Book Review: The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad Of Mulan by Sherry Thomas

Book: The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad Of Mulan by Sherry Thomas

Published September 2019 by Tu Books|352 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

CHINA, 484 A.D.

A Warrior in Disguise

All her life, Mulan has trained for one purpose: to win the duel that every generation in her family must fight. If she prevails, she can reunite a pair of priceless heirloom swords separated decades earlier, and avenge her father, who was paralyzed in his own duel.

Then a messenger from the Emperor arrives, demanding that all families send one soldier to fight the Rouran invaders in the north. Mulan’s father cannot go. Her brother is just a child. So she ties up her hair, takes up her sword, and joins the army as a man.

A War for a Dynasty

Thanks to her martial arts skills, Mulan is chosen for an elite team under the command of the princeling–the royal duke’s son, who is also the handsomest man she’s ever seen. But the princeling has secrets of his own, which explode into Mulan’s life and shake up everything she knows. As they cross the Great Wall to face the enemy beyond, Mulan and the princeling must find a way to unwind their past, unmask a traitor, and uncover the plans for the Rouran invasion . . . before it’s too late.

Inspired by wuxia martial-arts dramas as well as the centuries-old ballad of Mulan, The Magnolia Sword is perfect for fans of Renee Ahdieh, Marie Lu, or Kristin Cashore–a thrilling, romantic, and sharp-edged novel that lives up to its beloved heroine. 

I was really excited about this one because it’s a re-telling of Mulan, but unfortunately, I didn’t like this one as much as I wanted to.  It ended up being an okay read for me.

There were some things I really liked about The Magnolia Sword.  I really liked that she was a twin, and that her family was at odds with the prince’s family.  I liked that each generation had to duel- it wasn’t what I expected, but I thought it worked really well.  Especially with how they came together during the book.

I also liked how detailed this book was.  You could tell that Thomas did her research while reading this book.  It really shone throughout the book, and while I know nothing about this time period or the original telling of Mulan, it felt like it was pretty true to the time period.  Please take that with a grain of salt, though, because I’m only familiar with the Disney movie.  And even then, it’s been ages and ages since I’ve watched it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find the book thrilling or romantic, the way it was described.  I was bored, which made me sad, because I didn’t want to be bored.  The Magnolia Sword is more about the characters, which is fine, but I don’t think it was what I wanted.  I wanted more action and battles, and considering the fact that there seemed to be a lot going on at the time, I wanted to be more interested in the book.  Instead, I was really close to not finishing it, and I’m not sure how I did.

Mulan…was not memorable.  I wish I could tell you more about her, but she didn’t stand out to me.  Considering the book was more character driven, and she’s the main character, that was a little disappointing.  And the prince is even less memorable, considering I can’t even remember his name.  And the fact that he and Mulan end up dueling, and they spend a good amount of time together…it’s definitely not a good sign.  You’d think I’d be able to remember but the name didn’t stick.

2 stars.  The Magnolia Sword was just okay, and while there were some things I liked, overall, I was pretty bored.

Book Review: Solider by Julie Kagawa

Soldier CoverBook: Soldier by Julie Kagawa

Published April 2016 by Harlequin Teen|380 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Talon #3

Genre: YA

Blog Graphic-What It's About

The price of freedom is everything.

When forced to choose between safety with the dragon organization Talon and being hunted forever as an outcast, Ember Hill chose to stand with Riley and his band of rogue dragons rather than become an assassin for Talon. She’s lost any contact with her twin brother, Dante, a Talon devotee, as well as Garret, the former-enemy soldier who challenged her beliefs about her human side.

As Ember and Riley hide and regroup to fight another day, Garret journeys alone to the United Kingdom, birthplace of the ancient and secret Order of St. George, to spy on his former brothers and uncover deadly and shocking secrets that will shake the foundations of dragons and dragonslayers alike and place them all in imminent danger as Talon’s new order rises.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

I really liked Solider!  I definitely was not sure about this series at first, because the first book is okay, and I really liked the 2nd one…it’s definitely a pretty solid series by Kagawa, and I’m thinking about re-reading the first one to see if maybe I’ve changed my mind about it.

