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Strike the Zither

Strike the Zither

Kingdom of Three, Book One

Joan He

The year is 414 of the Xin Dynasty and chaos abounds. A puppet empress is on the throne. The realm has fractured and three warlordesses each hopes to claim the continent for herself.

But Zephyr knows it’s no contest.

Orphaned at a young age, Zephyr took control of her fate by becoming the best strategist in the land. Now she serves under the most honourable lordess, the last one still loyal to the empress. But honour is double-edged in a war where one must betray or be betrayed, and it’s up to Zephyr to infiltrate a rival camp when their survival hinges on it. There is more than one enemy, however – and not all of them are human. Can Zephyr finally overcome her fate as written by the gods?

Strike the Zither is a brilliant, action-packed YA/crossover fantasy about found family, rivals and identity, in which Joan He reimagines Three Kingdoms, a classic from Chinese literature, with new female agency.


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Joan He
About the Author

Joan He is a Chinese-American writer. At a young age, she received classical instruction in oil painting before discovering that stories were her favourite kind of art. She studied psychology and Chinese history at the University of Pennsylvania, and now splits her time between Philadelphia and Chicago. She is the New York Times–bestselling...

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1 November 2022
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Praise for Joan He
andStrike the Zither

‘Joan He takes no prisoners, and Strike the Zither is her latest triumph. An intricate, expansive epic that poses difficult questions and eschews easy answers, this book is as ambitious as its scheming, ruthless cast—and just like its narrator, delivers above and beyond.’

‘Filled with twists and turns, Strike the Zither is a meticulously plotted, supremely satisfying story that explores identity, legacy, and loyalty in unexpected ways. This is Joan He’s best yet.’

‘A fierce reimagining of the Chinese classic: an ode to loyalty, family, destiny, and the complicated ways each of these elements bind or free the cunning strategist at the center of the tale. This riveting read is full of twists and surprises that shock and delight, building up to the epic conclusion that left me gasping.’

Strike the Zither is a page-turner, full of unexpected twists, with an expansive, intricate world of sisterhood and subterfuge. He’s smooth, economical style is the perfect vehicle for this gripping political fantasy, marrying cat-and-mouse intrigue with a tenderness and emotional depth that heightens the stakes of every new reveal. A standout work from a remarkable author.’

‘Rich with intrigue and epic in scale. Strike the Zither grows tall on the heroic classics it draws from, yet beats powerfully with a heart of its own. Joan He aims ambitiously and lands true each time.’

‘Joan He will stun readers with her latest book. Richly layered and highly creative, Strike the Zither offers a world brimming with war, love, and unforgettable characters. A truly magnificent book.’

‘In this tautly plotted, vividly reimagined tale of a beloved Chinese classic, He orchestrates an epic page-turner that leaves a resounding echo in the minds of its readers. A cunning protagonist and complex cast of characters rounds up this intricate tale of destiny and legacy, honor and betrayal, crescendoing with each twist and reveal. Strike the Zither will keep you guessing–and gasping for more.’

Strike the Zither reimagines the Chinese classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms in a way never seen before, with intense twists and turns that pay homage to its inspiration while being refreshingly different. A brilliant exploration of destiny and identity!’

‘A twisty, body-snatching, gender-flipped retelling of The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Prepare to be transported.’

‘Powerful, action-packed prose, quick pacing, anticipatory atmosphere, and immersive world building…A distinct and evocative adventure.’

‘A riveting series opener.’

‘This soaring, masterful retelling becomes an epic all of its own as He’s heroine outsmarts and outmaneuvers a vibrant cast of military geniuses. With its startling twists and constant intrigue, readers will get lost in this rich, gorgeous, and dangerous world.’

‘He’s worlds are some of the most dynamic in YA, and this commanding series starter is a treasure.’

‘Zephyr’s clever wit and cynicism are just as captivating as the action-packed scenes in this first book in a planned duology.’

‘An enthralling fantasy that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.’

‘A fantastic reimagination of The Three Kingdoms…We’re already excited to pick up the sequel!’


‘A fascinating alternate history that spins a complex story of fate, identity, and found family.’

‘Breathtaking new YA fantasy…He’s worlds are some of the most dynamic in YA, and this commanding series starter is a treasure.’

‘Zephyr is a fierce woman you would not dare to forget.’

‘It’s been some time since a work of YA fiction has riveted me as much as Joan He’s Strike the Zither…Masterful.’

‘This is an epic tale!…The magical quality of the story is like the music of the zither—atmospheric and expressive…A story to delight and captivate.’

‘[He’s] poignant voice transcends genre…Strike the Zither delivers an exploration of identity in the latter half, touching upon the heartstrings of many who grew up straddling the line between cultures.’

‘An intriguing page-turner with a rich storyline…Immersive and visual…Kept me at the edge of my seat.’

‘A powerful fantasy exploring duty, honour, found family and what we do to survive.’

‘Joan He has written an engaging reimagining of the Chinese literature classic Three Kingdoms.’

‘As a series opener, all the elements of a riveting historical tale are present — intricate plots, unexpected twists, expansive kingdoms and interpersonal conflict…He has rendered a triumph of political fantasy, delivering a subversive, historical story that dares to ask its characters the hard questions…He’s thrilling plot and zippy characters carry the fire that burns throughout the book…Strike the Zither will transport you to another time, another realm. The end of the book is ripe with suspense, leaving you with that old, tortuous anticipation left by the final screenshot of a television episode: “To be Continued…”’

‘Be prepared to have your mind blown…Joan He does an interesting feminist twist on the original Three Kingdoms story. For readers of the fantasy genre, if you love found family, war, rivalry, conflicts, and a dash of romance, don’t hesitate to pick this up!’

‘A brilliant, fast-paced page turner…Thoroughly enjoyable!’

‘Exciting events, fascinating characters and exotic settings to stimulate the imagination of even the keenest fantasy readers.’

‘[He] has crafted a world immense scope, artfully tweaking history to create a story where the fate of a realm lies in the hands of unapologetically fierce women…Unique and intelligent.’

Other editions ofStrike the Zither
  • Strike the Zither
    ISBN: 9781922791115
    1 November 2022
    Buy ebook