I received this book for free from Tu Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas
Published by Tu Books on September 10th, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Romance, YA
Source: Tu Books
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CHINA, 484 A.D.
A Warrior in Disguise
All 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 families send one soldier to fight the Rouran invaders in the north. Mulan's father cannot go. Her brother is just a child. So she ties up her hair, takes up her sword, and joins the army as a man.
A War for a Dynasty
Thanks to her martial arts skills, Mulan is chosen for an elite team under the command of the princeling--the royal duke's son, who is also the handsomest man she's ever seen. But the princeling has secrets of his own, which explode into Mulan's life and shake up everything she knows. As they cross the Great Wall to face the enemy beyond, Mulan and the princeling must find a way to unwind their past, unmask a traitor, and uncover the plans for the Rouran invasion . . . before it's too late.
Inspired by wuxia martial-arts dramas as well as the centuries-old ballad of Mulan, The Magnolia Sword is perfect for fans of Renee Ahdieh, Marie Lu, or Kristin Cashore--a thrilling, romantic, and sharp-edged novel that lives up to its beloved heroine.
With the upcoming release of the live action Mulan, there has been an upsurge in Mulan retellings and I whole-heartedly welcome it. I fell in love with Spin the Dawn so I was pretty excited to dive into The Magnolia Sword. I went into it hoping that I would be blown away the same way I was with Spin the Dawn but I was not. Having said that, I loved the world building SO SO MUCH and enjoyed the building romantic tension between the main characters.
Let me clear, I am not trying to compare The Magnolia Sword to Spin the Dawn. I only mention the latter because both these stories adapt Mulan and I love Mulan (I’ve only been exposed to the Disney version of this story.) They may both be drawing inspiration from the same source but they do vastly different things.
The strength of The Magnolia Sword lies in its world building. It is evident from both the author’s note and the actual story that Sherry Thomas has done a LOT of research. I am struggling to find words that aptly describe the level of detail we are given. From social structures of physical landscapes, everything is incredibly well thought out. There are so many discussions about constrictive social structures, interactions between different ethnic groups, IT’S ALL VERY WONDERFUL.
The romance is also such a wonderful slow burn. I screamed when Mulan and the Prince’s eyes met after a night shift together. It was great. Also, the fact that the romance is top-notch should be no surprise to anyone given that Sherry Thomas also writes delightful romance levels.
Clearly, I am a fan of a lot of things but the reason why The Magnolia Sword fell a little short for me was that I struggled with connecting to the plot and the characters themselves. I think the pacing was a bit on the slower side too which made it harder for me to connect. I’d have to go back and reread scenes because something would be mentioned and I would have no memory of that happening.
My issues with the book aside, I KNOW that many people will love The Magnolia Sword. All those people excited for the Disney live-action because they are excited about an adaptation that stays true to the OG should read this book instead. There are journeys, sword fighting, betrayal and slow burn romance to be had. PLUS, amazing world building.
3.5 Hot Espressos