This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase using that link, a small commission is made from the sale. There are no additional costs to you. Thank you for your support!The Dragon Warrior by Katie Zhao
Published by Bloomsbury Children's Books on October 15, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Mythology
Format: ARC, Physical
The author/publisher provided a free copy of the book for review purposes - thank you! Receiving a review copy does not guarantee a positive review and therefore do not affect the opinion or content of the review.
Inspired by Chinese mythology, this high-action middle-grade fantasy follows an outcast as she embarks on a quest to prove herself--perfect for fans of Aru Shah and the End of Time and The Serpent's Secret.
As a member of the Jade Society, twelve-year-old Faryn Liu dreams of honoring her family and the gods by becoming a warrior. But the Society has shunned Faryn and her brother Alex ever since their father disappeared years ago, forcing them to train in secret.
Then, during an errand into San Francisco, Faryn stumbles into a battle with a demon--and helps defeat it. She just might be the fabled Heaven Breaker, a powerful warrior meant to work for the all-mighty deity, the Jade Emperor, by commanding an army of dragons to defeat the demons. That is, if she can prove her worth and find the island of the immortals before the Lunar New Year.
With Alex and other unlikely allies at her side, Faryn sets off on a daring quest across Chinatowns. But becoming the Heaven Breaker will require more sacrifices than she first realized . . . What will Faryn be willing to give up to claim her destiny?
This richly woven contemporary middle-grade fantasy, full of humor, magic, and heart, will appeal to readers who love Roshani Chokshi and Sayantani DasGupta.
The Dragon Warrior is such a fun and delightful read
I’m 1000% sure the middle school me who got swallowed by Percy Jackson & the Olympians would devour this book as quickly as she inhales all the dumplings, stuffed buns and dim sum. (Look, they’re comfort food.) The Dragon Warrior really brings back the nostalgia of those times. Katie Zhao wrote a beautiful novel that promises fun and adventure featuring Chinese mythology.
Zhao’s debut novel follows twelve-year-old Faryn Liu as she is revealed to be the Heaven Breaker after she crosses paths with a demon during Lunar New Year Festivities. She and her companions set off on a quest across various Chinatowns to find the island of immortals so she can prove she is worthy to take on the role.
But both she and her brother are outcasts in the Jade Society and have been treated as such for years. To the members in her local Jade Society, she’s not worthy of such an important role and it’s not something she plans for either (does any twelve-year-old though?). But despite frequently thinking about ròu bāo zi (I don’t blame her; meat dumplings are delicious), Faryn readily steps into the role even if she might know what she’s doing or feel ready to potentially command an army.
Full of adventure and humor
The Dragon Warrior is a huge nod to my childhood, featuring various deities and other well-known figures from Chinese mythology. They’re full of wit and sass that brought a constant smile to my face as they aided or deterred Faryn and her companions in the quest. The novel brings in aspects of family, tradition and honor, all of which are important parts of Chinese culture. It’s clear throughout the novel Faryn has a strong bond with not just her brother, but also her Ye Ye.
Zhao’s debut novel is a fast-paced, page-turning adventure that is chock full of humor; it’s easy to forget this is a debut as this is extremely well-written, and I loved every second of it. Honestly, the only thing I’m disappointed is there probably won’t be any sequels. (Someone please tell me there will be one???) The Dragon Warrior is an engrossing story featuring Chinese mythology and tying in various aspects of the culture; I highly recommend this to Chinese American readers who want to see themselves in a world where Chinese mythology clashes into the modern world.
(AKA future Bookstagram photos)
AKA the fun part where I get to thoroughly embarrass myself and fellow bookstagrammers can relate on a core level. I tried recreating a photo from way back in the day on my Instagram and it was a trip. (It still exists, but it’s now archived, so here’s a reference!)
And resulted in this after tripping (pun intended) over a few books. Let’s just say holding your phone camera and trying to time it while holding a book steady with a wrist brace is a challenge.
(Okay, it’s not that bad and The Dragon Warrior is accompanied by some A+ reads according to various members of the community.) In my defense, I owned fewer books and had no access to a near physical library due to remodeling for like a whole year so there weren’t many books to trip on?
Also please know that foam boards aren’t fun to lie on. 😂 We’re struggling less with a few others, though. (Flatlays are much easier to create, but I kind of wanted to challenge myself with recreating on the first one?)
About Katie Zhao
Katie Zhao is a 2017 graduate of the University of Michigan with a B.A. in English and Political Science, and a 2018 Masters of Accounting at the same university. She is the author of Chinese #ownvoices middle-grade fantasy THE DRAGON WARRIOR (Bloomsbury Kids, October 2019 & 2020), as well as a young adult author. She is a mentor for Author Mentor Match. She is currently open to freelance editorial services for young adult and middle-grade manuscripts.