The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan

The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan

CHINA, 484 A.D.A Warrior in DisguiseAll her life, Mulan has trained for one purpose: to win the duel that every generation in her family must fight. If she prevails, she can reunite a pair of priceless heirloom swords separated decades earlier, and avenge her father, who was paralyzed in his own duel.Then a messenger from the Emperor arrives, demanding that all fa/>A...

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Title:The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan
Author:Sherry Thomas
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan Reviews

  • Mogsy (MMOGC)

    5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

    After consistently being disappointed by so many books described as “Mulan retellings”, you can probably understand why I went into The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan with no small amount of trepidation (though of course I could hardly resist it). And quite honestly? I was blown away by this “Own Voices” novel. Sherry Thomas has written a refreshing new take on this famous Chinese folktale about the legendary female warrior, applying her own unique a

    5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

    After consistently being disappointed by so many books described as “Mulan retellings”, you can probably understand why I went into The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan with no small amount of trepidation (though of course I could hardly resist it). And quite honestly? I was blown away by this “Own Voices” novel. Sherry Thomas has written a refreshing new take on this famous Chinese folktale about the legendary female warrior, applying her own unique approach to the portrayal while staying faithful to the original story and ensuring historical and linguistic accuracy.

    In this version of the tale, Hua Mulan has always been a skilled fighter. Each generation, the Huas and their rivals the Yuans vie for the honor to safeguard the two fabled swords named Sky Blade and Heart Sea, the outcome determined by a duel between one representative from each family. From a young age, Mulan has been trained for the role by her father, who made her disguise herself as a boy and take on the name of her twin brother who died in infancy. If she wins her duel against her Yuan challenger, Sky Blade and Heart Sea will be reunited under their house, and she will also score a major victory in the feud between their two families, avenging her father who was maimed in his own duel a generation before.

    However, right before the duel, the Huas receive a letter from her opponent requesting the match to be postponed. War is brewing, and it seems the Yuans must focus their attentions elsewhere. At first, Mulan’s father regards the missive as a snub, until a messenger from the Emperor arrives at their own village along with a royal decree demanding each family put forth a male recruit for the war effort. To protect her little brother, who is too young, and her father, who is disabled and too old, Mulan decides to enlist using her male persona. On her first day in the army, she manages to impress the son of the duke with her martial arts skills, earning herself a place among his elite guard. To her surprise though, the position is not the safe assignment that she had expected. The young princeling is determined to fight on the front lines, and when Mulan discovers the secret he has been hiding, she realizes they may be in more danger than she thought.

    Inspired by the traditions of wuxia, a genre which translates to “martial-chivalric” fiction, Sherry Thomas spins an epic tale of courage and adventure. I adored her depiction of Mulan, who embodies all the traits we think about when it comes to the character—fiercely independent, altruistic, and honorable. At the same time, the narrative never lets us forget that behind all that armor, our protagonist is a teenager, and wholly human. She is everything we want out of a kickass heroine, and yet still has a vulnerable side to her that makes her sympathetic and easy to relate to.

    The story also takes place in 5th century China, during a period known as the Northern and Southern dynasties which was marked by much political unrest. Frequent references are made to these conflicts between the north and south, creating an atmosphere of tension that pervades through the entire novel. Major kudos to the author for doing what must have been a staggering amount research to get certain details as accurate as possible, and her afterword at the end of the book, including historical and linguistic notes, was a fascinating look into that process.

    I really enjoyed the story as well, and the way it retained its folktale roots. Action played a large part, featuring both close-quartered martial arts and large-scale fighting in heated battles. But my favorite scenes were always the quieter moments where we got to explore the character relationships. There is a super sweet romance between our protagonist and her love interest, a man who is as honorable and brave as she is. They were certainly well matched, and I was rooting for them every step of the way. I was also glad this story shone a light on Mulan and the love and respect she has for her father, which a surprising number of retellings tend to neglect, considering his role in her decision to enlist in the army in his place. The Magnolia Sword adds another complex layer to their bond, making the final chapter with Mulan’s homecoming and seeing her father again even more touching and poignant.

    Bottom line, I just loved this. The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan is one of the best Young Adult novels—and easily my favorite retelling—that I’ve read so far this year. A very satisfying novel overall, which filled me with all kinds of warm and happy feelings when it was over. Highly recommended!

  • Cheryl Klein

    This is the first novel I signed up as an editor at Lee & Low, and it has all the excellent things you want a Mulan retelling to have: a Mulan who's figuring out who she is, an epic sweep in the war against the Northerners, family drama, terrific fight scenes, romance. I've loved reading every draft, and I think readers will love it too.

  • Barb in Maryland

    All the stars. Plus another star for the gorgeous cover.

    10 year old me would have bought this with my own money and then read it to pieces. It has everything the younger me wanted in a story--real history, action, adventure, and Romance.

    70 year old me wants the same things in a story and this one satisfied me right down to my bones. The characters are real people, with flaws and strengths and the ability to grow emotionally. The prose is fluid and rich, without being orna

    All the stars. Plus another star for the gorgeous cover.

    10 year old me would have bought this with my own money and then read it to pieces. It has everything the younger me wanted in a story--real history, action, adventure, and Romance.

    70 year old me wants the same things in a story and this one satisfied me right down to my bones. The characters are real people, with flaws and strengths and the ability to grow emotionally. The prose is fluid and rich, without being ornate or overblown. The author gives us political intrigue, treachery, marvelous sword fights and other derring-do; all of which is balanced by fellowship among the small band, humor, loyalty, and courage.

