Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
Daughter of Xiu by Aviilokín K'shi is a work of speculative narrative poetry written in dramatic metered verse and in the format of a verse novella. K'shi harnesses the power of a spiritual awakening many lifetimes in the making, tackling conventional, systemic sexism and the imposition of human-created ideals that stifle the beauty and philosophical harmony of the true Tao. These miscarriages of doctrine weave throughout the story with lilting but tragically raw moments that bring the narrative to life. A fourteen-year-old births a boy to great acclaim while a twenty-three-year-old is shunned. Women are silenced while men contrive to keep them this way, mutilating hearts, minds, and physical bodies. Refuge is sought by Shan Mei Ling—the white tigress and narrator—who seeks serenity in Taoism where religion does not exist and in the presence of her beloved Master Xuan.
Aviilokín K'shi presents the literary world with a stunning piece of work. Daughter of Xiu carries all of the hallmarks of classic narrative poetry. The rhetorical device of parallelism is employed with exceptional skill and the allegory that runs for the entirety of the story dances between transcendent experiences and the reality of daily living, with gems such as when the narrator describes a wife's duty to remain grateful for all her husband gives her, writing, “I am grateful, like the bird that is caged but fed.” It is easy to engage and, for myself, I found an inherent distrust of Master Xuan despite Ling's connection. This tension within the arc was heightened by the interesting mix of naivete Ling often displays even with the maturity and perspective gained from an untold number of reincarnations. I was so invested in Ling's journey that I felt genuine agony for her losses, tempered only by the words of K'shi's beautiful prose.