To the Sky KingdomTo the Sky Kingdom
Year: 2016
Author: Tang Qi
Length: 460 pages


Many barriers prevent a smooth transition of an artistic from one language into another. In more visual mediums, like film and graphic novels, the language barrier is less of an issue because there are other cues the viewer is observing to help them make sense of what is going on. These visual cues are unfortunately absent from a written work, and thus the translated words are the only way the reader can interact with the original work. Add to this language barrier the vastly disparate cultures of the Chinese and the English (be it any of the English-speaking cultures), and you can start to understand why I did not finish reading To the Sky Kingdom.

Over the years, I have developed a fairly thorough understanding of Japanese culture; but even though China is geographically close to Japan, their cultures are quite different. Consequently, I had trouble understanding some of the concepts and ideas presented in To the Sky Kingdom because I was unaware of their significance to the narrative. Of course, this could also be because the story was disjointed and often confusing to follow. I forced myself to read at least half of this book, hoping it would start to make sense. It did for a brief moment, but not significantly enough to keep me interested.

I realize the Chinese language is probably the most difficult of any language to translate into English, but the translation of this book almost seemed to be a direct, literal translation, as there were many word choices and sentence structures that were awkward to read in English. Perhaps I also don’t understand the scale of the “immortal” beings in Chinese lore, but the ages of these characters seemed to be incredibly inconsistent. A 300-year-old being is comparable to a 3-year-old child, but a ~9-month pregnancy takes three years? When the main character glibly talks about tens and hundreds of thousands of years as if they were nothing, I don’t get what the point of the plot should be at all.

An unfortunate victim of cultural and language barriers, I cannot give To the Sky Kingdom a rating.

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