[Review] Dragon Pearl -Yoon Ha Lee

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(Yoon Ha Lee, 2019)

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.

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What I Liked

  • Atmosphere
    • This story had a really unique and rich setting. It really felt a lot like Star Wars to me! There were a number of different kinds of planets described throughout this story, and each one was unique. I loved the different scenes on the different kinds of ships. The author was very skilled at creating these really interesting settings that also felt natural.
    • I honestly cannot think of a better way to describe or compare this story than with Star Wars. I think of Min’s planet, Jinju, and how it is dry and dusty- it reminds me a lot of Anakin and where he came from. The scenes with the casino reminded me of Jabba the Hut’s scenes. The Fourth Colony could have been where Yoda resided, where Luke trained with him. Regardless, if you take anything away from this, know that it feels a lot like Star Wars, but with more fantastical elements.
  • Korean Mythology
    • Out of all the books published under Rick Riordan Presents so far, this one did the absolute best with the mythology aspect. I couldn’t tell you details about the other mythologies from the other books, but this one clicked really well for me. I really felt like I was learning something about Korean myths, and took some of what I learned away with me after the story was completed. It felt the most natural, and realistic, which is something I really appreciate with Sci Fi fantasies. It genuinely makes me want to look further into their mythology too.

What I Disliked

  • Pacing
    • I have no idea why it took me over two weeks to read 300 pages of a middle grade science fiction novel (with supposedly a lot of adventure). The only thing I can say about it was that I felt like I was turning pages, and going nowhere. Like I honestly felt like I read over 100 pages, and it wouldn’t look like I made even a dent in the book. And then all of a sudden the conclusion kind of just rolled itself out, and I was left worried that it wouldn’t have enough pages to tie up all the loose ends.

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Final Thoughts

This was a hard one for me to rate. When I sit back and think about the story alone, I really did like it. But it took me nearly two whole weeks to read a 300 page middle grade book…something just doesn’t add up. I liked that this was described as a space opera- it definitely had some serious Star Wars feels, from the descriptions of the worlds, down to the fight scenes, but still felt unique and authentic on it’s own. I loved the Korean mythology! I loved the presence of the different kinds of spirits and their different abilities. It was difficult for me at times to accept the limitations of this aspect of the story, but after a little while, it felt more natural. It definitely was done much much better than the other two books published under this imprint so far. I didn’t really get attached to many of the characters though, and I felt like that might be why I had such a hard time picking this up. That, and the pacing of the story was very slow to me. It was definitely written like a movie for sure, but I just felt like some things could have been cut out, which made the story drag. Over all, story-wise, I feel like this has been the strongest out of Rick Riordan Presents. It was unique and rich. The mythology worked well within the story’s limits, and really complimented the story as a whole. But the characters, overall enjoy ability, and readability? I say it was the most difficult one for me to pick up. I genuinely don’t know where that leaves me. I think I want another swing at it later down the line. Maybe when I am less distracted, or not in a slump.

7 thoughts on “[Review] Dragon Pearl -Yoon Ha Lee

  1. I was really interested in this one but it does seem rather think for a MG fantasy. Maybe it should have been a little shorter and the pacing would be quicker? I know Harry Potter made longer children’s books a thing, but sometimes I feel that maybe we don’t need to make them all so long. Editing is sometimes warranted!

    Liked by 1 person

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