Beyond the Heavenly Kingdom


Early review by anonymous Amazon Editorial Reader

“It is a great historical novel, and I believe your target audience will thoroughly enjoy this story.” 



Beyond the Heavenly Kingdom
By Li Bo
CreateSpace, $2.99, 260 pages, Format: eBook

 Star Rating: 5 / 5

1870-Tanjin, China
Jason Brandt is living in an age of uncertainty. He has found and married his love, Black Jade. He searched long and far for her; her previous marriage to a warrior-soldier yielding a young child named Mei-Ling. Jason and Jade’s marriage has led to the birth of a young boy named William. The whereabouts of Wu are unknown in the wake of the war between Manchu and Taiping. Jason is laboring as a journalist in an ever-evolving world. He wants to bring his family to America; his wife barely survived an attack on an orphanage that was spurred on by ignorance and racial bias. China is chock full of danger. Jason decides to head back to his birth home and reconnect with his father. His opportunities are increasing as his documentation of China and its people has been lauded by none other than Mark Twain, who begins a correspondence with Jason. Jason and his brood set off on an arduous but beautiful journey to the United States. The beauty is sullied by the hatred spewed at the Chinese in San Francisco as the immigrants are utilized as cheap labor by ruthless corporate leadership. The natives see the new arrivals as threats and ripe for oppression. Jason’s work as a journalist leads him to reconnect with Wu and assist him in rebuilding his life. The journey home is threaded through with encounters with Phineas Fogg and his wife, who are endeavoring to travel around the world in 80 days in a balloon, and Jason also finds a financial opportunity with a financier who seeks information about China. The meeting with the financier in New York City is filled with promise for the future if all goes well. Mark Twain offers sage advice in regards to safety in Jason’s mixed marriage. Black Jade finds a niche in teaching language to kids, while Jason’s writing covers the mistreatment of the Chinese as replacement workers. The husband and wife begin to team up as lecturers, narrating their lives for mass consumption. Jason reconciles with his father, and his family adjusts to life in the United States. But will they be happy in their new environment?

Beyond the Heavenly kingdom is a worthwhile follow-up to The Heavenly Kingdom, a continuance of the adventure-filled romance. The reader is guided on a tour of the post-Civil War landscape, the newcomers brimming with awe and amazement at the sights. The beauty in some cases obscures the hard truths lying below the surface. The conditions highlighted on both continents are at times hard to read about but important nonetheless. This book is about love, acceptance, and endurance. A great sequel!!

Reviewed by Philip Zozzaro




Amazon reader review

Customer reviews

on August 4, 2017
Format: Paperback
A sequel to Li Bo’s Tienkuo: The Heavenly Kingdom, this novel surpasses the first in terms of detail, research, and quality of writing. Beyond the Heavenly Kingdom picks up where the first novel left off, at the end of the Taiping Rebellion, amidst increasing tensions between the failing Qing Dynasty and Western nations in the late nineteenth century. Journalist/writer Jason Brandt and Black Jade (his wife) subsequently decide to tempt their fate by travelling to America with their children. The novel primarily traces the family’s ocean journey from China to San Francisco, their train ride from California to New York to Massachusetts, but also includes subsequent trips between China and the US, and journeys to Europe and the Middle East. As before, we are experiencing their adventures through the eyes of Jason; however, despite being born in America, he is more comfortable and familiar with China’s environment and its people. The story is fascinating and unique in its incorporation of both historical and fictional characters, all of whom interact with Jason and his family. These figures include Mark Twain, Prosper Giquel (on whom Leibo has done extensive historical research), Harriet Beacher Stowe, Ulysses S. Grant, Russell Sage, Emma Willard, Yung Wing (the first Chinese student to graduate from an American university), and Phileas Fogg (from Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days). From these interactions, readers gain insight on a number of historical topics, including the American publishing and media industries in the nineteenth century, the history and development of San Francisco, the history of women’s education in Troy, NY, the growth of the anti-Chinese movement in the US, as well as post-Civil War race relations. Notable adventures include Jason’s involvement in both the labor strike (broken by Chinese workers) in North Adams, Massachusetts, as well as Ulysses S. Grant’s post-presidency trip to China. Li Bo’s newest work is as compelling (if not more so) as his first, and will be enjoyed by lovers of both history and fiction.


Beyond the Heavenly Kingdom is the second book in a series set in the mid-nineteenth century and follows Tienkuo: The Heavenly Kingdom, which traced the lives of Jason Brandt; his wife, Black Jade; and his scholar friend Wu Sek-chong during the Chinese Civil War. In this second novel, Brandt and Black Jade travel from Shanghai to Boston in the years following the American Civil War. Americans of that era, increasingly anxious about competition from lower wage Chinese immigrants, demanded an end to all immigration from China, which culminated in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

In this novel inspired by Mark Twain’s travel memoir Innocents Abroad, Brandt, a Shanghai-based American journalist, imagines writing a book that chronicles his own travels. He and Black Jade journey to Boston, where his father, a Christian missionary, lives. On the journey, Brandt and Black Jade learn of the Troy Female Seminary, a pioneering girls’ school in Upstate New York, and dream of opening a similar school in China. Along the way, they encounter actual historical figures—including President Grant, Mark Twain, and Senator Charles Sumner—as well as literary characters such as Phileas Fogg.

Travel with them as they come to grips with a changing world that shares many parallels with our own.


Book World Review

About the Author

Steven Leibo, who writes fiction under the pen name of Li Bo, is a professor of modern international history at the Sage Colleges in New York. In addition, he is an associate in research at the Fairbank Center on Chinese Studies at Harvard University. His honors include being named a Fulbright scholar and election to the National Committee on US-China Relations. He is the author of Tienkuo: The Heavenly Kingdom and Transferring Technology to China: Prosper Giquel and the Chinese Self-Strengthening Movement.

Link to Amazon Site for Beyond the Heavenly Kingdom