The Magnolia Sword
By Kirkus Reviews
New life is breathed into the ballad of Mulan. The Hua and Yuan families share a legacy: As caretakers of the deftly made swords Sky Blade and Heart Sea, each generation must fight to determine the next guardians of the swords. Hua Mulan has only known a life of being disguised as a boy, trained in weaponry by her father. What her father does not know is that Mulan already spars with her future duel partner. On the eve of the showdown, the Hua family receives a letter citing political unrest threatening the Yuans as a reason to withdraw from this year's duel. When the Hua family receives a conscription notice requiring one male per household to report for duty, Mulan enlists, quickly being recruited into the princeling's elite team for her skills. Mulan finds herself caught in a web of sabotage, battles, and strained loyalties, trying to maintain her own cover and handling the growing affection between the princeling and herself. While the resolution may seem too neat for some, Thomas (The Hollow of Fear, 2018, etc.) brings new dimensions to the iconic character, weaving emotional depth and ethnic political issues into the plot. She immerses readers in bustling city streets and freezing swaths of wilderness. Scaffolded by detailed research, the story is based on actual historic conflicts and artifacts. A refreshing new take that pays homage to a legendary character.