Title: Crown of Earth’s Desire
Author: Terry Ho
Publisher: Renaissance Publishing
Date Read: 12th May 2013
“One must always hope. For without it, we are nothing.” - Queen Shara
When we look at the histories of other countries, some of us get envious - Ancient China with its colourful dynasties, Old England and its wars, the Celtics, Viking, Egyptians, old civilisations, you get the lot. However, unknown or lesser known to many of us, Singapore has a history stretching beyond the likes of Raffles’s Landing.
Crown of Earth’s Desire is the first instalment of The Forbidden Hill Chronicles, an intriguing, parallel portrayal of what I would probably call Ancient(-ish) Singapore, especially with Bukit Larangan, or where we call Fort Canning Hill today.
Our story starts with Keith Anderson, an American post-graduate student from Yale with Singaporean roots, returning to Singapore for his thesis. He is later joined by Vijay and Poh Chung, fellow Yalies, Anna, another post-grad student in Singapore, as they get thrown into a parallel universe in an attempt to save another friend, Keith’s initial crush, Clarissa Lee.
As appreciated in any fantasy novel, Terry’s world-building skills are impeccable. His descriptions of the villages, palaces, the undersea worlds, and even the darkest depths of the haunted forest are vivid, vibrant, and can be imprinted in your head. I especially love how he managed to bring the markets and villages of Camapura to life, together with the undersea world later on.
What I particularly liked was how Terry manages to weave three different journeys (Keith, Vijay, and Anna) into a complete, whole story. The momentum of their journeys through Turasik are well-paced and spaced apart enough to make it relatively easy to follow despite the vast differences in settings.
However, a few things did irk me a little.
Dialogue is a very important aspect for me, and it did set me off in a few places. Generally, I would give the story a bit of leeway since Keith’s background is primarily American (as the language will show). However, if Borfan (one of the characters in Turasik) declares the death threats only at Page 162, it does question the gravity of his mission to him.
Also, the prologue and end of the last chapter were interlinked, but there seemed to be minimal link to the main story. Clarissa’s disappearance also seemed to be really abrupt and dusted out of the story later on.
Despite all that, the ending did make me want to continue with its next volume. The novel was concluded well enough to wrap up the first instalment as an independent story, but left enough to the imagination for you to want to continue.
To find out more about The Forbidden Hill Chronicles, click here.
~ Joelyn Alexandra