Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Fire Horse Girl

The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman
4/5 stars
Arthur A Levine Books, 2013
329 pages
YA Historical

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I look at this cover, I don't think "historical fiction" and yet that is the genre and is ultimately why I decided to give this a read. I love learning about unheralded historical events and the Chinese immigration in the 1920s certainly qualifies as that for most American classrooms. I learned about the Chinese Exclusion Act and the many prejudices but

The book is divided into roughly two parts. Part one is in China and introduces us to Jade Moon, the titular Fire Horse Girl, a sign that is considered extremely unlucky. Whereas the perfect girl is supposed to be demure and obedient, Jade Moon seems to bumble into everything, unable to contain her temper and suffocating under her father's strict regime. But an opportunity arrives to travel to America. Once there she suffers the indignities practiced against Chinese immigrants and waits for weeks to leave confinement, eventually risking it all in a daring maneuver. The second part follows her life disguised as a boy and trying to make a living in America.

I found the second part to be much more interesting. In fact, the main reason for my rating is that it seemed to take forever to reach what I found to be a more exciting part. Once Jade Moon has dressed as a boy, the story gallops along. Finally she is allowed, nay, expected to have an opinion, to bristle when she doesn't like the treatment she receives, and to physically fight back. I loved everything about this section and wish we could have even gotten a bit more because my appetite was not sated.

As for the first part, I can definitely see how it was necessary to set up the contrasts of life in China and life in America and for men versus women. But it just seemed to take so long. I almost gave up several times but kept pushing, knowing that some of my blogger friends loved this book. And it ended up being seriously worth it. So push through!

Jade Moon is a great heroine. She is unsure about her place in the world but dreaming of something big. She is not content to give up and fights for what is right, whether through words of strategy or her fists. Her family is pretty awful, content to blame her sign and to crush her spirit. Sterling Promise, her opportunity to reach America, was very confusing, with mixed changing motivations. Yes, some sparks fly but their relationship is far more than complicated than can be properly conveyed in this review. From the American section, for those of you who've read this, I loved Neil-how could I not?

Other Opinions:
City of Books
Confessions of a Readaholic
Good Books and Good Wine
Ms. Yingling Reads

23 comments:

  1. I love those girls-dressed-as-boys books! Well, sometimes, anyway. I just read another terrific review on another blog today, too, so after seeing your 5 stars, I think I have to add this to my list. I'm glad the second half was better than the first.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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    1. Hope you enjoy this when you pick it up!

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  2. I'm going to have to check this one out. I love historical fiction. Thanks for the head's up!

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    1. I hope you like it-it's very different from the other 1920s stories that are out there.

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  3. I have an ARC of this and -- you're right - I had NO idea this was historical fiction.
    I actually have read a lot about Chinese immigration to the US from the 1850s on -- I will have to find time to read this one!

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    1. Ooh I would love to hear your thoughts about how Chinese immigration is portrayed here since you're familiar with the events-I bet that will add to your enjoyment.

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  4. Wonderful review! :-) I'm glad the story picked up for you once Jade dresses as a boy. Jade sounds like a wonderful heroine. I can't wait to meet her.

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    1. Jade is such a great heroine-really strong and with a captivating voice. I hope you love her!

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  5. I just read another review of this the other day and she made it sound amazing as well. I never would have guessed it was HF by the cover, but I am drawn to it. But the HF factor makes it even MORE interesting to me. I think I'll definitely have to read this one!

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    1. I only knew it was HF because of other reviews-the cover does not indicate that to me at all.

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    2. On the other hand, at least the cover wasn't white-washed! So that's a positive.

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  6. If I ever get to this one I'll remember what you've said about the slow beginning. Sometimes you have to work your way through slow beginnings.

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    1. This was definitely a book where I thought it was worth it-I hope you agree if you pick it up!

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  7. This sounds like a fascinating story and hopefully I will enjoy it too even with the pacing issues. Sometimes it really is worth it to keep going and I thank you for your review!

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    1. It was so fascinating and I loved that it covered a time period that isn't usually covered.

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  8. Sounds like it was an interesting read. Happy you enjoyed this. Great review.

    Jenea @ Books Live Forever

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    1. It was a very interesting (and educational) read-highly recommended!

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  9. I had no idea this was historical fiction! But I want to pick it up because I adore crossdressing books.

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    1. I wish the cover better communicated that it's HF (or maybe that was intentional since HF tends to be less popular?) I hope you love it too!

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  10. Oh wow, that's a glowing review! I'm so torn about this book. It seems like it really a good, quality book, but I'm still not convinced it's the right book for me.

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    1. I know it's not for everyone but I do think that it's worth checking out!

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  11. I have never read a historical novel but this sounds great so I may have to remedy that! The cover definitely has a more contemporary feel to it.

    A great review! I'm glad you enjoyed it despite the slow start.

    Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I highly recommend this one. Other great historicals are Ruta Sepetys' novels: Between Shades of Grey and recent release Out of the Easy.

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