“We’ll have to do our best,” Haneul said. She raised her chin and turned until she was facing into the wind. …“If the ghosts don’t want us to go in that direction, changes are something valuable is there.”
I couldn’t argue with the logic. I just hoped we weren’t making a terrible mistake.
– from Dragon Pearl, by Yoon Ha Lee
I was NOT prepared for this book.
Rick Riordan’s work with the Olympians was fast-paced, dangerous, and a bit bloody. I don’t know where I got the idea that this book which features a girl on the cover with her hair streaming, wearing a space suit with a helmet under her arm, would be anything other than the same. This is a REAL adventure, and so the reader has to be prepared for REAL setbacks, REAL disappointments, and REAL “WHOA!” moments. Min is in search of her brother, Jun, who allegedly went AWOL from his position in the Space Force, and she is not playing around – at all. She is willing to do anything to find him – and to find the Dragon Pearl, including go into a world inhabited only by ghosts… hungry ghosts just looking for a home…
…and Min is gumiho – a Korean fox-shifter, whose family keeps to their human-shape because… reasons. Instead of going out and having Awesome Adventures as a fox, Min has been stuck on a farming planet, cleaning, cleaning, and cleaning some more, fixing the tractor, getting petty with her cousins, and waiting on too many Aunties. This is NOT the life she wants, where she’s trapped by her mother’s fear of age-old prejudices against those different, and she’s been counting down the days until she’s fifteen and can get out of dodge. When a military investigator comes — peering at all of them, looking for Jun, as if they’re hiding him… Min uses her fox Charm and tries to find out more. What she creates is a huge mess but what she decides is clear: she has got to find Jun, and figure out what’s going on – fast.
What I love about this story is that nothing is separate — everything that happens to Min, or to her brother, is all interconnected with the politics of the Space Force, the Pearled Halls, and her society as a whole. She takes on this huge, unwieldy call to adventure — she’s a CLASSIC Heroine, by the way — and the ramifications of her actions ripple through the whole world. And she’s a mere girl, ladies and gentlemen. Only a girl…or is she? Throughout the story, Min is many things — and her duality is the flipside of the interconnection between everything else. She is boy boy and girl, both heroic and traitorous, both human and fox, and both a soldier and a sister. She achieves a sort of balanced place between spirit and flesh as well. I always wonder how much deep, philosophical stuff authors include on purpose – I can’t imagine the author putting all of that in without intention.
Anyway, I wondered whether Rick Riordan “presenting” was going to kind of just be a… hype thing? But, definitely: NO. No hype, just really amazing stories. I’m impressed.
Until the next book,