Warning: So, in light of the catastrophe that is my latest review, I have decided to restructure my reviews again to make my views clearer, rants calmer, and feedback more constructive. Please bear with me as I get all this sorted out—thank you! (Thanks to Kristianne Hassman for the idea!)
Synopsis: The best days of Lai Duyên’s life have just begun...or have they? Only days after becoming a member of her local calligraphy guild, Duyên’s guild is visited by the guardian dragons, who have discovered that one of the guilders has abused the power of dragon ink and rewritten time. They have only a week to find out who the traitor before the entire guild is destroyed...but distrust, betrayal, and dishonest abound. How will they discover the time-changer in time?
Quotes: “But I hope. I hope that this will pass. I hope that both of us are afraid for nothing. And I will love you whether hope of fear wins out.”
“I believe that Aomlan has my best interest at heart, and I’ve seen evidence throughout history that his people are defended and strengthened even through the trials they face. I trust his direction.”
What I Loved: The concept was so different and intriguing (I just loved the vibes, you guys), and the vivid world-building complemented that perfectly, as did the characters. All of the main POV characters were vibrant and unique, with their own struggles and mini-arcs that played out in the story. When I first read this as a beta, I honestly couldn’t keep track *coughs*, but the second go-round was much better! I could see how each POV character stood out and was an integral part of the story. (And, let’s face it, the pronunciation guide/glossary was a life-saver!)
Speaking of characters, all the different relationships were so well-done! It was great to see healthy relationships and female characters that are strong but not feminist, obnoxious, or rude. (Which I know was Archer’s intention, to weave these elements in, and she executed that perfectly!)
Even though there wasn’t a definite message, there were some absolutely lovely themes: loyalty, forgiveness, compassion, family, true love and caring, trust, and more! Not to mention the slight allegory with Aomlan, Sairsha’s god who greatly resembles Jehovah!
What I Didn’t Love: As detailed as the world-building was, there were so many things that were left unexplained and a lot of backstory left out—from the power of the dragon ink to the dragons themselves to Duyên’s ability to hear them to the gods. I honestly wouldn’t have minded an info dump or prequel or something to give me some background on everything and how it operated.
It’s definitely a slow-paced book, which isn’t inherently a good or bad thing, but I felt some scenes were too lengthy and unnecessary and could’ve been shortened, omitted, or replaced. But I guess that’s a stylistic, creative choice!
And although I could tell the main characters apart, most of the minor characters bled together. I usually don’t struggle with large casts (I’m infamous for my own large casts), but I had a hard time keeping track of which character was which, Chaska and Mika especially.
There were some great descriptions in Calligraphy Guild, but I was missing something in the writing. Maybe it’s because I’ve read R.M. Archer’s The Mirror-Hunter Chronicles, which has the best wit, whimsy, and sarcasm, that I was expecting more personality in the writing. Either way, I would’ve liked to see the characters’ voices come to life in the prose!
Long Story Short: Calligraphy Guild is a vibrant and beautiful piece of Asian-inspired fantasy! R.M. Archer crafts a world that pulls you in, characters you can admire, and relationships you relate to.
I’d definitely recommend it to all readers of fantasy and YA fiction and even readers of Asian fiction, whether historical or contemporary! (I also recommend watching The Last Samurai...or really anything set in Asia *winks*...before/during reading this. Trust me, this novel will come to life as you read!) And I will certainly be reading more by R.M. Archer! (Like a SEQUEL!)
Disclaimer: I received an advanced review copy from the author. All opinions expressed are my own.
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about the book
Dragon ink gives calligraphers the power to set history in stone—or to change it.
Lai Duyên’s dreams are realized when she’s admitted into the ranks of the calligraphers—authors considered trustworthy enough to defend time from those who would change it. She’s thrilled at the opportunity to record her country’s history, and to work with the other calligraphers in her village.
But when Duyên’s guild is set upon by ancient dragons demanding a time-changer be destroyed, her world is flipped upside down. Her guildmates turn on each other, suspicion coloring their every move. To make matters worse, she’s begun hearing the dragons in her head and finds them impossible to block out: a condition that rendered her grandmother insane.
With the calligraphy guild in turmoil and Duyên’s ever-present fear of madness clouding her vision, will the group be able to discover which of their guildmates has altered time before the dragons pass judgment on them all?
about the author
R.M. Archer has been an avid reader since the time she could first make out words, and has always been a lover of story. That interest developed into a love of writing when she was seven (though those first attempts have long-since been incinerated), and she's been pursuing a career as an author ever since. Archer believes that art can change the culture and aims to write YA speculative fiction that thoughtfully explores a variety of worldviews through the lens of her own Christian perspective.
In addition to writing fiction, Archer keeps up a non-fiction blog of writing tips and book reviews, and worldbuilding is her favorite topic to blog about.
You can connect with her on her website, rmarcher.com!
June 2nd: Laura Morgan - Book review
June 3rd: Issabelle Perry - Tanh Ryuu character interview
June 4th: Kayla Green - Book review
June 5th: Dawn Dagger - Book review
June 6th: Erin Phillips - Author interview
June 7th: R.M. Archer - Relationships I’d love to see more in fiction
June 8th: Kristianne Hassman - Sairsha Kincaid character interview
June 9th: Naomi Sowell - Book review
June 10th: RaeMarie - Book review
June 11th: Eden - Book spotlight
June 12th: Miranda - Lôi Tora character interview
June 13th: Libby Powell - Author interview
June 14th: R.M. Archer - Calligraphy Guild shout-outs
June 15th: Bethani Theresa - Book review
June 16th: Grace A. Johnson - Book review
June 17th: Edna Pellen - Author interview
Interested in a chance to read the first chapter on Calligraphy Guild for FREE??? (I know you are.)
Then just head over to R.M. Archer's newsletter and hit the subscribe button (dude, I sound like a YouTuber) and prepare for your sneak preview to drop in your inbox!
If you'd like to connect with Ms. Archer on other platforms, you can find her on Facebook and Instagram, @rysaarcher! And if you're a fellow author, stick around her website to read her amazing, intuitive blog posts, join her author pen pal exchange, and check out her worldbuilding toolbox! Don't forget to take a peek at her other stories too! Oh, and this page with tons of fun facts all about Calligraphy Guild!
And...y'all may be interested in one of my first-ever author interviews, which was actually with none other than R.M. Archer!!! Y'all can read our Q&A HERE!
Now, I'll leave y'all to follow the rest of the tour! Have fun and stay cool! (Seriously. It's about to hit 104 degrees Fahrenheit where I live. Thunderstorms, hail, and sunburn are expected but certainly not anticipated...)