just finished my beta read of Sage Empress and will now be reading through that again and adding comments. I didn’t think the beginning was as engaging as in Tribute, but I think this is a natural consequence of the protagonist’s childhood life and my personal interests. It kicks into gear maybe 20% of the way in, as, well, as various important things happen all at once.

Sage Empress doesn’t stand alone. Out of everything in this world, Tribute is very definitely the single book that stands alone perfectly, and it would make a great introduction to the world. I highly recommend everything set in this world, but if you’re hesitating to start a quadrilogy, then Tribute is the entry point you’ve been waiting for.

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5 thoughts on “Update: Boring progress; but also Recent Reading: Tribute by Sherwood Smith”

  1. Well, I love wuxia novels (ridiculous plots and all), and I’ve seen you recommend this quadrilogy before, I like Sherwood Smith’s other work, and I really love fantasy slice-of-life, so this sounds like exactly the kind of thing I need to read. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. I think there’s a difference between some of her books which have a lot of depth and character development, and other books which are just quick romps. I like the phoenix feather series best because it has the first elements (along with some romance, which I also like); Tribute is the second. Also good, but not as much to my taste as the former, or the Crown Duel duology, or Inda, or A Stranger to Command.

  3. I think the basic division is between books that focus on one or a very small number of characters and follow them closely, vs books that have much more scattered pov. I strongly prefer the former, though I can like the latter as well.

  4. “writing scenes ahead of time in their heads” ha i never thought about it this way but that’s totally what i do! And then if the scene that happens wasn’t as exciting as i was expecting i get disappointed lol

  5. Sarah V, I can be REALLY disappointed when this happens. It’s one of the major problems I had with The Witness for the Dead, the sequel to The Goblin Emperor. I knew EXACTLY what I would have done with the sequel, which would have been a direct sequel, and the actual sequel was nothing like that.

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