MULAN by Grace Lin
Kirkus Star


Before the Sword
by ; illustrated by
Age Range: 8 - 12
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Before becoming the legendary Chinese warrior, Mulan had to face her own demons.

A prophecy tells of a young girl who will grow up to save the emperor. Motivated by past grievances, the White Fox demon, Daji, strives to stop the prophecy by injecting that girl—Xiu—and her healer with a powerful poison. Desperate to save Xiu (though ignorant of her sister’s portended role in the future), Xiu’s sister, Mulan, aids the injured healer—who’s revealed to be Jade Rabbit, an immortal with powers of his own. The Rabbit tells Mulan that they must travel to the garden of the Queen Mother of the Immortals to retrieve a rare plant needed for the cure—by the night of the new moon, before the poison reaches the victims’ vitals. Mulan and the Rabbit ride off to their uncertain future on Mulan’s horse, Black Wind, with a mix of dread and hope. As the Rabbit and his powers grow weaker by the hour, Mulan constantly battles her insecurities regarding her own identity and abilities vis-à-vis her expected traditional role in society. Daji also pays her visits, laying temptations and traps with the help of Red Fox, her accomplice. As usual, Lin artfully develops captivating characters with rich histories. Traditional tales are interspersed throughout the tightly written narrative to gradually reveal a complex web of legends and adventure that seamlessly blend together into one alluring saga. (A partial bibliography of Chinese tales and traditions is appended.)

A legendary tale for a legendary figure. (afterword) (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 11th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-368-02033-6
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Disney Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2020


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