Warring States was the fifth novel in the Faction Paradox series.
The Year of the Metal Rat has brought with it greed and self-preservation. The Everlasting Empire is dying, eaten up from within, and the young upstarts Britain and Russia are circling like carrion-birds, for crows of every nation are equally black. The peasant-sect of the Righteous Harmonious Fists attacks all foreign devils. In the capital, the ancient heart of the Empire, the Europeans are besieged by the Dragon Empress' army and the blood of a thousand Christian converts runs in the gutters.
When there is War in Heaven, there is War in the Land. A dagger can be concealed in a smile and this House of Paradox smiles often. Its servant here carries grief like dead petals in her hands and wakes the ancient spirits.
Their anger makes the sky weep blood, and we shall all pay dearly for her trespass.
Note here that Books One and Two are contemporaneous, from different viewpoints.
Book One: The Phoenix Dances
Cousins Octavia and Ursula arrive in Peking through an abandoned train station - the chi lines of the world disrupting normal transit in and out of this time - and travel to the British Legation, where they meet with a variety of foreign nationals, such as the archaeologist Grieves and his wife and reporter Munroe and have dinner. Grieves tells a story about his recent expedition.
On a prior expedition, they had found reference to the location of the White Pyramid of China, a great structure with mythic import, and reference to Kuan Yin. Grieves then mounted a new expedition, finding a massive, undisturbed pyramid. The hired local workers began an expedition, though Grieves felt they were superstitious, with their rituals and prayers and such, as well as apparently seeing Kuan Yin in the stone, which Grieves did not. Entering the tomb found two desiccated corpses, treasures, terra-cotta warriors, and in the burial chamber itself a jade coffin, with a body preserved inside of it, and a casket made out of jade resting inside. The expedition then returned to Peking, through horrible weather, bandits, workmen leaving, and the Boxers attacking and stealing most of what they had recovered from the pyramid.
Upon recounting this story, Grieves then brings his dinner companions into another room to see the mummy and jade casket in another room. The dinner party then asks Octavia to have a mystical peak into the jade casket, since they've been unable to open it. At their bequest she conducts a seance, using her witchblood and living shadow to examine the casket, noticing that it had been tampered with by someone else with witchblood. the next day, Octavia returns to the Legation, to find that Grieves has been shot.
Soon after, sedan chairs carrying two officials and their translator arrived, requesting to speak to Grieves, and conducting an investigation when it became clear that he was dead, insisting that it was suicide, before demanding the return of the artifacts and storming off. Octavia, worried that other Wartime powers were involved in the situation, sent out a call to Prester John requesting the backup of the Red Burial, of which twenty soldiers came.
Octavia returns to the now abandoned Grieves residence, to look for the artifacts, but finds none, before being attacked by the Boxers. She fights them off, before seeing them flee towards one of the officials from before, a general who carries a basket about the size of the jade casket. She moves inside the Legation to find that Mrs Grieves has been shot. As she is dying, she calls out to the spirit of the tomb, prompting Octavia to finally understand an influence she'd been encountering throughout this affair, a timeship from the Great Houses interfering with her mission.
Octavia then uses her witchblood and the dead body of one of the workers who uncovered the jade casket to the Forbidden City, where she finds another intruder, also looking for the jade casket. The two women fight, before touching the casket at the same time. Octavia then turns to look at her alternate number.
Book Two: The Dragon Flies
Liu Hui Ying, and her kau fu Xu arrive in the Forbidden City and met with Ci Xi, the Dowager Empress of China, who tasked them, as well as Commander Meng, with the negotiation and recovery of sacred artifacts stolen by Grieves, though first hearing what one worker saw on the excavation.
Mao Lie Wei recounted his tale, of traveling to a great burial mound, and how rituals were performed to ward off spirits. They dug until they reached a warning stone, upon which was seated Kuan Yin, weeping, and they knew the resting place was not to be disturbed. The workers were promised silver upon the return to Beijing if they would enter the mound, thinking of his parents, Mao accepted. He removed the goods from the grave, and felt empty inside. On the return, men disappeared in the night and members of the Righteous Harmonious Fists attacked the group. Mao fled with the silver, before feeling guilty and begging forgiveness from the court.
Liu and the other two traveled through Beijing to Grives' house the next day, having previously met with her si fu and exchanged discussion related to a Han rebellion the night before. Upon their arrival, Xu and Meng ascertain that Grieves is dead, and insist on inspecting the body. The two insisted that his death is suicide, and demand the return of the relics. Liu attempts to soften the phrasing, but Xu and Meng refuse to listen.
The group leaves, returning to the Empress to inform her of a completed task. Liu then returned to her house, before darting out at night. She intended to recover the jade casket she saw - a Han artifact, to rally the rebellion she served. She discovered that Meng had acquired the casket, tracked him down, attacked him over the casket and fell back.
When Liu returned home, Xu chastised her for sneaking out at night, and, upon learning what she did, confronting Meng. Liu then left her house and went to her si fu's house. In discussing the revolution and their plans, she's told not to pursue the casket, that it might bring ruin on them all. However, that night she had a dream of the casket and insists on going after it, leaving her si fu's house as well, becoming truly disowned from her family.
Liu then broke into the palace to find the jade casket. As she approached it, a spirit dressed in white distracted her, before finally reaching the casket at the same time as a woman she saw earlier at the Grieves residence who noticed her and said.
