From New York Times bestselling author Melanie Dickerson comes a fresh reimagining of the classic Mulan tale.
Mulan isn’t afraid to pretend to be a son and assume her father’s soldier duties in war. But what happens when the handsome son of a duke discovers her secret?
Mulan is trying to resign herself to marrying the village butcher for the good of her family, but her adventurous spirit just can’t stand the thought. At the last minute, she pretends to be the son her father never had, assumes his duties as a soldier, and rides off to join the fight to protect the castle of her liege lord’s ally from the besieging Teutonic Knights.
Wolfgang and his brother Steffan leave Hagenheim with several other soldiers to help their father’s ally in Poland. When they arrive, Wolfgang is exasperated by the young soldier Mikolai who seems to either always be one step away from disaster… or showing Wolfgang up in embarrassing ways.
When Wolfgang discovers his former rival and reluctant friend Mikolai is actually a girl, he is determined to protect her. But battle is a dangerous place where anything can happen — and usually does.
When Mulan receives word that her mother has been accused of practicing witchcraft through her healing herbs and skills, Mulan’s only thought is of defending her. Will she be able to trust Wolfgang to help? Or will sacrificing her own life be the only way to save her mother?
This book has quite a few good parts, but some parts that really let me down. There are aspects of the book that really, truly shine. Melanie Dickerson is an expert at romance and fantasy, and that really shows. I’m going to start with what really let me down in the story, then we’ll get to the stuff I liked!
My first issue with this book is the “diversity”. This is not ownvoices, and it is written by a white woman. The diversity is simply in Mulan’s appearance and a couple scenes of racism because of that. But there is no Asian culture brought into the story, which is upsetting considering it is based on a story rich in Chinese culture. The descriptors used are nothing new. “Almond shaped eyes” and stuff like that.
The issue above, leads into my next issue. Which is the retelling. Mulan is so rich in Chinese culture and all this book takes from Mulan is the cross dressing, taking her father’s place in a war, and a couple other things. This is very much so a loose retelling of Mulan. However, what it doesn’t have in rich Chinese culture, it does bring in some Lithuanian and Polish culture. I enjoyed seeing the historical aspects of the setting.
VERY MINOR SPOILERS, SELECT TO READ
My last issue with this story is near the end. I’m going to discuss it with as little spoilers as possible. I won’t say why, or where, but Wolfgang locks Mulan in a room to “protect her”. He ambushes her with this and it’s basically explained away with kissing and because he loves her. The story could have done without this, figured out some other way to deal with the issue. The whole thing made me very uncomfortable.
VERY MINOR SPOILERS END
Okay. Those were my issues with this book. Now that all that’s aired, let’s talk about what I loved!
I always love a story with a girl who like dresses up as a boy to do things that she “can’t” do because she’s a woman. I honestly think it’s so good? It’s one of my faves. And Melanie Dickerson handles this really well. She addresses the actual issues, like having to somehow not have boobs, and just the issues of trying to pass for a man. Mulan is ridiculously bad at it, but I think the whole situation as whole and well written and thought through.
The plot of this is a little different. It has several arcs, and spots were it could have ended but kept going. This isn’t a bad thing. It kept me on my toes. It had some very well written and intense battle scenes, which I very much enjoyed. I did expect the final conclusion to be a bit more, and would’ve liked for the book to continue for a couple more chapters to see Mulan get to meet Wolfgang’s family, rather than the epilogue that felt a little rushed.
I really enjoyed the tense relationship between Steffan and Wolfgang. There was a lot of depth to it, and I enjoyed watching it play out, and how Wolfgang relentlessly loved his brother, even when he did some awful things. Their relationship was very complex and had a lot of great layers to it.
We also got a sweet little sidekick in the story out of Andrei! He was so mature and really a fun add to the story. It would’ve been nice to have a little more of him featured, but I did enjoy what we got!
I saved the best for last y’all. I absolutely loved the romance. The tension, the different sort of slow burn, this was the kind of book where you want to yell “KISS THE GIRL” It’s got unrequited love ON BOTH SIDES which basically means they both like each other but assume the other person doesn’t return their affections. I enjoyed watching them fall for each other in the dual POVs. Like oh my gosh, y’all, THE TENSION in this romance is real. It’s legit the star of the show! I shipped very very hard.
This book was truly so good, but I have to knock a star because of the issues I have with it. I love it, but I acknowledge that it has some issues.
Have you read this? What did you think? What’s your favorite book with amazing romantic tension?? LET’S CHAT!