Swishing Swords in The Sage, The Swordsman, and the Scholars

The Sage, the Swordsman and the Scholars: Book I of Trials of the Middle Kingdom by Pierre Dimaculangan




Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Author: Pierre Dimaculangan
Published: September 2015
Publisher: Lulu Publishing Services
Pages: 238 {paperback}

Original review on Goodreads

I received a copy of this book from Pierre in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!

Something Different

The thing that really had me hooked on this book and invested me in its out-come was the setting. SSS (as I’m going to call it, for the sake of my fingers) is a work of really exciting fantasy that takes place in China during the reign of the Ming Dynasty. The book follows multiple perspectives, that of the swordsman, Sun Xin, some ‘academicians’, and a sage (sort of like a spiritual healer). All of their stories are connected although they may not realise it. Foreigners (the Terukk) have landed all over the empire and have demanded (and received) equal trading rights – something that no foreigner is ever granted. And this is where fantasy enters the stage. They’re very strange looking and our protagonists are slowly becoming more suspicious of them as time goes by. Why? Because it becomes apparent that something else is going on and they are not what they first appeared to be.

Fun Facts

Pierre was kind enough to share some facts about this period with me so I would like to share some of them with you! Sun Xin, the swordsman, is based off a Youxia (a wandering warrior). There were many of these during this time and they were also extremely skilled in fighting and whatnot. Sun Xin doesn’t really ‘answer’ to anyone – he’s like a freelance, fighting for who and what he believes in. Throughout the book he picks and chooses his fights and the whole book acts as a sort of self discovery journey for him as he wrangles through the rights and wrongs of fighting.

There were also many secret societies that existed in Medieval China. This is reflected in the book as there are a great deal of organisations along the way. Which of course adds to the serious coolness of the characters as they swish their swords and the slay the enemy is a awe inspiring ninja monk way.

Admiral Jheng (one of the prominent characters in the book) was actually based off a real person. He was exploring long before Da Gama and Colombus and also had enormous treasure ships – something that somewhat comes into play throughout the book with one particularly loud and funny character, but I’ll leave him for you to discover.

The weapons we see in the book are based off field equipment used by the Mings. Japanese pirates were a real threat to the coastlines by the 16th century, many of which were former Samurai which made them tough competition (I told you there was cool ninja monk action).

“Ming” actually means “bright” or “shining” – and the dynasty lasted from 1368 until 1644. In other words, a long time. Emperor Zhu was one of the very few emperors who refused to have concubines. He was only 21 years old when the events of the book take place.

What I Enjoyed

This book was a lot of fun to read! I need to start with saying that the COOLEST thing about this was the fact that it’s set in a different setting to the ‘norm’ – medieval China! I mean, how often does that happen? I think it was well paced and filled with just the right amount of battle scenes. The swapping of perspectives worked well and helped to keep things lively – it avoided any too slow moments (and a lot of the characters go on long walks to different places, the downside of not having cars, eh?), so thank goodness for that. The characters were a lot of fun to meet and read about and although I failed miserably to remember everyone’s names and who was who I managed. I may have had to draw myself diagrams to do so, however. Each character was unique and there’s a huge variety of personalities. It allowed for humour and more serious moments to go back to back with smooth transitions thanks to this diverse cast of people – and thank goodness for that, because if I had to chose one word to describe Sun Xin, I’d go with broody.

The fight scenes were by far my favourites parts of the book. There was just enough fantastical elements in the story to allow for some really cool stuff to happen during the battles. Nothing was overdone when it came to fantasy, sure the foreigners were a little weird – but any magic seemed to fit right in as it came across as more of a divine power from good/bad gods than just special people going ALAKAZAM. The battles were grand in scale and involved this not-magic that helped weave in a religious presence without making it overpowering. Sun Xin was amazing whenever he fought seeing as he has amazing sword skills. It would be amazing to see this book turn into a film. Actually, I think this would make a splendid TV series – anyone in?

I can’t waiting to continue reading the series and so much has been set up for an epic story to unfurl. the home of the Terukk was really interesting to learn about – the part of my brain that just loves fantasy started hyperventilating when we got a glimpse of that world. I really want to know what their big plan is seeing as they were slowly mind washing the population into submission with the drug they were giving everyone. WHY ARE YOU SO EVIL? I’m super intrigued by it all and I really want to see where the story is going to go form here.

Some of my Favourite Quotes

“Even if one bridge is far longer than the other, it is naught if it cannot reach the other side.”

“After all, what is darkness but the mere absence of light?”


I am very pleased to have had the chance to read this book. It really was interesting and a lot of fun. I hope that the rest of the series, which I will be reading, follows suit. You should definitely pick up a copy of this book as it is worth reading!! If you enjoy fantasy, action, or history then this is your JAM.

View all my reviews


 What’s your favourite historical setting?


Let me know in the comments below!

End Note

~~ Kirstie ~~

3 thoughts on “Swishing Swords in The Sage, The Swordsman, and the Scholars

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