In a Land of Paper Gods – Rebecca Mackenzie


Genre: Historical Fiction

Publication Date: January 28th 2016 by Tinder Press

Format: Hardcover copy sent to me for review by Tinder Press via Bookbridgr (Thank you so much!)

Jiangxi Province, China, 1941

Atop the fabled mountain of Lushan, celebrated for its temples, capricious mists and plunging ravines, perches a boarding school for the children of British missionaries. As her parents pursue their calling to bring the gospel to China’s most remote provinces, ten-year-old Henrietta S. Robertson discovers that she has been singled out for a divine calling of her own.

Etta is quick to share the news with her dorm mates, and soon even Big Bum Eileen is enlisted in the Prophetess Club, which busies itself looking for signs of the Lord’s intent. (Hark.) As rumours of war grow more insistent, so the girls’ quest takes on a new urgency – and in such a mystical landscape, the prophetesses find that lines between make believe and reality, good and bad, become dangerously blurred. So Etta’s pilgrimage begins.


If you follow my twitter, you may have seen the tweets about this book as I was reading it. Only now, about two weeks after finishing it, do I feel that I can put my feelings towards this book into coherent sentences. It was spectacular. Both addictive and engrossing, every page made me want to read more.

I love books that are set in different cultures or periods of history that I know very little about. I don’t think I’ve read a book set in China and I know very little about it, and I only have a vague idea of what happened in the war. Now I have some understanding of what went on, and although it wasn’t too political and took a child’s perspective, I learned a lot. I could picture the environment and the settings as though I was standing there myself.

All of the characters were fantastically created; each had something unique that made them all different in my mind so I instantly could tell them apart. Etta, though annoying at times, was a great character too. Despite the fact that she is sometimes frustrating and irritating, it didn’t appear to be for the sake of making her annoying or adding drama, I could genuinely see where her thoughts and actions stemmed from and how not seeing her parents for a long time had affected her. It was the attention to detail that really worked within this novel as it made the characters far more complex and interesting but at the same time it wasn’t overdone and thus wasn’t a tedious read.

The character development was extremely well done and Etta really changes and matures throughout the novel. I really could see her grow and develop noticeably and by the end she had altered dramatically and I personally feel that it’s rare nowadays to see such thorough development of a character.

I loved the narrative style – I have always been a fan of narrators that are children as there is an innocence to their voice that makes it more endearing. The small parts from ‘Muriel’s Diary’ added another perspective where it was necessary, mainly to give an overview of the situation where Etta’s voice didn’t suffice, but it didn’t impose on the storyline and it really helped prevent confusion!

In terms of plot, this book wasn’t lacking. So much happened and kept it interesting. I also found that nothing was rushed but nothing was dragged out, it paused where pauses were necessary and picked up pace when it fitted. I have no clue whether or not it’s accurate to what would have happened, but judging by the detail in this book I’m willing to bet that it is. I feel like I know so much more about what happened in China now during the second world war, as I knew absolutely nothing before!

I do just want to add that the cover suits this book perfectly; I wasn’t sure about it at first (I didn’t really understand it if I’m honest) but as I was reading it occurred to me just how well the cover encapsulates this novel.

I’m not even going to bother saying who I’d recommend this book to, I’m just going to say read it. It was so, so good and although it’s not a YA I feel that it would be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys that genre, even if they’re apprehensive about branching into adult fiction. Obviously every adult who is interested in a well written, fascinating novel with wonderful character development and history and culture woven in will enjoy this. It really was incredible and definitely one I will reread again and again.

Rating: 5 / 5 stars.


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