Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Yoon Ha Lee is one of my favorite authors, so when I heard he was writing a middle-grade book, I decided to give it a try. I read and enjoy a lot of YA, and while this is intended for slightly younger readers, I thought it wouldn't matter.
Unfortunately, it did. A lot of this, I know, is because I'm not the target audience. The protagonist of this book is a thirteen-year-old girl, and I'm sure many thirteen-year-olds will love it. For me, this book didn't have the depth, complexity and characterization of Lee's adult novels. Obviously in one sense this is to be expected. Even so, at the end it felt a bit....slight.
Part of this was the worldbuilding: an uneven mashup of Korean myth and science fiction (which is why I tagged it "science fantasy"), where starships, terraforming and jump gates are placed side by side with shapeshifters and ghosts. Again, the target audience won't care about this, but I couldn't quite get past it. On the brighter side, the protagonist Min and her brother Jun are nicely characterized, as are Min's friends aboard the starship Pale Lightning. Unfortunately, the villain was more than a little one-dimensional, which detracted from the story as a whole. And while I was glad Min triumphed in her quest to find her brother and claim the magic terraforming artifact the Dragon Pearl, the whole thing felt just a bit too easy.
Nah, I think we can put this one down to not really being the book for me. Now, the author's Machineries of Empire trilogy....I will fight you over that. This book, not so much.
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