This third work was actually produced alongside “Yellow Sky”: Crisis for the Han Dynasty, since both novels deal with the same events from different perspectives. At one point, I did consider abandoning it for fear of repeating myself,but as it took shape it quickly became obvious that the work offered more than an alternative take on acts II-IX of “Yellow Sky”.
In a sense, it serves as a prequel and sequel simultaneously: it carries the narrative of “Yellow Sky” past Cao Cao’s battle to keep Yan Province and ends just before Yuan Shao declares war on Cao Cao, which (almost) leads into the opening act of Crouching Dragon: the Journey of Zhuge Liang.
But above all, this work aims to tell the (early) story of the Sun Clan, that third force in later Han Dynasty politics that started as leaders of a hired mercenary army and ended as rulers of a third kingdom in one of the most famous eras in Chinese history. In-between the various episodes in the Sun clan’s busy schedule, I also cover the legendary vigilante/hero Taishi Ci, since his meeting with Sun Ce is one of the more important to the later years.
As with the previous works, a lot of research was carried out (using predominantly English-language sources) and an attempt was made to have more historically-accurate information than some previous attempts to document the age. And, as always, my interest is in building characters, telling some sort of coherent story (despite the large number of players) and maybe exploring the motives and consequences of the political and military decision-making.
I have taken some artistic decisions, including the choice of source for some information: some will not like my inclusion of the ‘Imperial Seal’ rumour that dogged Sun Jian, but as it was included in Eastern Wu historical works commissioned by his own son and heir, Sun Quan, and Yuan Shu is said to have used the Seal as proof of his own sovereignty and a bargaining tool, it is here but made ambiguous; some will not like the inclusion of a variant on the ‘Gan Ji’ tale, but it serves as proof that Sun Ce has learned lessons from his father and his encounter with Ze Rong; the portrayal of the young Sun Quan will certainly raise eyebrows for any that are not familiar with the stories about his early behaviour, but in that sense he is reminiscent of Shakespeare’s portrayal of ‘Henry V’ in that he becomes a great ruler beyond the scope of the novel, which ends with his brother Sun Ce at his peak.
Once again, 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 Yuan Shu, but I have tried, as I did with the likes of Zhuge Liang and Cao Cao, to be balanced and fair where possible. I hope that you enjoy the work: it now has a sequel, Eastern Wu: Realm of the Sun Clan, but with regards to possible future works that might go beyond the time of Sun Ce and Zhou Yu in more depth, I can only say that I cannot say!
T. P. M. Thorne