This sixth work was a tough call. I completed a rough draft of ‘“Intention”: War for the Han Frontier’ and had far, far too many pages of necessary Sun clan material once again: with such an extensive story to tell with regard to the Caos and Yuans I had no choice but to remove it and consider another Sun clan book. I have to say that I enjoyed writing ‘East of the River: Home of the Sun Clan’ so much that revisiting the southerners was hardly a chore: Sun Ce and Zhou Yu are interesting to explore and the people that they are surrounded by are not dull either, by any means. But as I started to assemble the draft, I realised that this was going to be a very different piece once I passed Act II: the relatively easy-going, guts-and-glory, family-and-friends-forever, action and adventure pace is replaced by a darker story of intrigue, revenge, mistrust and paranoia as Sun Quan takes centre stage. It still has light moments, but it genuinely alarmed me when it became clear how a change of ruler could really change a place, and the Battle of Red Cliffs can almost be seen from an entirely different perspective when the background politics are laid bare, especially with regards to why the normally shrewd and cunning Cao Cao is so easily fooled by the legendary surrender ruse: it is not down to hubris alone, but a genuine, grounded belief that such a thing could be possible.
I have (as usual) taken some artistic decisions, including the choice of sources for some information: the Lujiang Rebellion that occurs at the start of Act III was researched, as was the Sun Ben story arc, the wrangling for Guangling Prefecture, what happens to Sun Yi, and, lastly but notably, Cao Cao’s choice for Inspector of Yang Province before he settled upon Liu Fu; it may be a different man with the same name, but I go with it being the same man and the die, as they say, is cast. If Cao Cao can employ Liu Xun, Yuan Huan and Liu Yè, then it is not such a strange choice so far as Cao is concerned, but I leave any further debate in the hands of others (and it is even covered by the first act, which is free to view). I also decided to have the pre-Imperial name of the Sun clan’s domains, ‘Eastern Wu’, come into use before it actually did (perhaps?): the book was, at one point, going to be called ‘South of the River: Realm of the Sun Clan’, with the annexation of southern Jing leading to everyone calling the region ‘Jiangnan’ (‘south of the river’, unsurprisingly) but when I returned to the manuscript for ‘Crouching Dragon’ to align continuity and saw that I had started to refer to the south as ‘(Eastern) Wu’ quite early on, I made the decision to go with an early self-titling (and subsequent renaming of the book to something less unwieldy in the process), citing the historical issuing of numerous marquis titles with ‘Wu’ in them to the Suns - and their hometown, Fuchun, being in Wu Prefecture - as the inspiration for the move. Again, I let others be the judge.
As usual, I say that I did not set out to make a work that will necessarily please everyone. This work tells a story that might seem overly sympathetic to the Suns and hostile to Cao Cao, Liu Bei and so on, but I have tried to be balanced and fair where possible. All that is left to say is - most sincerely - that I hope that you enjoy the work.
T. P. M. Thorne