This - my fifth work - actually has a two-page foreword due to one or two important points that I wanted to make, so there is less for me to say here, really. As I say in said foreword, this is a product of excess material at the end of “Turmoil”: Battle for for the Han Empire, itself an unintended sequel to “Yellow Sky”: Crisis for the Han Dynasty, but I stand by my decision to proceed with the project: this fills many gaps, completes Cao Cao’s transition from idealistic young bystander to ruthless Chancellor of State and covers several small things that my other works could not or did not for various reasons. Cao Chun was an important character that did not get a mention previously: I correct that here, along with finally giving Kong Rong and Cao Pi opportunity to do some poetry and tackling that most difficult of subjects, namely Zhang Fei’s acquisition of Lady Xiahou, although I do not dwell upon it. I am also glad of the opportunity to have closure with regard to Hua Tuo - who was introduced in “Turmoil” but never used - Kong Rong, whose ‘rivalry’ with Cao Cao was shown in the last work but could not be resolved, and, most importantly, Lady Cai Wenji, who was abducted by the Southern Xiongnu tribal prince Liu Bao part-way into “Yellow Sky”.
I should also say that this is, unavoidably, a parallel narrative for/with Crouching Dragon: the Journey of Zhuge Liang, as the entire novel takes place during the same timeframe as the first two acts of that other work, so Liu Bei’s faction - who were prominent in “Turmoil” - are relegated to cameos early on to avoid retreading.
As before, a lot of research was done (using predominantly English-language sources) and the aim was always to have more historically-accurate storytelling than some other 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 characters) and maybe exploring the motives and consequences of the political and military decision-making. Ying Shao is this work’s ‘academic in the spotlight’ initially, but I also take the time to explore Cao Cao’s prodigious son Cao Chong, who is both an academic figure like Cai Yong (despite his age) and part of a tragic story thread that had to be explored anyway.
I have taken artistic decisions as always and, once again, I know that I will not please everyone. Aside from ‘not much Liu Bei’, the Suns do not feature either: their many exploits are depicted as ‘off-stage’ events (and important ones at that) that Cao Cao, Liu Bei and Liu Biao must react to, but anyone that is interested in seeing those post-East of the River: Home of the Sun Clan events can now read about them in ‘Eastern Wu: Realm of the Sun Clan’. Oh, and Red Cliffs happens after the events at the end of this book: no Red Cliffs here. I don’t want to be unintentionally misleading! Red Cliffs is covered in detail in ‘Eastern Wu’ and is occasionally shown from the Cao/Han point of view where appropriate, so for the interested that is where you can go.
That’s it really, regarding “Intention”: I hope you enjoy it.
T. P. M. Thorne