Book Three: Te
As the two touched the jade casket together, the two shared memories, a product of the witchblood the two of them each possessed. Fighting against this shared past, they pull the casket apart into two halves, before fighting each other for the half the other one possessed, Liu with martial arts, Octavia with her shadow. Then, interrupting them, came Compassion, who was manipulating the chi of the land into holding the faction operatives prisoner. Octavia, knowing the implications of her presence, flees, while Compassion, in her guise as Kuan Yin convinces Liu to use the jade casket and her witchblood to track Octavia down.
Octavia arrives back at the train station where Ursula, the Red Burial, and other members of the Legation who have escaped, are hunkered down. Ursula tells her that they've called on Prester John for retrieval. Morrison, the reporter, was dying from a bullet wound. As this happens, Octavia remembers that he had a journal, but when she goes to look for it it's gone.
Liu and Kuan Yin converse, with Kuan Yin teaching Liu about her witchblood and how to use it. Liu rewrote her timeline so that she had never come to the palace that day, and went to the Legation to provide medical help. She attempts to walk with Morrison and have him help her, but as he accompanies her in this new timeline he is shot and dies. Morrison tells her that he wants to give his journal to Octavia, but she takes it instead as he dies.
Octavia works with the members of the Burial and Ursula to jump back one day in time, taking Grieves' journal from him, getting spatial coordinates for the Great White Pyramid of China. Using the piece of casket she attempts to get temporal coordinates, but it gives off wildly contradictory accounts, and so instead Octavia insists on jumping at the spatial coordinates at a random time. The train carriage falls apart, and everyone begins to scream.
Liu walks through Beijing, following her instincts as to how to proceed, and stumbles upon a spirit, which she recognizes as the spirit of the pyramid's previous inhabitant.
Prester John flew around in the timestream, bouncing off of temporal defenses in a warship before deciding they were wasting energy just battering at them and telling his subordinates to fire up the metaphorical big guns.
Octavia and company have survived, fallback measures kick in, preventing total disaster, and a passageway to the White Pyramid had opened up. Ursula insists on staying put and waiting for extraction and others are injured, so Octavia goes by herself.
Liu walks through the city and as she touches the jade feels herself pulled upwards, steam around her disappearing to find herself in a valley with a half built burial mound, across from Octavia yet again. Octavia and Liu square off again - Octavia asking Liu how she learned to hitch-hike, accusing her of putting both their lives in jeopardy. Liu shows no understanding. As Liu and Octavia fight, an army of men approach them, and the two agree to work together. The two fight, but the men will not stay dead, as they're made of clay. They eventually discover that you need to remove their headbands, the mark of either the fenghuang or the long.
Prester John prepares to fire the guns at the barrier, before the chi lines shift and a hole opens up - an invitation. The ship lands, and Prester John disembarks, before finding the ghost station has been held by the faction agents dispatched. After arriving, he inquires as to where the train went.
In the city, Xu sees the ghost of Liu, and Prester John sees the ghost of Octavia. Compassion appears before the latter, and invites him to tea. She explains to him how she's been manipulating Ci Xi and at times pretending to be her to make sure certain events happen, and that she's placed Octavia and Liu in a time helix, which Prester John is sometimes a part of, in order to extract power from their life-force, their chi.
Liu and Octavia survey the construction site, and eventually come to the realization that Compassion has been playing the two of them against each other. The two train each other in their respective fighting styles for weeks, and eventually build their own clay soldiers, which they use to fight off others sent by Compassion.
The two enter the pyramid together, realizing that the pyramid is itself part of Compassion, and confront Compassion who has the jade casket. They realize that she can only carry one of them, and so Compassion asks them to choose, offering them immortality as they travel.
Liu and Octavia join the casket together, hold each other, and laugh as they vanish.
Compassion, frustrated with her failure, contemplated how to do things from here on out. Should she start a new helix with two new witchbloods? Or, maybe try something different.
Grieves and his laborers open up the burial mound in the present day. Inside was nothing.
- Professor William Grieves
- Mrs Grieves
- Dr George Morrison
- Miss Munroe
- Aleksandr Sorokin
- Gospozha Sorokina
- Sergeant Murphy
- Ursula is a member of Faction Paradox.
- A prologue was published in the novel Warlords of Utopia, and a related story called The Night is Long, and Dreams Are Legion was published in the fanzine MythMakers to promote the novel. Both of these were later included in the ebook of Warring States.
- Author Mags L. Halliday posted online a list of songs she listened to while writing the novel.
- Halliday stated that she won't comment on what happens to Octavia and Liu at the end of the book, and that "The ending is...variable because it depends on whether you are reading the novel as a physical, spiritual or metaphorical journey." 
- The helix is described in the following way. Compassion sets up the white pyramid, and leaves clues, knowing two humans with witchblood will get curious. She sets up the warriors, having them put the two humans in the same place at the same time. At this point the loop starts. In 1900 the casket separates, bonding with the two who touched it, the women go back to the construction of the pyramid, the winner is entombed and the loser is written out of history. In 1900 the casket is removed from the winner's hands, becoming a ghost and the loop starts again.
- Octavia speaks of a place after the end of the universe where every human is resurrected. (PROSE: Of the City of the Saved...)
- Prester John knew that Compassion had been a closed-off human being before her transformation into a timeship. (PROSE: Interference - Book One, Interference - Book Two)
- Octavia knows that Compassion was transformed into Homeworld biotechnology. (PROSE: The Shadows of Avalon)
- Official Warring States page at Mad Norwegian Press
- Warring States at the Faction Paradox wiki
- The Discontinuity Guide to: Warring States at The Whoniverse