Song of the Crimson Flower

Philomel. Nov. 2019. 288p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781524738358.
Gr 7 Up–Bao, training as a physician’s apprentice, is an orphan with no family or property to his name. Despite this, he loves Lan, the daughter of a wealthy nobleman, who is certainly destined for an advantageous marriage. Lan, meanwhile, dreams of finding love and a proper marriage, and she has her sights set not on Bao, but on the physician’s son. When Bao falls prey to a witch’s spell, he must set out on a journey to break it and Lan, despite their differences, insists on accompanying him. Meanwhile, the mysterious bloodpox is spreading, and along with it rumors of dark magic that may somehow be connected to Bao’s mysterious past. On their journey to break the spell, Bao and Lan meet characters familiar to fans of Dao’s other novels and learn to rely on themselves, on others, and on love. In a fairy-tale world based on Vietnam, familiar tropes are explored in new ways and though characters are imperfect, they grow and change.
VERDICT Powered by quiet, satisfying prose and a sense of magic and wonder, this will appeal to lovers of fairy-tale retellings and new fantasy worlds. Standing apart from Dao’s other works, prior knowledge of the world is not necessary to enjoy this lovely tale.

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