Martial Arts Are Magic in Wesley Chu's 'The Art of Prophecy'

Exclusive cover reveal and excerpt from the bestselling author's upcoming martial arts fantasy epic.

The Art of Prophecy, the newest book from acclaimed bestselling author Wesley Chu, is an epic fantasy ode to martial arts and magic -- the story of a spoiled hero, an exacting grandmaster, and an immortal god-king. And we are pleased to present this exclusive cover reveal and an excerpt from the novel.

The first book in the "War Arts Saga" trilogy, The Art of Prophecy is set in a world where martial arts are magic. A prophecy has foretold that a child will rise to defeat the Eternal Khan, a cruel immortal god-king, and save the kingdom. But the prophecy was wrong. Because when Taishi, the greatest war artist of her generation, arrives to evaluate the prophesied hero, Jian, she finds a spoiled brat unprepared to face his destiny. But the only force more powerful than fate is Taishi herself. Possessed of an iron will, a sharp tongue -- and an unexpectedly soft heart -- Taishi will find a way to forge Jian into the weapon and leader he needs to be in order to fulfill his legend.

While the book doesn't hit shelves until next year, the "War Arts Saga" already has a TV series adaptation in the works from Neal H. Moritz's Original Film and Sony Pictures Television.

The Art of Prophecy is due out August 9, 2022 from Del Rey. Here is a first look at the book's gorgeous cover, from artist Tran Nguyen and designer Cassie Gonzales:

Read on for an exclusive excerpt from The Art of Prophecy.

* * *

Jian stood up and scanned the rest of the palace. He should have seen someone, anyone, by now. There were no archer snipers, no assassins lurking in the shadows, nothing. He pushed through the double doors and made it two steps when he saw the first living soul. In some ways he wished it had been an assassin.

Taishi, that hateful old woman, was sitting on the throne up on the dais, peering at him from behind a teacup. Jian gripped his saber and marched up to her. "It's a capital offense to sit on the throne. Not even I am allowed. It's a symbol that the States have no emperor. You can be hanged for this."

She eyed him with disdainfully. "It took you long enough to find your way here," she remarked. "I was informed that you rose with the King."

"My attendants did not wake me. They have all gone missing," he replied. "What are you doing here? I ordered you gone from the palace."

Taishi took a long, exaggerated sip. "No more giving orders until you've earned that right too. Authority is earned, not given. A strong leader is forged, not born. No more groveling servants and scraping sycophants. No more corrupt masters and lords fawning over you to seek advantage. You are a soldier and a student. And from this point on, my student. I am taking over your training. You are now my ward and responsibility. It is past time you begin walking the true path of a war arts master to reach your full potential. Now, come here." She held out her opened palm with her half-empty cup resting on it. "Your first lesson is humility. Pour me more tea, boy. Dash of honey."

Jian tried very hard at that moment to kill Taishi with his glare. "Pour it yourself, you hateful, crippled hag." He swatted at the cup.

Taishi flexed her palm and bounced the porcelain teacup straight up into the air as his hand passed underneath. The cup rose up to his eye level and then fell, leaving a stream of tea following it back down. Not a drop was spilled. Jian tried again, but only succeeded in grabbing a handful of her sleeve. He yanked hard, causing the cup to slip from her palm. The top of her foot tapped it as it fell, and the cup bounced back up again. It landed on the top of her foot which then she sent leaping upward again, landing perfectly and completely un-spilled back onto her palm. She held it out. "Refill. My. Tea."

Jian turned his back to her. "I don't need to put up with this." Jian stomped away, his heavy boots echoing around the cavernous ceiling of the throne room. "I'm going to instruct Palacelord Faaru to have you shot next time you step foot into the Celestial Palace." He managed to make it five steps when he felt a light tap on the crown of his head, and then Taishi landed in front of him, the teacup still in her hand.

"The front gates are locked, and the walls are too tall to climb. I'll offer one chance to escape me, however. If you can smash this cup, then I will unlock the gates, and you will never see me again. Otherwise, serve me tea and begin your training."

"I hate you!"

Taishi shrugged.