    The current feud between Hua Mulan's family and Yuan Kai's has a heartbreaking foundation; the romance between our two young protagonists is very satisfying. Tissues may be needed near the end.

    I will be buying a copy of this for my sister and one for myself. I don't know if the book will be 'read to pieces', but it will be close to hand, ready for me to re-read as the mood strikes. I feel sure it will strike often.

  • Mlpmom (Book Reviewer)

    If there was one person I knew I could trust to do a retelling of the Mulan ballad, it would be Sherry Thomas.

    I am so pleased to say that trust wasn't misplaced because not only was this an incredible read but it was captivating, entertaining and had enough of Sherry's creative imagination added to the story that it almost felt like it could stand up all on it's own and not even be a retelling, while still maintaining the integrity of the original. It short, it was breathtaking.

    So hard to put

    If there was one person I knew I could trust to do a retelling of the Mulan ballad, it would be Sherry Thomas.

    I am so pleased to say that trust wasn't misplaced because not only was this an incredible read but it was captivating, entertaining and had enough of Sherry's creative imagination added to the story that it almost felt like it could stand up all on it's own and not even be a retelling, while still maintaining the integrity of the original. It short, it was breathtaking.

    So hard to put down, so beautifully done, and so completely addicting. I truly did not want this story to end and I loved every heart stopping, heart warming, heart pounding page of it.

    *ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

  • Namera [The Literary Invertebrate]

    OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS. This is, without a doubt,

    Granted, I don’t remember having read a huge number of Mulan retellings. But this one is definitely still the best, by any margin. It’s

    , and though I’ve rounded down (because I’m a stingy bitc

    OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS. This is, without a doubt,

    Granted, I don’t remember having read a huge number of Mulan retellings. But this one is definitely still the best, by any margin. It’s

    , and though I’ve rounded down (because I’m a stingy bitch) this is really 4.5 stars.

    Nineteen-year-old

    has spent her life masquerading as her dead twin brother. She’s trained and trained for one purpose: one day soon, she will have to meet a young man named

    in a duel. Their families have been rivals for generations, and every generation, two representatives are forced into combat. The prize? Ownership of the swords Heart Sea and Sky Blade, two swords of extraordinary quality and craftsmanship.

    Currently, each family owns one sword. Mulan’s father’s duel ended in a tie, but it left him paralysed, so she will also have to avenge this insult when the time comes for her own duel. Her skill at weaponry is second to none. In her own words:

    Just as the day of the duel approaches, though, she’s hit with news. It turns out the duel won’t be taking place after all. The country is under imminent threat of invasion from the Rourans across the Great Wall of China, and Kai – whose face Mulan has never actually seen – is postponing it, since every available male has been conscripted into the army.

    Every available male does, of course, also include Mulan, since she’s officially registered as male. So she sets off to the encampment – but she has no intention of dying in battle. Instead, she attaches herself to the personal warrior band of the princeling, cousin to the emperor, assuming he’s too important to see real fighting.

    Can I just pause here for a moment and say how much

    here? She’s patriotic, but not blindly so; she’s smart and pragmatic enough to know that she doesn’t want to die on the battlefield, and she doesn’t care if other people would label her a coward for it. I found this aspect of her character way more realistic than the idealistic naïfs I’ve read about in other books.

    Unfortunately for her, she’s incorrect about the princeling not seeing real war. But that ends up being alright, because she very quickly discovers that Kai and the princeling are one and the same. The discovery shatters some of the things she’s always believed about herself, her father, and the fateful duel which paralysed him. Moreover, the princeling is still unaware that she’s female, despite their growing friendship.

    The rest of the novel is

    of a single moment from China’s immense history. Thomas researched the HELL out of this thing. Her author’s note says it better than I could, but she’s done her absolute best to recreate the world of Mulan in historical fiction. It was

    . That’s also because of her

    : almost every single character was fully fleshed out, and their motivations were explored in painstaking detail.

    Also,

    we got. The matchmakers, the intense level of respect towards one’s elders, the elaborate courtly language – it all helped to build the atmosphere, even if Thomas’s descriptions of physical places was sometimes weak.

    It was a quick read, so I won’t say much more beyond the fact that

    . The girl-dressed-as-boy aspect was one of the more believable ones I’ve seen in the book world, though I wish we knew what she did when she got her period…

    It didn’t really bring a new twist to the old story of Mulan, or anything like that, but it was lovely to read.

    -

  • Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell

    FINALLY

    This better be good. The last couple Mulan "retellings" I read were garbage. lol

  • Simona Bartolotta

    Be still my beating heart.

  • Nina (Every Word A Doorway)

    Last time a book lured me in with the promise of a Mulan retelling, I was so disappointed because the storyline barely resembled Mulan, save for the fact that the heroine dressed as a boy (yes,

    , I'm looking at you).

    Written by a Chinese-American author who knows her shit. So, you'd better deliver me what you promise, book!

  • Cindy ✩☽ Savage Queen ♔

    MULAN RETELLING!!!?

    I really hope this is legit.

    Ooo this finally has a title! The Magnolia part really makes me think of the Mulan Chinese drama I watched a while back.

  • Chaima ✨ شيماء

    A Mulan retelling? my heart says yes but my head says, "you've been burned before"

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