Dragon Pearl By Yoon Ha Lee
Publication date: January 15, 2019
Summary from NetGalley:
Rick Riordan Presents Yoon Ha Lee’s space opera about thirteen-year-old Min, who comes from a long line of fox spirits. But you’d never know it by looking at her. To keep the family safe, Min’s mother insists that none of them use any fox-magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times. Min feels hemmed in by the household rules and resents the endless chores, the cousins who crowd her, and the aunties who judge her. She would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. She’s counting the days until she can follow her older brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see more of the Thousand Worlds. When word arrives that Jun is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is wrong. Jun would never desert his battle cruiser, even for a mystical object rumored to have tremendous power. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name. Min’s quest will have her meeting gamblers, pirates, and vengeful ghosts. It will involve deception, lies, and sabotage. She will be forced to use more fox-magic than ever before, and to rely on all of her cleverness and bravery. The outcome may not be what she had hoped, but it has the potential to exceed her wildest dreams. This sci-fi adventure with the underpinnings of Korean mythology will transport you to a world far beyond your imagination.
ARC provided by Disney Book Group via NetGalley for an honest review.
I am having a hard time writing this review, because even though I liked this book I did have a lot of issues with it too. I sometimes wonder when I get a book from NetGalley months in advance of its publication date, if it is in the final stage of editing. I think I picked this book up back at the end of summer, and it feels like it needed more work.
I think part of my issue with this book was that it couldn’t decide between being a science fiction or a fantasy story. I really liked the Korean mythology aspect of the story, the different supernatural creatures that Min encounters were really interesting, but then the space part of the story would just sort of come to the forefront and the mythology disappeared. The two parts just never meshed well together for me.
Min is a likable character, although she does read much older than her 13 years. Her ability to shape shift was very interesting and her ability to charm people worked to her advantage most of the time. I thought it was interesting that with all of the abilities that the fox spirits were not well thought of, but were viewed as untrustworthy and were often persecuted. A little bit more of the background on the animal spirits would have been helpful.
There were some secondary characters that I really liked, namely Haneul and Sujin, two cadets Min befriends on the space cruiser she eventually finds herself on. Haneul was a dragon who could control the weather and Sujin was a goblin who could conjure up food and drink when they needed it. They were helpful to Min and at times made the story more interesting.
This was a plot driven story, more than character driven. None of the characters developed or grew much. The plot was well done, but like I mentioned before, the space and mythology aspects just didn’t mesh well for me. There were also some times when the action slowed down too much. The writing also went from really good to just okay, so like I said I wonder if more editing was being done before publication.
Overall, I think this was a good story that kids will like. That cover will certainly having them flocking to check it out!