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: Bound by Donna Jo Napoli

Bound Napoli CoverBook: Bound by Donna Jo Napoli

Published November 2004 by Atheneum|184 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Fairy Tale Re-Telling

Blog Graphic-What It's About

Young Xing Xing is bound.  Bound to her father’s second wife and daughter after Xing Xing’s father has passed away. Bound to a life of servitude as a young girl in ancient China, where the life of a woman is valued less than that of livestock. Bound to be alone and unmarried, with no parents to arrange for a suitable husband. Dubbed “Lazy One” by her stepmother, Xing Xing spends her days taking care of her half sister, Wei Ping, who cannot walk because of her foot bindings, the painful but compulsory tradition for girls who are fit to be married. Even so, Xing Xing is content, for now, to practice her gift for poetry and calligraphy, to tend to the mysterious but beautiful carp in her garden, and to dream of a life unbound by the laws of family and society.

But all of this is about to change as the time for the village’s annual festival draws near, and Stepmother, who has spent nearly all of the family’s money, grows desperate to find a husband for Wei Ping. Xing Xing soon realizes that this greed and desperation may threaten not only her memories of the past, but also her dreams for the future.

In this searing story, Donna Jo Napoli, acclaimed author of “Beast and Breath,” delves into the roots of the Cinderella myth and unearths a tale as powerful as it is familiar.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

I really like fairy tale re-tellings, and I was really intrigued by a Chinese re-telling of Cinderella.  Especially because I loved Cinder.  I liked it, but not as much as I liked Cinder.  However, if you want something a little more historical, and a little less dystopic, this is definitely a good book to check out.

It seems like it’s a pretty straightforward re-telling of Cinderella, and I like that it’s pretty similar to one of the Chinese variations on the Cinderella story.  I do wish the author had deviated from the original story a little more, just because I would have liked to see her do something different with her re-telling of Cinderella.  It’s very clear that it’s a Cinderella re-telling, which I liked, but…I still wanted something slightly different, because if I wanted something that mirrored the original pretty closely, I’d go read the original.

Because of the setting, it’s a slightly different take on the Cinderella story we’re familiar with, partly because of Disney and partly because of the different Roger’s & Hammerstein versions out there (of which the Whitney Houston one is my favorite, but probably because it’s the only one I’ve seen, not counting the Disney version).  It seems like there are more variations on the Cinderella story across different time periods and continents that any other fairy tale out there, and this episode of The History Chicks does a great job at going over all of the different variations.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

3 stars.  It’s a pretty straightforward re-telling of one of the many variations of the Cinderella story, and I love the setting.  I like that it re-tells a version most Americans probably aren’t familiar with, but at the same time, I wanted some sort of twist on the story we all know.