The Magnolia Sword
By Publishers Weekly
Rich cultural references, intricate political machinations, and thrilling Wuxia elements distinguish this deftly woven Mulan retelling by Thomas, who was born and raised in China. Hua Mulan, who publicly assumes her deceased twin brother’s name, Hua Muyang, fills her days with projectile training alongside her father, caring for her seven-year-old brother, and secretly looking forward to the sporadic training sessions she has with Yuan Kai, a mysterious boy she is fated to duel with over a pair of matchless inherited swords. But mandatory conscription causes the match to be deferred, and Mulan enlists on behalf of her household. Her martial arts expertise earns her a role accompanying the royal duke’s son, a young man who seems strangely familiar. As the Rouran invasion looms, Mulan and her companions must evade danger and uncover a traitor at court while unpacking their preconceived notions about family, fear, and nomadic tribes. Skillful martial arts scenes combine with crucial discourse on power, gender, and the impact of language on history in this gripping, thoughtfully layered reinterpretation.