Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Dragon Pearl

Lee, Yoon Ha. Dragon Pearl
January 15th 2019 by Rick Riordan Presents
E ARC from Netgalley

Min lives on Jinju, a rather run down planet. Her family are shapeshifting fox spirits, so they keep to themselves, since humans are not overly friendly to them. Other supernatural creatures seem to be afforded more patience for their magic, but Min has not taken her fox form for many years because her mother is so afraid of their magic going wrong. Her fears are realized when an inspector comes to their house with the news that Min's brother, Jun, who is in an elite space academy, has deserted his post, possibly in an attempt to locate the coveted Dragon Pearl, which could immediately terraform planets and help civilization. Min upsets both the inspector and her mother when she shapeshifts, and fearing both for her brother and for herself, she runs off to try to find him. In the biggest city on her planet, she runs into a relative who runs a gambling parlor, and is able to make some crafty bargains to get her onto a space ship. She gets on the Red Azalea ship, but it is involved in an accident that kills a young crew member, Jang. Min uses a charm to make the crew of the ship that picks them up, the Pale Lightning, think that she has died, but that Jang has not, and assumes his shape in exchange for promising to find out more about who caused his death. The Pale Lightning was the ship on which her brother served, so Min starts her investigation into where he might be. The captain of the ship is a lion shape shifter who seems a bit suspicious, and Min finds out some important information about her brother. With some of the other crew members. she devises a plot to get to the Ghost Planet where the Dragon Pearl reportedly has been hidden, and while in the process, finds out the answers to many of her questions.
Strengths: This had a definite Star Trek vibe, with its space adventure and exploring new worlds, which is fantastic! Yes, Min had a sad impetus to set her on her journey, but I loved her take charge attitude and her fearlessness in the face of all of her obstacles. There are enough details about the space travel and being on a ship to delight the readers who want such details, and this is woven in nicely with the fox shape shifters and other elements of Korean mythology. Wasn't sure these two would mesh, but they do! Great for readers who liked Fry's Hunt for the Hydra (2014) or McDougall's Mars Evacuees (2015).
Weaknesses: There could have been a bit more explanation about the Korean mythology, especially the way that ghosts interact with living creatures.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, but it would be nice if this were a stand alone and not a series. More of my students would read speculative fiction occasionally if they didn't have to commit to a five book series of 400 page books!

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