This time Jian didn't hold back, aiming a killing blow as he went at her with renewed fury. His heel missed rearranging her nose by inches. He followed up with the Ningzhu family switch kick, Sun family double thrust. The almighty Jang lunge. Taishi gave an exaggerated yawn as she avoided his blows, her arms and legs swaying away from his attacks like a feather blown about by the wind. He might as well have been batting air. Jian quickly wore down, missed strikes were often more draining than ones that found their marks. Then to his shock, she slapped him. Again. Hard this time.

Her open palm came flying toward his left cheek and past it, swiveling his head to the side and rattling his skull. A giant bell rang in his head as his knees gave out and he spun in a complete circle and crashed to the ground.

"Stop slapping me!" Jian probably should have taken a moment to collect himself, but in his fury, he bounded to his feet right away. He did not see her palm until it connected with his right cheek. As he stumbled, she slapped his ear, breaking his equilibrium, and then slapped him once again in the solar plexus, causing the air to rush out of his lungs. A moment later, he was on the floor again, this time face down.

Jian was a little slower to get up. A whimper escaped him. His head was still ringing and the world swaying when he wobbled onto his hands and knees. He came at her again: Sinsin sucker punch followed by the Wang sweep, and then the--no, he changed his mind and switched to the Hili hammer-fist. It was all for naught.

"You move with the grace of a two-headed donkey when you don't run a set routine." Taishi calmly shifted out of range. His attacks were only just missing her. Jian extended further, thinking the next blow would be the one to find its mark. He tried harder and harder until he found himself precariously off balance.

"You are also easily taunted into making mistakes." She stuck her foot out and his legs disappeared from under him as the world flipped upside down. His head bounced off the gold and purple tiles once, twice, three times. A high-pitched whine escaped his lips.

Jian gnashed his teeth and picked himself up once more. He took a step forward and got slapped on the nose. He took two more swift shots to the forehead and neck before he finally penetrated the diminutive woman's guard. Then, he wasn't sure how she did it, but Taishi bumped him with her tiny hips and he went flying. None of his masters had ever hit him so hard before. Jian landed roughly sprawled on the marble floor. He forced himself to his knees.

"A good warrior knows when to submit," she droned.

"A good warrior keeps his mouth shut." Jian grabbed the half empty pot of tea that had spilled onto the floor. He flung the contents at her.

"First thing we've agreed on," she conceded as she parted the spray of liquid with a brush of her hand.

Their next exchange went as well as the last. Still, that did not cure Jian's stubbornness. Five more times he picked himself up and went at her. Five more times she slapped him to the ground. Each subsequent time he rose more slowly than before.

After six more attempts, Jian lay on the floor, his body stinging and numb, but it was his ego that hurt most. Whatever little self-control he had left failed him then. Jian began to cry, shoulder-shaking sobs that wracked his entire body. Nothing made sense anymore. The sense of being an absolute failure smacked him over and over. He had let everyone down. Jian brought his knees to his chest and turned away from Taishi, his face burning with shame.

"Heroes betray no emotion," Wang had lectured the first time he had cried as a little boy.

"The true warrior steels his nerves," Ningzhu had added.

"Heroes do not cry. Babies cry. Which are you?" Sinsin had practically yelled into his face.

The other masters had only stared at him in quiet disappointment and disdain every time his emotions got the better of him. Jian had learned to sniff quickly and wipe the tears away. Now it was too much to keep in. Jian didn't know how long he stayed on the ground, bawling like a child.

A hand touched his shoulder. "You fought well, boy. Better than I gave your masters credit for." Taishi knelt beside him. Jian tried to brush her away and cover his face. She touched his hand softly and lowered it. "There's no shame in tears. Nor in defeat. Both can be great sources of strength."

He sniffed and sat up to face her. "It doesn't make me weak?"

A small smile, the first he had seen on her face, appeared. "There is nothing weak about being in tune with your emotions. There is great strength once you learn to harness it. I want you to care so deeply it brings tears to your eyes."

* * *

From the book The Art of Prophecy by Wesley Chu. Copyright © 2022 by Wesley Chu. Reprinted by arrangement with Del Rey Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

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