As a war looms, allegiances are questioned, traitors are exposed, and a few unexpected allies are discovered.
There are many characters involved in this story; however, they are fairly easy to keep track of. Faryn Liu is the main warrior. With an intense love of family, even at 12-years-old, she is fighting for those she cares for and even those she does not yet know. At her side is Ren, her faithful friend. He’s got a few of his own personal struggles, but he’s doing his best to learn to control his actions and support his friends. New to this continuing saga are Ashley and Jordan. Also, young warriors, they, too, are on the side of good–although Ashley is really annoying. She has a really bad attitude and her hatred toward Faryn takes center stage far too often. As the story unfolds, they come across old friends and discover that people do have the ability to change, for good or bad.
Violence and magic are entwined into this story, yet the author has presented both in age appropriate ways. Magic is used by the gods, by those with special weapons, and by those with unique parentage. Violence is to be expected when the gods are involved because there always seems to be a few who want to be in control of everything, although the author keeps it age appropriate by not adding bloody or overly descriptive scenes. Because this book is centered on Chinese mythology, and written with believable detail, it could be confusing to a young reader since it is not clearly written as a fantastical story. Heaven and hell, the gods, the parentage of a few, the dead coming out of Diyu (hell), and the activities in Diyu, are all written in a way contrary to what Western-based cultures normally hear about those places and could be confusing to a young reader only familiar with Western world views, but is a great opening for discussing other cultures and belief systems.
The story flowed well (with the exception of Ashley and her annoying tendencies) and kept me wanting to read more and see who wins this battle of good vs. evil. The characters are presented in a believable manner even though they are not yet even teenagers; they are capable of being true warriors whom the world depends on. If you love mythology and folk lore, you might enjoy this story very much. The ending is definitely a set up for a third book. This is Katie Zhao’s third book to be published and the story is introduced in book one, The Dragon Warrior.
Review of a Digital Advanced Reading Copy
This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Violence/Gore: Several long battle scenes between young warriors vs. demons and bad guys, descriptive of battles scenes and some mention of blood but not to the point of being gory, sometimes the human warriors get hurt but nothing long term; a pre-teen girl remembers a boy who died saving another person, minor descriptions of his death; a pre-teen girl remembers a girl who died in battle; a pre-teen girl falls while in a vehicle, hitting her head and getting knocked out, no long term harm; a pre-teen girl goes berserk and breaks several mirrors, hits a friend in the face, implied repeatedly, giving him bruises and she gets several cuts from the mirrors; a minor skirmish with the Bull Demon King who ends up falling into The Cauldron of Boiling Oil, he survives; a man, who is still alive, is being held prisoner in hell/Diyu; an old woman tries to get the warriors to drink a potion, then she and her demons battle the young warriors, ends with the old woman falling from a very high place; a pre-teen girl chooses to stay in hell as a trade for an object, her spirit is separated from her body and her body held in suspended animation; a pre-teen girl stomps on the foot of a pre-teen boy; one of the gods slams the [implied] blunt end of his spear into the stomach of a pre-teen girl sending her flying out of a mid-air vehicle; several people and personified animals are almost caught in a shock wave that causes minor cuts and bruises.
Sex/Nudity: A pre-teen girl and boy are accused of being “lovey-dovey” because they were hugging while greeting each other (non-sexual).
Mature Subject Matter:
Praying to and summoning dead ancestors to the living world, praying to gods and goddesses, hell (a.k.a. Diyu), demons, seeing & interacting with the dead in hell/Diyu, reincarnation, adoption, hatred of adopted family, discrimination, child abandonment, possibly unfamiliar Chinese mythology (the Mountain of Knives where sinners are forced to climb for eternity, The Cauldron of Boiling Oil, Heaven is where the bad guys who aren’t demons come from).
Alcohol / Drug Use:
A pre-teen girl is given a potion from her dead grandmother that will help a person she loves (parental relationship).