Monday, September 9, 2019

Review: The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas

The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan
The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan by Sherry Thomas
Tu Books
Publication Date: September 10th, 2019
Hardcover. 352 pages

About The Magnolia Sword:

"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."

Disney's Mulan has been one of my favorites since I was a kid. Once older, I discovered that the story of Hua Mulan was based on an ancient ballad, The Ballad of Hua Mulan. Whether Mulan was a real figure in history or not is unproven, but I have loved the story and all the many retellings of it since, so I was enormously thrilled when I received an ARC of The Magnolia Sword.

The Magnolia Sword is a beautiful retelling of the classic story with incredible world-building and a cast of charismatic characters that make it easy to fall into the story. This Mulan story is about a girl who's trying to find out exactly who she is and how she fits into this world, compelling family drama, and so much more. Mulan herself is a relatable and engaging figure whose story was one I loved following. She starts out relatively unsure of herself, but her devotion to her family and honor is strong enough to leave her with an undercurrent of confidence that encourages her to do what she must for her family. It was a wonderful experience to watch both her confidence and her courage grow throughout her journey and to see her discover more about herself and the peoples and lands surrounding her.

I genuinely enjoyed other members of the cast as well and found myself immersed in their own journeys and relationships with one another. There is a charisma that surrounds almost all of them that makes them the type of characters that make the journey and adventure that much more exciting. I also liked seeing all of them interact with one another and develop varying forms of bonds out of loyalty and friendship--or out of dislike for some.

One of the things that I loved most about The Magnolia Sword was how apparent it was that Thomas put so much research and love into it. There's a clear voice in the narrative and a penchant for authenticity and historical detail that really made this book stand out. Some may call learning of all the history surrounding the places Mulan visits info-dumping, but I found it endlessly fascinating and I genuinely enjoyed how much effort Thomas put into the world-building and made this story her own. I was also really impressed with her fight scenes. I'm no expert on fighting, but I found them compelling, easy to follow, and similarly well-researched.

The pacing is the only part of this book that feels a bit off. A majority of the book runs at a steady pace that's neither too fast nor too slow, but there are many places throughout the middle of the book that slow considerably. There weren't any moments where I wanted to put down this book because of it, but it did make it slightly harder to get through those times and stay engaged.

Overall, I've given The Magnolia Sword four stars and would highly recommend it to any Mulan fan--or someone who just loves a bit of adventure and an incredible Chinese setting!

*I received an ARC of The Magnolia Sword courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating or enjoyment of the novel.*

1 comment:

  1. I've heard such good things about this, and if I had more time and a smaller TBR I would probably read it๐Ÿ˜