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The Hidden Blade by Sherry Thomas
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Awesome read, especially for a book I didn't think I was going to like that much. It kept me interested and I did not want to put the book down. The only negative for me was that the ending was more like a "to be continued...". ( )
  mary23nm | Feb 27, 2019 |
'Downton Abbey' meets 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'? Sold! I bought this based solely on the description provided by the back of the book (also on Goodreads) in the midst of a 'DA' fever. It's been years since I've seen 'Crouching' and I've usually found that marketing that tries to sell X book to be like A book or B movie or C TV show, etc. are usually very generous stretches here. It was nice to see more accurate marketing, if perhaps not as straightforward as one thinks.
 
Author Thomas flips between two stories of two childhoods, Leighton in England and Ying-Ying in China. Leighton is ripped from a happy childhood and placed in the care of his awful, abusive uncle. Ying-Ying loses her mother but gains knowledge of martial arts from her Amah. We will follow these two as the story alternates between Leighton's struggle to survive and Ying-Ying trying to find the best situation for herself with no mother and limited resources. 
 
You can read the synopsis elsewhere but I was pleased to say I quite enjoyed this. My 'Downton' fever has worn off and I came in with low expectations for the book. It wasn't long ago that I read the first in Sherry Thomas's 'Charlotte Holmes' book so I was happy that I liked this much better. Normally I cannot stand alternating POVs because one or the other isn't interesting due to lack of character development, plotline, etc. Here that is not so. There isn't that much of a "plot" per se (it's a chronicle of their upbringings and young adulthoods) but I found Thomas' ability to put me in England and China during these particular time periods worked just great!
 
However, I would say that the 'Downton' meets 'Crouching' might not be the most accurate lure. There are certainly aspects to this (Ying-Ying is "Downstairs" and her Amah uses martial arts to steal/protect an artifact while Leighton's "Upstairs" character is a young man who learns about the constraints of English society for his time in some of the saddest/worst ways). I'd say there's more "Crouching" than "Downton" to this but I still enjoyed it anyway. 
 
As others have written the martial arts action scenes sometimes go on a bit too long. And as there is no "conflict" to resolve as this is apparently a prequel that could be a turnoff. I also wonder if perhaps this should have been really part of a larger book with 'My Beautiful Enemy" instead of as a separate duology.
 
Overall, though, it defied my expectations. I'm not sure if I'll read Thomas's romance books (BTW, there is almost no romance here other than things like marriages of secondary characters, a secondary character seducing a minor one, etc.) but I'm looking forward to 'Enemy'. ( )
  acciolibros | Feb 11, 2018 |
*SLIGHT SPOILERS*

For those of you who have been a fan of Sherry Thomas's historical romances and for those of you who love her for her YA fantasy this is the best of both worlds.

The Hidden Blade is a YA historical adventure spread across England and China, and it's gorgeous! On one side there is a quiet British boy, Leighton Atwood, whose dad commits suicide shamed and blackmailed for his love of another man, Herb. Leighton is suddenly taken away from a loving, carefree family and put into care of his unbending, fanatical, sadistic, horrid uncle and he has to struggle for every ounce of freedom until finally he runs away in search of Herb.

On another side of the world there is Ying-Ying, a young girl who grows up in the shadow of her beautiful mother, - a long-standing, beloved concubine of Da-ren, a powerful government official of China. Ying-Ying is a half-breed, and doesn't feel like she belongs, so when her mom dies, she is taken into care of her Amah (nanny) and discovers that the woman is not who she seems. Amah is a part of ancient military order, and Ying-Ying becomes her new recruit.

Ironically the only thing that connects Leighton and Ying-Ying - two such different characters, is Herb. Among all the heartbreak and adventure, he is the one Leighton seeks, and the one who ends up teaching Ying-Ying English. Read for yourself about their dramatic journeys in between...

This was a fantastic, absorbing, heartbreaking read, and I wholly recommend it. My Beautiful Enemy finishes Leighton and Ying-Ying's story years later, and I recommend you to grab it and read it straight away after The Hidden Blade. ( )
  kara-karina | Nov 20, 2015 |
The Hidden Blade is a coming of age tale of two children, Leighton Atwood and Catherine Blade (Ying-Ying). While Leighton struggles to overcome tragedy and the cruelty of his austere uncle, who attempts to imprison him on his estate, Ying-Ying trains to become a martial artist to defend herself in Peking China and a be worthy of her austere step-father. The story flips between the two characters, with their connection being Leighton's friend, and his father's lover, the teacher Herbert Gordon, who teaches Ying-Ying English.

It takes place in the late 1800s and is a prequel to the romance novel, My Beautiful Enemy.

In some respects the Hidden Blade is the better novel, not quite as many plot contrivances. Yet, it does feel unfinished, and definitely a prequel. You should read both books, each would, I think be incomplete without the other.

( )
  cmlloyd67 | Jun 7, 2015 |
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In the waning days of the last dynasty, in a quiet, beautiful corner of imperial Peking, a young girl's blissful ignorance is shattered when she learns that she is the illegitimate daughter of an English adventurer and a Chinese courtesan. What future is there for such a girl? But a mysterious figure steps forward and offers to instruct her in the highest forms of martial artsa path to a life of strength and independence. Half a world away in England, a young boy's idyllic summer on the Sussex downs implodes with the firing of a single bullet. Torn from his family, he becomes the hostage of a urbanely sadistic uncle. He dreams of escaping to find his beloved friendbut the friend is in China, ten thousand miles away. The girl trains to be deadly. The boy flees across continents. They do not know it yet, but their lives are already inextricably bound together, and will collide one fateful night when they least expect it. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon meets Downton Abbey, this remarkable tale of friendship, danger, and coming of age will stay with you long after you have finished the last page.… (more)

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