I’m an old retired soldier, and while a few romances might have snuck into my reading list, I tend to read the more testosterone-laden genres such as military fiction, action-adventure, detective, scifi, and shapeshifting. As it is not what I would normally read, I am not sure what made me purchase Red Skies. It was probably a combination of the great reviews and the setting being Beijing (I speak some Chinese and am familiar with the culture). Whatever the reason, I am so happy I bought the book. Rarely have I read anything so moving, so engrossing. I read the second half of the book in one sitting, swearing that I would read “only one more chapter,” but going on until after 3:00 AM. I read it in bed, and as I lay next to my sleeping wife, this old soldier cried as I finished the book. Like a baby. Tears rolling down my face.
What made this book special is that I cared for each and every character in it. I kept thinking about ways I could reach into the book to help them, not just little An Li and Xiao Mei, but Mari, Max, and Bolin. I wanted to “rescue” the boys who were in An Li’s gang. I wanted to do something!
Characterization was superb. Each character was different and had his or her own voice. We weren’t told that An Li was suspicious or that Max was lonely; we were shown it. And the characters were not static. Over the course of the book, they developed. Xiao Mei’s development was gratifying and fun to observe.
The setting for the story was wonderfully described. It was accurate, but not the dry travelogue-type descriptions to which some authors revert. The author’s descriptive abilities were just as good as her characterizations.
The storyline could have become sappy, and I dare say that with most other authors, it would have become a soap opera. This didn’t happen here. While I cried more than once, while my throat tightened as I got choked up, the book did not go over the top. It remained real and believable.
I lay awake for an additional hour after finishing the book, thinking about it and why it affected me so much. It wasn’t as if the book surprised me. It basically proceeded as I had foreseen. But what the author was able to do was to draw me in, to make me part of the story. This is superb wordsmithing and storytelling, and if this book is any indication, these are skills that the author has that surpass the vast majority of other authors’ out there.
I have given out a fair number of five stars for reviews I have written for Amazon. Giving five stars for Red Skies doesn’t seem enough. I would love to be able to add another to show that this truly is at the top of the heap. Of all the books I have reviewed here, this is one of the top two. It is an astounding and outstanding book, and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to disappear into its pages. This book is going to stick with me for a long, long time.