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Mulan’s mother died in childbirth, leaving her father heart-broken. He can’t bring himself to come home from the battlefield and visit the child who cost his beloved wife her life. When he finally does return home after the emperor dismisses him, he finds Mulan a young teen who very much has a mind of her own. She is a brilliant, talented girl. Her best friend Li Po teaches her to read and write and shoot a bow and arrow. Her caretaker teaches her embroidery. Of course there are bumps along the way as Mulan and her father get to know each other for the first time. But when the Emperor summons his men to fight the Huns, Mulan knows that she can’t let her injured father go fight as a regular soldier. Those archery lessons just might come in handy after all.
This was a decent book, but I have a couple of complaints. I was excited to read a non-Western fairy tale re-telling. While I did enjoy the story, and I really liked Mulan herself, this book stayed a little too faithful to what I know of the legend from the Disney movie. I enjoy re-tellings that add an unusual twist to the story, or develop characters more fully. I don’t really feel like I got that here. Mulan was pretty well-developed, but I can’t say the same for any of the other characters. There are two separate love stories, and I have to say that I was surprised by both. Sure, I knew they were going to happen, but it was just sort of like they met and they were in love. There was no buildup to it. Also, the ending felt a bit rushed. I don’t know what could have been done to change that, but I read the big crashing climax and was left thinking, “That’s it? All this build up for that?”
Those complaints aside, I did like Mulan a lot. I wouldn’t call myself a tomboy, but neither can I imagine mindlessly embroidering my life away. I wouldn’t have the guts to do what Mulan did though, and I admire her for doing it. It’s always fun to read about characters who do what you can only dream of.
I’m being harder on this than I really intended to be. It wasn’t bad, I just think that it could have been better. As it is, I’ll probably quickly forget that I ever read it. If you don’t mind such a straight-forward telling of the story, you will probably enjoy this one.
If you liked Wild Orchid: A Retelling of the Ballad of Mulan, you might also like my reviews of
- Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
- Geekerella by Ashley Poston
- Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier