When Shek Yeung sees a Portuguese sailor slay her husband, a feared pirate, she knows she must act swiftly or die. Instead of mourning, Shek Yeung launches a new plan: immediately marrying her husband's second-in-command, and agreeing to bear him a son and heir, in order to retain power over her half of the fleet. But as Shek Yeung vies for control over the army she knows she was born to lead, larger threats loom.
Despite the fearsomeness of the historical figure, Chang-Eppig’s Shek Yeung is pensive and passive ... In combat and at sea, the novel remains impersonal, and most events are narrated rather than experienced ... The strength of Chang-Eppig’s book is the extensive research that colors it ... The book’s weaknesses include erratic pacing and unskillful language. Though the final third of the novel flows smoothly, earlier battles and conversations are broken up by paragraphs of exposition, dissipating interest. Because the novel’s sentences are rough-hewn, and anything that happens is relentlessly explained, with little left for the reader to interpret or infer, the book gives the impression of having been written for a younger audience ... Many readers will find the subject matter sufficiently attractive to overlook the faults.
This fascinating portrait of a woman determined to survive no matter the challenge will captivate readers' imaginations. Shek Yeung is a smart, ruthless, and pragmatic heroine ... Chang-Eppig emphasizes the logic of piracy in China during a time when land annexations drove many farmers to meager lives on fishing boats, and then to raiding other vessels. However, she never romanticizes their lives at sea, striving instead for a realistic imagining of an often cutthroat existence.