Book Review: The Magnolia Sword


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.

Review –

Oh my dear reading friends. Mulan has always held a special place in my heart. Fierce capable warrior who defies tradition to protect her family and country? Sign me up.

And as a fan of Mulan, its been a bountiful (if mixed) decade of books, live action news (both the Chinese Mulan and the forthcoming Disney movie) and discourse over the original Disney animated film.

None of which I can speak to as anything but a fan of the Ballad and film since it doesn’t effect me racially or culturally.

This book was one that I wanted from the moment I saw the author post that she was doing it. I enjoy Sherry Thomas’ historical romances and knew deep in my reader’s soul that she was an awesome choice.

Here is Hua Mulan, 19 and having spent her entire life being told she must uphold the family name and honor against an opponent she would not meet until the day of their duel.

Here is Yuan Kai, not much older than Hua Mulan and spent his entire life being told he must avenge their family and bring honor back to their name in a duel to the death with an opponent he would not see until the duel

While the book is from Mulan’s POV, Thomas gives us an understanding of Yuan Kai through Mulan’s observations as they fight to aid the empire. Indeed Mulan spends much of the book making observations that make sense in hindsight more often than not.

The first half of this book, is at times more poetic and thoughtful than strategic and eventful. Its only with the unveiling of a spy that the action kicks into gear and even then there is a lot of contemplation about some weighty ideas.

One such recurring question plagues Mulan throughout the rest of the book – if there are two sides to every conflict, why is one venerated above the other? She learned her father’s version of the duel that paralyzed him left out A LOT of details. Details that from the one side, Yuan Kai’s family’s side, made her father out to be dishonorable, murderous and underhanded. How could she trust her father that she MUST fight Yuan Kai to the death?

She spends the latter half of the book struggling to piece together who Hua Mulan was outside of her father’s expectations of her, society’s expectations of a female, Yuan Kai’s family’s view of her and her own confused sense of self.

Thomas did a lot of research for this book (some of which she discusses at the end of the book and some I’ve seen her discuss online) and as someone more familiar with latter dynasties than this early one, I feel I need to do some more reading. The political landscape of the era is treated as a matter of course, debated by many of the characters and considered in almost every decision. Some of it is barely touched on (Mulan mentions briefly the problems of the South) and some there’s a lot of detail thrown in. It all boils down to a tale as old as time – someone wants more power, someone wants more glory and someone wants what is right for the country despite the instability at the moment.

All in all, rec it 100% and gosh I want more like it.

Want to Know More?

Published by: Tu Books
Release: September 10, 2019
Series: Stand alone
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Connect with Sherry: Twitter | Goodreads | Website

Lexie Words

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