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Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon

384p. Page Street. Jun. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781624147333.
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Gr 8 Up—In this feminist epic by award-winning author Fan, a Qing-era village is rescued from peril by a powerful viceroy who then offers the village permanent protection. All he wants in return is the village's valuable river pearl—and the hand of a brave village girl named Anlei. Anlei finds the viceroy repulsive, but for the sake of her village agrees to marry him. Then a thief steals the river pearl. Anlei sets out after the thief, named Tai, whose intentions turn out to be honorable. The two become unlikely partners on a hero's quest across a mechanized landscape, made ever more inhuman by the viceroy's greed and his lust for power. During their adventures, Anlei and Tai learn what it means to support and love another. They defeat mechanized monsters and the monster the viceroy has become, thus allowing captured souls to return to their rightful places. Action filled and plot oriented, the novel holds enough adventure for three books. Its steampunk monsters are glorious and compelling. However, some violent passages are alienating and offensive in their bloodlust.
VERDICT A solid purchase for insatiable fantasy readers, though not an inspiring one.

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