I’m back on brand today with another Asian fantasy!!
If you’ve been a reader of my blog long enough, you’ll know that one of the things I cherish and champion the most is Asian books, especially Asian fantasies. This time around, though, it’s a bit different, because it’s a genre I don’t usually review: Middle Grade!
I have a soft spot for Middle Grade books, though I don’t read nearly enough of them, so when the lovely Shealea announced a book tour for The Dragon Warrior at Caffeine Book Tours, I knew I had to sign up.
Today I’m excited to review The Dragon Warrior (and feature some photos, quotes, and an aesthetic) and talk about all the things I loved about it!! It’s one of my most anticipated releases, and I hope it’s one of yours too.
Katie Zhao || October 15, 2019
As a member of the Jade Society, twelve-year-old Faryn Liu dreams of honoring her family and the gods by becoming a warrior. But the Society has shunned Faryn and her brother Alex ever since their father disappeared years ago, forcing them to train in secret.
Then, during an errand into San Francisco, Faryn stumbles into a battle with a demon–and helps defeat it. She just might be the fabled Heaven Breaker, a powerful warrior meant to work for the all-mighty deity, the Jade Emperor, by commanding an army of dragons to defeat the demons. That is, if she can prove her worth and find the island of the immortals before the Lunar New Year.
With Alex and other unlikely allies at her side, Faryn sets off on a daring quest across Chinatowns. But becoming the Heaven Breaker will require more sacrifices than she first realized . . . What will Faryn be willing to give up to claim her destiny?
Inspired by Chinese mythology, this richly woven contemporary middle-grade fantasy, full of humor, magic, and heart, will appeal to readers who love Roshani Chokshi and Sayantani DasGupta.
published by Bloomsbury Kids, classified as Middle Grade and Fantasy
Thank you to Bloomsbury and the author for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for a spot on this blog tour! This did not affect my opinions in any way. All quotes are from an advance copy and may differ in final publication.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Katie Zhao is a 2017 graduate of the University of Michigan with a B.A. in English and Political Science, and a 2018 Masters of Accounting at the same university. She is the author of Chinese #ownvoices middle grade fantasy THE DRAGON WARRIOR (Bloomsbury Kids, October 2019 & 2020), as well as a young adult author. She is a mentor for Author Mentor Match. She is currently open to freelance editorial services for young adult and middle grade manuscripts.
The Dragon Warrior follows a 12-year-old multiracial girl named Faryn, who embarks on a series of quests with friends and family in order to prove that she is the legendary Heaven Breaker, the powerful warrior who serves the Jade Emperor.
I don’t want to compare ALL Middle Grade books about kids going on quests to Percy Jackson, but this book truly gives off strong Percy Jackson vibes with its inclusion of gods, quests, and sarcastic humor. (And you know it’s a high honor for me to compare this to Percy Jackson, since it’s one of my all-time favorite books!)
Since it’s Middle Grade, it’s fun and easy to read, and I thoroughly enjoyed each chapter and didn’t want to put the book down. I think one of the book’s strongest points is how engaging both Faryn’s voice and the story itself is, and it never felt like the plot lacked.
However, though it is action-packed and more on the plot-driven side, there is still a nice focus on the characters as well! I loved Faryn; she’s a fierce warrior, battling against the limits set upon her as a girl and as a multiracial person and discovering her own culture and identity. As an Asian American diaspora kid myself, I related a lot to how she felt less Asian for having lived in America, and it warmed my heart to see that included in the book.
There were also wonderful side characters: Alex, Faryn’s little brother, Moli, Faryn’s friend-turned-enemy-turned-friend, Ren, a dragon-boy with a tragic background, and YeYe, Faryn and Alex’s grandfather. The multiple appearances from gods were also a lot of fun to read as well! (And, without spoiling anything, I’ll say there is a morally ambiguous character, and I am unbearably excited to see where their story goes in the next book.)
The gods didn’t give me ultimate strength. My friends and family did.
A highlight of this book was the inclusion of so much Chinese culture. Though I’m not Chinese myself, my stomach was still growling at all the mouthwatering descriptions of Chinese food like nian gao and bao zi, and in my mind there were vivid paintings of all the Lunar Year celebrations. And of course, reading about the mythological aspects like the gods, demons, and dragons was also so much fun!
The importance of family is also discussed in this book (I think all Asians have been drilled about this at one moment or another), and I really loved it. And I know certain things span across all cultures, but seeing things my parents and grandparents have taught me, like respecting elders and remembering to pray, represented the same way in an Asian book meant the world to me.
One of the things I appreciate the most about this book is that it’s Middle Grade, not only because Middle Grade authors are amazing for being able to write books that will keep children engaged, but also because it means young Asian kids can see themselves in it.
I’m passing this book on to my younger sister, who loves to read Middle Grade and is always talking to me about how she hates that there is a lack of Asian characters in the books she reads. And while it’s too late for me to go back in time and read this when I was young, it’s not too late for her, and I’m so grateful and excited for her to find something to connect to in this book.
Never forget that you are the dragon warriors and heroes of your own stories.
With the way this book ended, I can’t wait to read the next book in the series and follow the rest of Faryn’s journey! I definitely recommend this, especially to fans of fun, adventurous fantasies full of gods and demons, and I can’t wait to see this book become a favorite of so many young readers. It serves as a reminder that saving the world is not limited to just one group of people, and that Asian kids can be the hero too.
:: rep :: multiracial (Chinese, Greek, Egyptian, Turk) MC, all-Chinese cast
:: content warnings :: death of loved ones
is The Dragon Warrior on your radar? do you enjoy reading Middle Grade? what are some recent books you’ve read that represented you??