The Dragon Warrior, by Katie Zhao

For those looking for mythology infused adventure, ala Rick Riordan, there's more out there than just the Rick Riordan Presents books!  One excellent pick is The Dragon Warrior, by Katie Zhao (Bloomsbury, October 2019).

It starts out with a familiar story--a girl who finds herself the Chosen One.  12-year-old Faryn Liu and her little brother Alex have been trained by their grandfather (their father's missing, and their mother is dead) in the warrior tradition of the Jade Society, fighters who protect humans from attacking demons.  But there have been no demon attacks for ages, and Faryn's family is despised by the elite of the society--her mother was not Chinese.  Then one night Faryn finds herself confronting an actual demon, and with the help of  a celestial being, she defeats it.  Maybe she's destined to be a warrior in the Jade Society after all.

Turns out she's more than just a warrior.  She (very unexpectedly) finds that she's been chosen by the gods to be the next Heaven Breaker, fighting demons for the Jade Emperor with a weapon only she can use.  But to assume that mantel, she must overcome a series of challenges and make it to the island of the gods bfore the Lunar New Year. Setting off in a chariot drawn by flying horses, with her brother at her side to put his intellect to work deciphering the riddles of the challenges, and with her former best friend, who had turned against her like all the other Jade Society kids, Faryn takes on demons, and other challenges, to prove herself a hero.

And then there's a twist....because gods (and there are many divinities in the Chinese pantheon, moving in and out of Faryn's story) are tricky, and don't necessarily have the best interests of ordinary people in their hearts, and the story kicks up a gear, leaving readers longing to find out what happens next!

So if you like brave girls, lots of mythological magic, dragons and wonderful weapons, and some solid demon whacking, you'll enjoy this lots! It might not seem like it's breaking new ground at first, but even the "old" ground of questing is made fascinating and fresh by the Chinese immortals and their interventions.   There's perhaps a tad too much stress on how mean the former friend turned, and her change back to an ally is more convenient than convincing, but it furthered the plot just fine.  Many young readers appreciate friend drama more than I do, and it allowed readers to understand where Faryn is coming from in her journey toward self-confidence.

In short, a fun introduction to Chinese mythology (there's a nice guide to demons and deities at the end of the book) that will leave readers hungry for more!

disclaimer: review copy gratefully received for my reading as a Cybils Awards panelist last year, read when I got, and now happily reviewed so  I can pass it on to my local library!

1 comment:

  1. Well who wouldn't like brave girls, lots of mythological magic, dragons and wonderful weapons, and some solid demon whacking? This sounds fun. Thanks for the review.


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