Facing possible deportation, imminent war, and a nest of “usually benevolent but now vicious coiling water dragons,” Chen Peasprout and her friends skate into full gear.
Entering her second year at Pearl Famous Academy of Skate and Sword, Peasprout is still reeling from the discoveries of Book 1—and readers new to the series should start there. Charming classmate Hisashi returns to Pearl with the mysterious Wu Yinmei, allegedly seeking refuge from her great-great-grandmother, the ruthless Shinian Empress Dowager. As the school transforms into a military academy, the three students, along with Peasprout’s best friend, Doi, and brainy younger brother, Cricket, join forces (team name: Nobody and the Fire-Chickens) to outwit their classmates and defend Pearl. Lien hits his stride in this second installment, as the series’ many narrative threads begin to coalesce. The Asian-inspired fantasy, with its presumably all-Asian (or fantasy equivalent) cast, takes on weighty and relevant questions of gender, ability, leadership, immigration, conservation of natural resources, national identity, and political change with intelligence, deftness, and precision. Romances, including one between two girls, are realistically awkward (but maybe less realistically chaste—though they are still in their early teens) while the friendships, sibling relationships, and rivalries continue to provide the story’s emotional core. And Peasprout is its snarky, brilliant, hilarious, and utterly human heart. Readers, who have to wait for the next volume to see what happens next, will echo one of Peasprout’s favorite imprecations: “Ten thousand years of stomach gas.”
A riveting second act. (Fantasy. 10-14)