Wednesday, February 20, 2013
The Fire Horse Girl
Arthur A Levine Books, 2013
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?
City of Books
Confessions of a Readaholic
Good Books and Good Wine
Ms. Yingling Reads