Book Review – The Dragon Pearl

Dragon Pearl
by Yoon Ha Lee
(Rick Riordan Presents, 2019)

At a Glance

Category/Genre(s):

Middle grade science fiction adventure

Age Range:

8-12

Plot Summary:

“Rick Riordan Presents Yoon Ha Lee’s space opera about thirteen-year-old Min, who comes from a long line of fox spirits. But you’d never know it by looking at her. 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.

“This sci-fi adventure with the underpinnings of Korean mythology will transport you to a world far beyond your imagination.” (source)

Strengths:

  • Space opera for middle grade readers
  • Infused with Korean mythology
  • Fast paced and fun
  • Same universe as Lee’s adult sci-fi books

Full Review

I loved Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit, so I was excited to see that he was releasing a middle grade sci-fi novel. And then I was even more thrilled to learn that Dragon Pearl would take place in the same universe as Lee’s adult novels. The universe is vast, wonderful and so fun to read.

There are not enough hard sci-fi books for kids, in my opinion, so I feel like this book is helping fill a void. While this is sci-fi in every sense of the word, I still feel like it is very accessible and easy to understand. It is full of space ships, ghosts, lasers and technology. It honestly has everything that you would want in a sci-fi novel.

I also loved how the story was infused will Korean mythology. The lore feels real and it helps that characters jump off the page. I also love that Lee’s universe is queer-inclusive, without it being the driving factor. We need LGBTQ+ books where the struggles of being queer are tied to the main plot. But as someone who identifies as bi, it is also wonderful to read a book that doesn’t shy away from making it clear that being queer is okay, normal and something that just isn’t a factor within that universe. It gives me hope as to what is possible.

Final Verdict

If you are looking for a fantastic middle grade space opera, this is the book for you! Highly recommend.

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