The Killing Fog by Jeff Wheeler is the first book in his new fantasy series, The Grave Kingdom.
Bingmei’s family is slain by a band of marauders leaving her orphaned and alone in the dead of winter as she hides in her family compound as the looters camp out for the winter. She is eventually rescued by a band of mercenaries that take her in and train her to become a warrior.
Jump ahead a few years and Bingemei and her Ensign (a band of trained warriors for hire) have won a battle that left her in the possession of the phoenix blade, a magical sword which is not only drawn to her, but that her enemies are actively seeking.
What I like about The Killing Fog by Jeff Wheeler
Firstly I’m a complete sucker for stories where the hero is a strong, capable girl. Another aspect in this book that I really like is the use of a hero that is physically different from everyone else. The book describes Bingmei as having the winter sickness (white hair and pale skin) which is usually seen as a sign of bad luck but which s completely accepted by her family and adopted clan.
The culture and the location depicted in the series are also some more elements that I really enjoyed. Instead of the vaguely European locale that many fantasy series is set in, The Grave Kingdom series is set in a world with a culture inspired by Chinese history and myths while the location sometimes brings to mind the frozen landscapes of Alaska which is great because it really sets it apart.
Excerpt from the Killing Fog by Jeff Wheeler
“Get the sword. Go. That was her duty. Ignoring the prickling of her flesh, she stepped backward and nearly tripped over someone’s remains. The Qiangdao leader. Squatting low, saber held protectively in front of her, she groped with her free hand, searching for the sword. There it lay in the grass. Its blade was not tarnished in the least, a double-edged blade, unlike her saber, which was only sharpened on one edge.
There was a rippled pattern in the metal, a technique lost with the ancients. At the nape of the blade, the guard and pommel were made of gold. An intricate carving of a phoenix had been embossed on each, and the meiwood grip looked sturdy and solid. The phoenix. A creature of legend. A bird that reigned over all other birds. She’d seen them depicted in many of the artifacts retrieved by the ensign, although no two looked the same . . . some resembled roosters, others bore more in common with eagles. Most of the depictions had one commonality—their tail feathers were all different colors, each one representing a virtue, like benevolence, honesty, knowledge, decorum. These stories and images were all they had left of the past. Upon joining Kunmia Suun’s band, it had surprised Bingmei to learn that the legends she’d been raised with differed from theirs. Each village had its own tales, and the degree to which they conflicted made her doubt if anyone knew the truth. As she stared at the intricate blade, she felt compelled to touch it.
It was the most beautiful weapon she’d ever seen. She reached for it, grasping it by the hilt, and lifted it from the grass. Power jolted through her body, frightening and thrilling her. The weapon felt strangely familiar, but she’d never seen its equal in her life.”