A review of The Fifth Beauty by Ellison James

I reviewed a story by Ellison James late last year called Lovestruck Succubusyou can find that review on the Tale here. The story is about a Succubus named Azra and her search for love and what happens when she finds it. Just a little while ago he released a short story in this same universe which is called The Fifth Beauty for free on Smashwords. And so I am going to review that story today on the Tale…

The Fifth Beauty by Ellison James.

The Fifth Beauty by Ellison James

The story is described as:

Deep within Chinese legend and folklore are four great beauties – women of such great beauty and intelligence that each influenced history. This story continues the legend with a little-known, fifth great beauty. The fifth great beauty was responsible for a new tea drying process that created fortunes and increased commerce within china, and eventually bringing about the fall of the last great Qing Dynasty to make way for the modern People’s Republic of China.

Told from the point of view of Taijin, a lowly scribe working within a tyrannical magistrate’s house. A beautiful and mysterious woman called Azra comes to the magistrate in the night, seduces him, and eventually takes his life, leaving the position open for Taijin to take. But first, Taijin must officiate the tea harvest, now late from the magistrate’s neglect, and find a way to dry the tea in time to make it to market. The result is Lapsang Souchong tea, renowned for its full flavor and portability over the vast ocean.

The story, it should be said, is not your typical Succubus story. If the author didn’t tell us that Azra was involved by having her name used, I don’t think that it would have been an obvious thing really. As well, Azra appears really only for a few moments in the entire story, but if you had read the previous story then it was obvious that she was appearing and acting as she did when we first met her. The appearance of Azra’s greatest foe in the story was, again, not spelled out, but if you were aware of her story, then who it is makes perfect sense really…

The author does clearly state that this isn’t so much about Azra as it is about what happens when she gets involved in a part of history and what is done in the aftermath of her effect on it. That is quite obvious as the main character in the story, Taijin, narrates the work to place Azra as a part of it, but not the focus of it.

I thought that was an interesting approach as it fits well with the times the story is placed in and the social morals as well. Azra is seen as  a concubine for the most part and save for the reveal in the story of what she is, remains so save for the reveal at the end of the story which I thought was well done. The narrator is confused with the effect that she has on the magistrate and tries to translate that into something they can understand, but more interestingly, something that they are able to write about in their own diaries about the time.

I would have liked the story to be a bit longer, perhaps with some reflections or thoughts from Azra of why she was there. I just found her sudden appearance there something I questioned and what brought her to that particular place and time really wasn’t touched on enough for my personal tastes…

But that’s just me…

I’m going to give this work 4 pitchforks out of five.

There wasn’t a lot of Azra in this story, but she is there and you get a sense of the demons she was dealing with during her long life and just how long she has been looking for love, as they say, in all the wrong places…

But she isn’t wrong in trying to find it.

I’m still looking forward to seeing the next story in Azra’s life called Demon Among Wolves… Hoping that it appears soon!




    • avatar
    • James on June 27, 2011 at 10:58 am

    I’m downloading this story to add to my reading this week!

    • avatar
    • TeraS on July 18, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    I think you’ll enjoy it…


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