Dragon Pearl is an amazing #ownvoices Middle Grade Korean-inspired space opera. I’ve been reading more middle grade novels lately, as adult and YA authors I love branch out into the age range. I am a big fan of Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire space opera trilogy for adults. They’re very complex and well-crafted novels so I jumped at the opportunity to read something written for a younger audience.
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.
Dragon Pearl is a fun space opera for the middle-grade audience. Min’s decisions are the decisions of youth and she quickly finds herself in more trouble than she bargained for. But she perseveres and finds her way.
The writing and pacing are a little simpler and slower than in an adult or YA novel, which makes sense for the MG audience, but the book still moves at a pretty quick clip. Min accomplishes a lot in a pretty short span of time. She’s cunning like a fox (hah) and that cleverness and her sheer determination to see everything to the end serve her well.
I really love what the Rick Riordan Presents publishing group has been doing, actively publishing #ownvoices MG stories, exposing kids to a wide range of new stories and cultures.
Thank you to Yoon Ha Lee for providing me with an ARC.