Rita Chang-Eppig’s Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea examines the intricate dynamics of gender roles and womanhood in the context of a historical Chinese pirate story.
The story’s focal point is Shek Yeung, a character inspired by the formidable historical figure Ching Shih, who commanded a vast pirate fleet in the South China Sea. Chang-Eppig presents Shek Yeung as multifaceted and intelligent, possessing strategic prowess while grappling with personal flaws and haunting traumas. Chang-Eppig’s exploration of womanhood through Shek Yeung’s perspective deeply resonates, addressing societal expectations, rebellion, and women’s internal struggles. This portrayal feels raw, realistic, and piercing.
While the book shines in terms of its historical backdrop and the depiction of Shek Yeung, the narrative pace occasionally slows, prioritizing introspection over action. The novel’s strength lies in its evocative descriptions of land-based scenes like domestic moments and traditional rituals, although combat and seafaring events are narrated rather than experienced firsthand. However, the act delivers heightened intensity as Shek Yeung confronts a formidable adversary and demonstrates her true resilience and determination.
One of the book’s notable strengths lies in Chang-Eppig’s extensive research, seamlessly interweaving historical events, cultural details, and captivating anecdotes. The book presents readers with a rich tapestry of historical knowledge and vivid portrayals of traditional rituals. However, the prose occasionally feels awkward, with word choices or descriptions that momentarily disrupt the story’s flow.
Despite occasional pacing issues and moments of awkward prose, Chang-Eppig’s unique narrative style and the engaging subject matter make Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea appealing. This book will capture the interest of readers who enjoy young adult fiction and lesser-known historical settings. It also serves as an excellent introduction for those unfamiliar with the historical figure of Ching Shih.