The fifth book in the Detective Inspector Chen series set in Singapore Three.

Publication year: 2010
Format: print
Page count: 317 plus a short story The Lesson
Publisher: Morrigan Books

Omi is a young Japanese warrior who comes from a line of warriors. He has been charged with the slaying of the Iron Khan, a cruel and bloodthirsty warrior and a magican who plans to rule the world with his ifriits. He’s also immortal and ancient. Omi is just one man but he’s doing his best with the help of his grandfather’s ghost.

The new Emperor of Heaven, Mhara, has called Detective Inspector Chen to Heaven. The Book of Heaven, one of the most ancient sentient beings in the universe and its creator, is missing. The Book is capable of rewriting the world, so Mhara wants it back and wants to know how it could have gone. The only way seems to be that the Book itself wanted to leave which isn’t reassuring.

Meanwhile, Chen’s demon wife Inari and her familiar the Earth spirit badger are entertaining the Celestial Warrior Miss Qi in Chen’s house boat. Unfortunately, the trio is caught up in a strange typhoon that whisks them away from Earth and to the Sea of Night which is between Heaven and Earth. And the former Empress of Heaven, who is now quite insane and very powerful, is imprisoned there.

Zhu Irzh and his fiancée Jhai Tserai are visiting Vrumchi and then later the Gobi Desert. Zhu Irzh is a demon from the Chinese Hell and Jhai is a tiger demoness from an Indian Hell. Jhai is also extremely rich and the head of her own company. She’s come to scout locations for her new chemical plant. The plant will likely poison the earth around it but when it’s built in a desert, it won’t bother anyone, right? Their evening at the hotel is interrupted when a reanimated mummy attacks. Later, Zhu Irzh wanders out to the desert and stumbles upon a village. There he meets a ghost of a Russian philopher, magican, and painter, Nicholas Roerich.

The plot takes our heroes to an epic journey though time and alternate history.

Like the other Chen books, the Iron Khan has several plot lines and point-of-view characters. Many of the secondary characters are quite quirky. Roerich is a calm and rational man who reminds Zhu Irzh of Chen. Roerich acts as a sort of quide to the demon. Zhu Irzh himself muses about how much he has changed recentely; developing a conscience and wanting to stay loyal to Jhai. He thinks it’s part of growing up. Inari has also grown less timid over time. She and Miss Qi make up quite an effective team in this book. Even though they are kidnapped several times, they don’t wait for anyone else to rescue them. The cast of characters has grown to very large but the book doesn’t feel crowded to me and the new characters fit in well.

This time the main villain, the Khan, isn’t a point-of-view character and that’s probably a good thing because he seems to be quite psychotic. However, he also remains a rather distant character.

The universe went through a major change in the previous book, the Shadow Pavilion, and it’s still changing. Mhara, the new Emperor of Heaven, wants Heaven to have more contact with Earth and to help people. Mhara’s father decreed that everyone in Heaven must agree with his opinions and Mhara reversed that command. Some of Heaven’s denizens aren’t happy about either of these changes; now they have to have their own opinion and make their own decisions. This can be quite a chore for those who aren’t used to it. It’s likely that we will see more about this in the next book.

This book also expands the universe, again. The plot sends the characters through space and time, and into the steppes. I really enjoy this expansions and changes in both the characters and the world. It’s a very good continuation to the series. A few historical people show up in the book. And a floating mythical city!

Oh and Inari is pregnant. Human/demon pregnancies are apparently not common at all and can be dangerous, too. There are a few tantalizing clues about their child-to-be. Apparently, it will be a warrior in a great war and possibly a reincarnation of a former foe. Inari isn’t happy about it.