A review by dawn_marie
The Art of Prophecy by Wesley Chu

  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No


 The Art of Prophecy by Wesley Chu was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I liked the premise, taking the “chosen one” trope and twisting it – asking what if the prophecy about the chosen one is wrong – but thought it failed in execution.

The story centers on a prophecy claiming that a Hero/Champion of the Five will rise and defeat the Eternal Khan, the godlike figure who threatens the empire. Jian, the prophesized hero, lives a pampered life in the Celestial Palace spending his days training for the day he will meet the Khan. When Taishi, a war artist master determines that Jian’s skills are lacking, she decides to oversee his training. As things are wont to happen, things go badly wrong forcing Taishi and Jian to go on the run.

The story is told through four POVs: (1) Jian the spoiled, pampered prophesized hero forced into hiding, (2) Taishi, the grizzled, shape-tongued war art master, (3) Sali a “viperstrike” in service of the Khan, and (4) Qisami, the insane assassin (called shadowkill). Of the four main characters, I enjoyed Taishi’s POV the most. I appreciate that the author made this fearless, independent, irreverent, fight master an older woman (whom I pictured as Michelle Yeoh). I enjoyed her acerbic wit and her disregard for rules and traditions. I found Jian a bit whiny, but then again when you’ve spent your entire life being told you are the literal “chosen one”, having every whim catered to by an army of servants, and never wanting for anything I imagine you’d be a bit whiny when all that is taken away from you. I did get a small chuckle from the scene where Jian goes to investigate something, thinking he is acting the hero, only to come across as a bad cosplayer.

I have mixed feeling regarding Sali, on one hand I thought her journey of dealing with lost – through the quest to find her sister – interesting. On the other hand, the entire subplot surrounding her
desire and actions to murder Jian
  tedious. Really, why was she so bent on 
murdering Jian if the Khan can reincarnate? 
I found Qisami an extremely unlikeable character – not unlikeable as she’s an awful person but fun to read, but unlikeable in that she’s a poorly written character. The character is supposed to be quirky, making witty quips as she toys with those she is sent to murder. Unfortunately, that’s not what we get, we get a character where the author tries entirely too hard to be clever and completely fails. It got to the point where I started skimming chapters and scenes with Qisami.

The pacing was problematic. There were huge information dumps interspersed action sequences. While the information dumps were clunky and sometimes painful to read, they did provide useful details regarding the world and its history (you just had to shift through the awkward writing to find it). Despite the problematic info dumps, the fight scenes were detailed, well-choregraphed, and entertaining.

The biggest issue for me is that nothing is really resolved and the novel ends on a cliffhanger (one that was telegraphed). While I understand that this is the first novel in a series, I would think that at least one plot point would be resolved.

The Art of Prophecy has an interesting premise with problematic execution. Hopefully many of the flaws will be rectified in the second installment.