Back to Soldier, though.  I really liked the focus on Garrett in this book and we learn more about Talon and St. George…especially St. George, since the book does focus a lot on Garrett going back to the UK.  I was surprised by a few of the things we learn in the book, and with how the book ended…that was definitely a surprise.  It makes me wonder how much that will change things in the rest of the series.  It’s definitely a heart-breaking ending, and I don’t want it to be true…even though I’m sure it is, and there is no going back.

I loved learning more about Garrett’s background, and why Garrett is the way he is.  It was definitely overdue, and I’m glad we got more of his story and life in St. George.

I really liked Ember, and how much she is struggling with both her human side and her dragon side.  I really hope she holds on tight to her human side, I really do, because I feel like that is big part of who Ember is.

I was also intrigued by Dante’s story in this book.  We don’t see much of him, but what we do see…I’m curious to see how that plays out.  He does think quite a bit about what Ember what think or do, and I don’t know that he would have done that before.  What Talon is doing doesn’t seem to sit right with him- at least on a project he’s working on- but he doesn’t do anything about it.  I just hate that he’s willing to throw away his relationship with his sister.

I definitely don’t want to spoil anything, and I don’t know what else I can about Solider without giving anything away.  Let’s just say that I’m glad we’re getting at least a couple more books because this story is far from over…actually, I feel like it’s just starting, in some ways.  It’s definitely worth checking out.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

4 stars.  This is a really solid series, and Soldier is a great addition to the Talon series.  It’s really setting up a lot for the rest of the series.

Book Review: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

To All The Boys I Have Loved Before CoverBook: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Published April 2014 by Simon & Schuster|274 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before #1

Genre: YA Contemporary

Check out To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before on goodreads

Goodreads Summary: 

Lara Jean keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her.

They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her, these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she can pour out her heart and soul and say all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

What I Thought:

After loving Han’s Summer trilogy, I’ve been wanting to read everything else she’s written, and this one was one that I was anxiously waiting to read!

I wasn’t sure what I was expecting exactly.  Don’t get me wrong, I really liked it, but it took me a while to get into the book. There’s quite a bit of set-up, so you know what’s going on, and why the letters get sent.  In a lot of ways, I think I was expecting the nostalgia that I felt with her previously mentioned series, and while there are some similarities, it’s also a different book.

I know the letters are what spur a lot of the events in the book, but I really expected more with the letters.  I really thought they’d be huge.  Them getting mailed was big, of course, but…I don’t know, I just expected something more with them, that’s all.

I thought Lara Jean was interesting- it very much seemed like her sister took care of so much after their mother died.  Lara Jean did too, but it really felt like Lara Jean couldn’t do anything without Margot sometimes.  I did like seeing her try to figure things out herself, and how she and Kitty did some of their annual Christmas traditions without Margot.  I get Margot maybe feeling a little hurt or left out…but I kind of also liked seeing them with her.

There was a point where Lara Jean and Josh were super-irritating, and it was Peter who acted pretty realistically during that whole thing.  Lara Jean seemed super-innocent (which I can relate to) and I understand why she acted the way she did (same with Josh but to a much lesser degree) but I still felt like it was a bit excessive.  Also, her friendship with Chris didn’t make a lot of sense to me- and considering they were best friends, I kind of expected something more with their friendship.

I wasn’t a big fan of the drama in it.  Sometimes, I don’t mind drama, but I guess I wasn’t in the mind for it with this book. And while I plan on reading the sequel, I’m also not sure about it.  I feel like this book stands on its own really well, and with an extra chapter for closure, I think it would have been fine without a sequel. But I love Jenny Han as an author, so I’ll definitely be giving it a chance.  It is why I kept going with this book, even though I wasn’t sure about it at first.

Even though I wasn’t sure about this book at first, I did like seeing the letters and what happened as a result of Kitty mailing them.  It was pretty obvious early on who did it, but I liked seeing Lara Jean deal with all of the Peter stuff and Josh stuff, and how her relationships with her sisters changed (even though I wanted more resolution with Margot because I felt like we got none).

Let’s Rate It:

It is a cute, sweet book and I liked that it was all about crushes!  I wish that letters were more of a thing in the book, and I felt like it started off slow, but it did become what I’d expect from a Jenny Han book.  To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before gets 4 stars.