Book Reviews

Review: Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang

Four Treasures of the Sky is an emotional look at survival, racism, and character. I could never tell where the book was going. It’s one of those books where I had to tell everyone once I was done, what had happened. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, this is a must read. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.


Daiyu never wanted to be like the tragic heroine for whom she was named, revered for her beauty and cursed with heartbreak. But when she is kidnapped and smuggled across an ocean from China to America, Daiyu must relinquish the home and future she imagined for herself. Over the years that follow, she is forced to keep reinventing herself to survive. From a calligraphy school, to a San Francisco brothel, to a shop tucked into the Idaho mountains, we follow Daiyu on a desperate quest to outrun the tragedy that chases her. As anti-Chinese sentiment sweeps across the country in a wave of unimaginable violence, Daiyu must draw on each of the selves she has been—including the ones she most wants to leave behind—in order to finally claim her own name and story.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

Four Treasures of the Sky is an emotional story about challenge, the human spirit, and agency. My heart was in my throat for most of the book. Because Daiyu confronts the violence of racism, the assaults of men, and the loss of her family. Not only this, but also the pain of heartbreak and betrayal. On one level, the action of the plot kept me reading. I needed to know what kind of ending would be in store for Daiyu. She doesn’t want to be the tragic heroine for whom she is named. But can she escape that?

A thread that continued to tug at me, was this idea of a name haunting us. What shadows it can cast upon our decisions and what prophetic powers it has. So for Daiyu her life is about choice. The active choices she makes to make what she can of her life, of her own fate. And you have to love her for that. That’s all we can try to do in our lives. Tragedies can befall us, random acts of cruelty and accidents. But it’s about our responses, our moments of inaction, and our quivering hope in the face of it all.

The author’s note was incredibly touching not only as an Asian-American, but also considering the recent resurgence of Anti-Asian Hate. In a way, Four Treasures of the Sky not only takes us back in time, but reminds us of the racism that has never left. The violence, ignorance, and fear simmering under the surface. I’ve never read a historical fiction book during the Chinese Exclusion Act, but it gave me shivers. For historical fiction readers, this is a must read, but it also reminds us about both the good and bad possibilities of humans.

Four Treasures of the Sky is a story that examines the unspoken words between people. The truths hidden behind fear. It’s a powerful debut that is equally heart wrenching and powerful. Find Four Treasures of the Sky on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.


What historical period have you never read about?

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