“How did all this begin? How did this story come to be?
How, in the long-lived lives of the immortal shen,
does fate bring us unions both strange and unexpected?”
Small Shen is a Chinese Fantasy story, and a stand-alone prequel to best-selling author Kylie Chan’s “White Tiger” series. It covers the various adventures of Gold, including how he met Jade, how he fell into the service of the “Dark Lord” Xuan Wu, and the time they spent with Michelle, the human woman who would later capture Xuan Wu’s heart. It’s a lovely illustrated introduction to Kylie’s series, and if you’re already a fan – a great side-piece to the existing series.
Buy The Books
|Rated:||T for Teens. Ages 13+.|
|Audience:||This isn’t a graphic novel, but a mix of prose and comics. There is no visual depiction of sex or violence in the story. It is a fantasy story with a few sexual references, but nothing explicit.|
|Read if you like:||It’s a fantasy story that uses Chinese mythology, so it’s for sci-fi and fantasy readers looking for something new. It’s very accessible to teenage readers, and thanks to its prose+comics mix, is very attractive to reluctant readers.|
|Sample:||You can sample the first 50 pages here.|
My collaborator Yunyu and I created a trailer for this book, scored to the music of Yunyu’s song “Butterflies”. A free copy of “Butterflies” comes with each copy of the book – if you flip to the last page and follow the instructions, an mp3 of the song will be emailed to you.
Gold and Jade are known as Shen, which is the word for god in Chinese mythology. Unfortunately for them, they are only small shen, and cheeky trouble-maker Gold is about to cause a lot of headaches when he seduces Jade, the 82nd daughter of the Eastern Dragon King. Throughout the story, these two will fight demons, influence the past few centuries of Chinese history… and be punished for their hubris.
Ordered by the Jade Emperor himself to join the household of John Chen, also known as the “Dark Lord” of the Northern Heavens, they find themselves pulled into the beginnings of a conflict between the gods and the Demon King. John has fallen in love with a human woman, a french opera-singer called Michelle, who consequently becomes the greatest weakness of the powerful “Dark Lord”…
This story is written in a mix of prose and comics, and is the stand-alone prequel to Kylie Chan‘s best-selling White Tiger series. You can enjoy this book without any knowledge of the series, though if you want to continue on and read the main storyline, it’ll give you a good introduction to some of the characters already there.
Gold would be already known to the readers of the White Tiger series – he is the “Golden Boy” of Chinese mythology, the child of the Jade Building Block of the world. As a stone spirit, Gold actually has no set gender, but he chooses to identify as male, and much of his shenanigans happen when he is in male form. Gold is a bit of a hedonist, which isn’t unusual for spirits of this type – they’re concerned with what’s in front of them, somewhat indifferent to the situations and feelings of other, and while they share some characteristics with humans, they don’t really understand their emotions.
However, due to the trouble he causes and the punishment he endures, he eventually learns to care about other people, especially his eventual partner, Jade. It’s rewarding to see Gold grow during the story, and he was also immensely fun to draw, being the free spirit that he is.
Jade is the 82nd daughter of the Eastern Dragon King, and she was originally engaged to another when she first meets Gold. That engagement went nowhere, which isn’t a bad thing, but Jade and Gold were first enemies, before they later became friends. Jade is rather aloof and stand-offish at first (she is a dragon after all, not a human), but she is really a warm and caring “person”, though it takes some time to get to know her. She forms a strong bond with Gold during the course of the story, having been through many trials and tribulations together.
I didn’t get to draw Jade in dragon form in the story, but for her human form, I gave her a long face, long neck (dragon-kind is like that) and somewhat flinty eyes. She’s beautiful, but in an ice-queen sort of way.
William is the 17th son of the White Tiger of the West, sired by his number 45 (Englishwoman) wife. Gold meets him as the same time as he meets Jade, and that is how the trouble first started. William comes as slightly mopey guy who’s into poetry, but even with a human mother, he is actually a very powerful half-shen. He takes on some new military responsibilities in the story, but it’s his resentment of Gold that is the most memorable thing (for me).
I drew William like I would a shoujo hero. He’s supposed to be a dreamy guy with long white silvery hair, who resembles his father in temperament, but not in looks.
John Chen, AKA Xuan Wu, the Dark Lord of the Northern Heavens
Xuan Wu is the Black Turtle and Snake, the animal representation(s) of the cardinal direction of North. He is the leader of the Four Cardinal directions, which includes the White Tiger of the West, the Blue Dragon of the East, and the Red Phoenix of the South. He has a human form, an alter-ego called “John Chen”, but his true form is that of a hideously ugly, giant black turtle and snake. Despite this, is a kind and even gentle man, though as a military leader, he is quite strict and stern.
John Chen is supposed to be in his forties and a handsome older gentleman, so I gave him an older face and bushy eyebrows. Since he is a military leader, there’s no way that I can give him narrow eyebrows, even if it’s a fashionable way of drawing.
The White Tiger of the West
This guy is apparently the most popular character from the White Tiger series, and when it comes down to it, you can see why. In Chinese mythology, tigers are the embodiment of male sexuality and virility, and the ‘White Tiger’ god does not disappoint! He has the ability to entrance the minds (and bodies) of the women he meets, and if he likes them enough, he’ll whisk them back to his Western Palace to install them as one of his hundreds of wives. Naturally, he’s more lecherous than anyone else in the story, but he’s also very loyal to Xuan Wu, and quite playful.
The White Tiger has a sorta ugly-handsome thing going, so he’s surprisingly unattractive from an aesthetic viewpoint – pugnacious even. But he’s the god of male virility, not good looks… that would be the Blue Dragon.
The Blue Dragon of the East
The Blue Dragon appears for a while in the story, and while he is a very attractive guy, he likes to cultivate a different kind of impression in people. He’s actually a rather nice person, but hates to be seen as such – he wants to seen as a harsh task master and a total badass, even though he’s not nasty in any way. I’ve met such people in real life and has always wondered about them, but who knows?
His appearance is that of a rich playboy, so he’s got a more slender, feminine face than Xuan Wu does. He also comes across as rather snobby, even though that’s a act too. He’s perfected the art of “bitch-face” quite well.
The Red Phoenix of the South
Not much is known about the Red Phoenix, except that she likes to play mahjong with the other three cardinal directions. She’s not even fully a she – all of these gods are actually gender neutral, and she took male form for many centuries before she decided to take on female form, which is what she remains for the rest of the story. Her form seems to make her more feminine (or more human), giving her an interest in small children that the other gods don’t seem to have much interest in.
The Red Phoenix barely appears in the story, but her design gives her a rather bird-like head and side profile. I thought it fun to give her short hair that looks like feathers, and long red fingernails.