To keep the family safe, Min’s mother insists that none of them use any fox-magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times. Min feels hemmed in by the household rules and resents the endless chores, the cousins who crowd her, and the aunties who judge her. She would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. She’s counting the days until she can follow her older brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see more of the Thousand Worlds.
When word arrives that Jun is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is wrong. Jun would never desert his battle cruiser, even for a mystical object rumored to have tremendous power. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name.
Min’s quest will have her meeting gamblers, pirates, and vengeful ghosts. It will involve deception, lies, and sabotage. She will be forced to use more fox-magic than ever before, and to rely on all of her cleverness and bravery. The outcome may not be what she had hoped, but it has the potential to exceed her wildest dreams.
*** Thank you to Rick Riordan Presents/Disney Book Group for providing me with a copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review ***
This is honestly middle grade adventure at its best full of fun characters, action, an engaging story, and creative world building, folklore, and mythology. I’m just really excited that Rick Riordan’s imprint is bringing so many unique and diverse stories like “Dragon Pearl” to the bookish community and I can’t wait for more!
The story follows young Min, a fox spirit, as she goes off into space in search of her brother, it’s pretty straight forward. However, she gets herself into more than a few sticky situations along the way because what kind of adventure would it be if she didn’t? The pacing is fast and there’s definitely plenty of action, as Min travels through space in her search, to keep your attention. There was a part in the middle where I grew a tad bit bored as I felt the story wasn’t moving quite as fast as it did at the beginning and the end. However, it was easy to push through and ultimately very much worth it and I still feel it’s very action-packed nonetheless. There were also a couple of good plot twists toward the end that I really didn’t see coming and threw me for a loop! Don’t worry though this is a standalone so there aren’t any mean cliffhangers!
Honestly though my favorite part of the book was the mythology and world building, hands down. This book is based off of Korean mythology and weaves in characters that are dragons, goblins, tigers, ghosts, and of course foxes. Each spirit has their own unique magic and we get a little taste of each but most of all we see Min’s shape-shifting and “Charm” powers which was always fun and helped her on her journey immensely. There’s also luck and good fortune depending on how the energies would flow in their starships, it wasn’t a huge detail in the story but definitely interesting. Then of course we have the ghosts, lots of them, that can be vengeful and haunt people, places, or things depending on their unfinished business.
The writing was also smooth and transitioned everything well, nothing felt rushed or too convenient. The story and dialogue didn’t feel juvenile in the least bit, I know some readers may not want to read this since it’s middle grade but I really think this story is one that all ages can read and enjoy! I also REALLY loved the genre blend of sci-fi/space opera with mythology, I think it’s just tons of fun and everything I’ve ever wanted!
Min was a fantastic heroine; she was witty, likable, and not-perfect. She made some not-so-smart decisions but she’s a kid and I thought this was what made her more relatable. As I already mentioned, Min has the abilities to shape-shift and “charm” others into believing things. I loved how creatively she used her powers and they were interesting just on their own too! Overall I thought Min developed well by the end of the story and was a fun character to follow.
There are several side characters that filtered in and out such as: Haneul, a dragon spirit and cadet in the Space Forces, Sujin, a non-binary goblin and also a cadet who uses their power for a bit of mischief at times, Jang, a ghost who assists Min on her search, Captain Hwan, a tiger spirit who is a bit….grumpy we’ll say, and finally Jun, Min’s brother.
Almost all of the side characters we met had a ton of personality and complexity even if they had a shorter “page” time. I also have to say I loved Min and Jun’s sibling relationship, I never get tired of seeing such positive and loving ones in stories!
What I Loved:
- Engaging story
- Fast pacing and plenty of action
- Fantastic world building with tons of Korean mythology
- The fact that this is a space opera WITH mythology mixed in
- Great writing
- It’s a standalone!
- Well developed, likable, and diverse characters
- Positive and loving sibling relationship portrayal
What I Didn’t Love:
- That part in the middle were the pacing lagged a bit, but that’s it!
I definitely recommend checking out “Dragon Pearl” if you’re looking for a quick, fun read or enjoy books with diverse mythology and characters. And please don’t be put off by the fact it’s middle grade because it really is a great read for all ages!