Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Dragon Springs Road by Janie Chang

Dragon Springs Road by Janie Chang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the author of Three Souls comes a vividly imagined and haunting new novel set in early 20th century Shanghai—a story of friendship, heartbreak, and history that follows a young Eurasian orphan’s search for her long-lost mother.

That night I dreamed that I had wandered out to Dragon Springs Road all on my own, when a dreadful knowledge seized me that my mother had gone away never to return . . .

In 1908, Jialing is only seven years old when she is abandoned in the courtyard of a once-lavish estate outside Shanghai. Jialing is zazhong—Eurasian—and faces a lifetime of contempt from both Chinese and Europeans. Until now she’s led a secluded life behind courtyard walls, but without her mother’s protection, she can survive only if the estate’s new owners, the Yang family, agree to take her in.

Jialing finds allies in Anjuin, the eldest Yang daughter, and Fox, an animal spirit who has lived in the courtyard for centuries. But Jialing’s life as the Yangs’ bondservant changes unexpectedly when she befriends a young English girl who then mysteriously vanishes.

Murder, political intrigue, jealousy, forbidden love … Jialing confronts them all as she grows into womanhood during the tumultuous early years of the Chinese republic, always hopeful of finding her long-lost mother. Through every turn she is guided, both by Fox and by her own strength of spirit, away from the shadows of her past toward a very different fate, if she has the courage to accept it.

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Dragon Spring Road is a book that mixes two genres that I love; historical fiction and fantasy. I think adding the fantasy element of the Fox, an animal spirit to the story was a brilliant move. It gave the story something extra. Otherwise, we would have a traditional historical fiction tale, but now with the added mysticism we get something a bit different.

The story of Jialing is a sad tale, she is left by her mother when she is a little girl and she is taking in by the family that moves in. However, she is not part of the family, she is a bondservant. But, she does grow up close to the daughter in the house. But, she also has a secret, Fox, an animal spirit that has lived in the courtyard is looking after her. And, she does need the extra help, it's not easy for a Eurasian child growing up in a world where everyone looks down at a mixed raced child.

Dragon Springs Road is a captivated story, I found Jialing story interesting, especially since it takes place in such a turbulent time in China. I did for a while think that the story spent a little too much time on Jialing as a child and the love story towards the end felt a bit rushed. Like the author realized that she had to add some happiness to Jialing by throwing in a man that she would love. I never felt that the romance part truly convinced me. However, it did find it made the ending sweet.

I think Dragon Springs Road is a good book. The story never dragged on, and I found myself taken with the ending when Jialing faced a hard decision. Her final thoughts at the end of the book are probably one of the reasons I ended giving the book 4-stars. It tipped the scale. That and that I love the fantasy elements of the story and reading about China is so fascinating.

I want to thank the publisher for providing me with a free copy through Edelweiss for an honest review!

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