Thursday, June 13, 2019

Book Review: Stronger Than A Bronze Dragon by Mary Fan

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Stronger Than A Bronze Dragon
Author: Mary Fan
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Pages: Hardcover; 384
Release Date: June 11, 2019
Source: FFBC Tours / Publisher
Content Screening: Mild Violence

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy steampunk fantasy with mythological roots.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
When a powerful viceroy arrives with a fleet of mechanical dragons and stops an attack on Anlei’s village, the villagers see him as a godsend. They agree to give him their sacred, enchanted River Pearl in exchange for permanent protection—if he’ll marry one of the village girls to solidify the alliance. Anlei is appalled when the viceroy selects her as a bride, but with the fate of her people at stake, she sees no choice but to consent. Anlei’s noble plans are sent into a tailspin, however, when a young thief steals the River Pearl for himself.

Knowing the viceroy won’t protect her village without the jewel, she takes matters into her own hands. But once she catches the thief, she discovers he needs the pearl just as much as she does. The two embark on an epic quest across the land and into the Courts of Hell, taking Anlei on a journey that reveals more is at stake than she could have ever imagined.

With incredibly vivid world building and fast-paced storytelling, Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon is great for readers who are looking for something fresh in epic fantasy.

This Chinese-inspired fantasy gave me a fluttery heart from the moment that I saw its cover. Let's be honest, it's a great time to be a reader in this movement of own voices books. I couldn't wait to see how Mary Fan would blend this rich history, a bit of steampunk, and a heavy dose of fantasy into something new. To say I was excited for this book probably doesn't even cover it, but we'll leave it at that. I was ready to be swept away.

Now, in all fairness, I am an extremely character driven reader and Anlei took a long while for me to actually enjoy. It's not that she's a bad character, by an means. Fan has created a young woman who is bright, fierce, and full of honor. Anlei isn't afraid to speak her mind, or to step into the face of danger to protect others. However the first third or so of the book it almost felt like Anlei's character was trying too hard to be the exact opposite of a Mary Sue. She was fierce and combative to the point of it feeling like she was a cardboard version of what she wanted to be. That was rough for me. As the story went on though, and I followed her through her adventures, I fell more in love with her attitude. If only a little more polish had been given to the dialogue that she had with a lot of other characters at the beginning, I feel like we could have started off on a better foot.

In terms of world building, which is my second necessity in fantasy reads, this one fell a little short. While the steampunk aspects were absolutely stunning (mechanical dragons anyone?), there wasn't enough explanation of Anlei's world to really make things feel solid. I tripped along with her as she flew across her land, headed for danger, but I never really felt like I was actually there. If I could wish for anything, it would be more time to really sink into the world and find my place in it. Maybe the finished book will have a map inside, which would be amazing! I would have loved to feel like I was actually there with Anlei.

The last thing I want to address is the plot, and this is a touchy one because I don't want to give anything away for potential readers. I'll simply say that this is a rich story, full of mythology, but it definitely drags in places. I honestly believe that this story could have done with some tightening up. Watching Anlei and Tai travel around and battle evil was fantastic. Following along with their banter and their harrowing adventures was a lot of fun. However some of their journey, and some of their dialogue, felt more forced than it should have. It made the book drag at times to the point I needed to skim ahead, but it didn't stop me from reading on.

Truthfully, I did enjoy my time with this book. Maybe not quite as much as I had originally hoped, but it was still so refreshing to get lost in such a culture rich story. If you're a fan of fantasy that has strong women and epic battles, this is a story for you.

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FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.


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